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Snapdragon blog

The productive garden

snapdragon studio garden

I stopped growing flowers 8 years ago, maybe 9. For a couple of years I was in denial about it, we grassed over one of the areas of flower beds and planted an orchard but the main space, directly behind the house, grew wild, abandoned.

Most of the time it looked terrible - as you would imagine. But sometimes, late in the evening as I sat on the deck with a glass of something, the low sun shone behind it, and the effect was amazing - poppies and grasses, salvias and self sown annuals lit up, glorious.

I spent the next two years begging friends to give homes to my plants, moving the remnants down to the perennial slope next to the workshop to see how they would fare growing with grasses.

Needing to do something, we covered the entire patch in landscape fabric and I began to plan.

The area isn't massive - though there are about 4 acres of land here, most of that is wood and boggy field. We actually properly garden about an acre of ground and much of that is orchard and the front gardens, the poly tunnel, the chicken run.

This bit is about 30 x 20 metres - big for a domestic garden, perhaps foolish for a single gardener, but not really what people think of when they hear about commercial flower growing. It is far from being a flower field.

I love the gardens of the new perennial movement. When I read Noel Kingsbury's book The New Perennial Garden back in 1996 I was stunned by the combinations, the colours and the way that the gardens ebbed and flowed with the seasons. In the previous decade I had been looking for varieties that would work in our soggier climate - more long lasting spires to replace the verbascum, more frost resistant alternatives to the red grasses.

I read and made notes and compiled Pinterest boards while everyone else in the family despaired of having a black plastic, rubbish strewn garden.

I went out of my way to visit gardens that had perennial meadow planting - Scampston in Yorkshire, The High Line in New York, the garden festival at Chaumont.

It was while I was talking to a friend about that amazing garden festival that I realised where I was going wrong.

I talked about how the show gardens have to be planted to develop over a whole season, I talked about the amazing displays in the permanent areas and I talked about how my favourite bit of all was the productive garden by the gate, with its mix of fruit and vegetables and flowers.

And as I talked I realised that all my favourite gardens are productive gardens - Kellie Castle, Perch Hill Farm, - just as you will always find me in the kitchen at parties, you will always find me in the kitchen garden in stately homes.

So I changed my plan - pivoted to creating a space of sweet pea arches and raised beds full of salad, espalier apples and rows of dahlias. Creating a space for pottering, not just for looking.

Interestingly, everything fell into place, it speeded up, there was no resistance, no delay - it felt flowing in a way that my more ambitious, academic plans never had.

We began in October, bringing in soil for raised beds, and already, 8 months later it is looking good. It makes me wonder what other things in life I delay and faff over when I simply need to change my goals.

The following photos show the garden in October (with the first of the raised beds being laid out), January, and now.

snapdragon garden October 2018

October 2018

snapdragon garden January 2019

January 2019

snapdragon garden May 2019

May 2019

The garden will be open as part of Forth Valley Art Beat's Open Studios 8-15th June 2019.

Tags: garden

Comments: 1 (Add)

Helen on June 20 2019 at 12:46

I recall watching Alys Fowler and her garden sometime back. She changed my idea of gardening and now my kitchen garden has beetroot growing happily with lavender and sweet peas grow around lettuce beds... gardening this area is less time consuming than other parts of my garden x

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What do you do to break your routine? ⠀
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Yesterday, instead of eating lunch at my desk, I packed up soup and some bread into a backpack and headed outside.⁠⠀
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I'm sharing my favourite seasonal soup recipe in this week's newsletter - you can sign up via the link in bio or at www.snapdragonlife.com.⁠⠀
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The bread is a @katgoldin recipe (she is having an instagram bake along this weekend if you fancy making your own) and the instructions for making the beeswax wrap are on my blog.
I grew up by this sea. Perfect for introspective teenage walks, head down into the wind. 
We went for our New Year stay with my parents this weekend - beach walks, lots of dogs and extended family time. No time for introspection.
I spent yesterday afternoon at the kitchen table sorting out my boxes of vegetable seeds.⁠⠀
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Dividing them into types and sowing seasons, seeing what I have enough of (17 varieties of kale is probably enough) and what has run out. ⁠⠀
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Then I spent some time browsing through catalogues to see what new (to me) things I can try - I'm keen to try growing celery this year as it is often difficult to find organic celery in the shops and the non organic has the highest chemical input of any vegetable.⁠⠀
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Are you growing vegetables this year? Is there anything new on your list?
And suddenly it is time to get the house back to normal - I'm gradually putting obviously Christmassy things away, rearranging the bulbs, making the 'tidy spots' in the house look cared for.⁠⠀
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It was so lovely to see people signing up as Studio Members yesterday and to welcome them into the Facebook Group where this month we are talking about Dream Planning (my anti-planning system) and the way the subconscious brain can help or hinder you.⁠⠀
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This photo of Budgie, my psychopathic middle cat, was taken last January - just after she had knocked pots out of the way to clear some proper bird watching space.⁠⠀
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Yesterday morning, while the cats slept on the bed, there were 18 birds in the hedge waiting their turn to feed from the window feeder.
Happy New Year.⁠⠀
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What are you wanting to bring into your life this year? ⁠⠀
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I'm actually very anti-resolutions, my character is not good with anything structured (off the scale rebel on @gretchenrubin’s test) I also want my life to be more than ticking things off a to-do list and as soon as one exists I rebel and procrastinate. ⁠⠀
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If I write a formal plan you can be pretty sure that I will do nothing on it. If I make a resolution something drives me to go the opposite way.⁠⠀
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That is why I do something much gentler - no workbooks, lists or plans -  but it is also something which I believe is much more powerful. I call it the Dream Life Planner and it is based on guiding the subconscious brain to support rather than sabotage you. It is a simple way to make big changes in the way you live. ⁠⠀
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You can get the basic modules by signing up to my newsletter or - if you want something more guided and detailed, with more of the science behind it, sign up to Snapdragon Studio Membership and you will get weekly e-mails throughout January. The next 4 people to sign up to Membership get a hard copy monthly planner too. You can find out more by clicking through my bio or visiting www.snapdragonlife.com
Happy Hogmanay.⁠⠀
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Christmas only officially became a holiday in Scotland in 1958. Before that, for 400 years, it had been a day like any other. ⁠⠀
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Here it has always been more about the gathering with friends and neighbours to see the New Year in. ⁠⠀
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Tonight we have Open House, everyone is welcome - just come on in if you are passing, there is plenty food and drink. (DM me for the address if you don't have it.)⁠⠀
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I think that it may be because Hogmanay is the main thing for me that all my decorations are light and bright, pale metallics and sprouting bulbs. This is the window seat by the stove.
Yesterday we walked from Drymen over the Conic to have lunch at the Oak Tree Inn in Balmaha.⁠⠀
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Katie took this as we headed over the brow of the hill and onto the downward part. I was looking out over Loch Lomond, with that magnificent winter sunshine on the water, congratulating myself that I was going to make it after all. (I am really not at all fit at the moment).⁠⠀
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I mentioned a couple of posts back that I was thinking of going off line for a bit over the festive season - I have noticed that tugging panicked feeling when I haven't my phone in my hand increasing, and the way seeing someone on their phone drives me to pick up mine, and even worse the repetitive scrolling when I actually want to be reading a proper book. ⁠⠀
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So I'm going to switch my phone off until 30th. ⁠⠀
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I only say this because last year a friend - also a bit of a social media addict - did this unannounced and, after a week, I was so concerned that I was on the point of texting her husband to see if she was ill/imprisoned/dead.
Today I’m going to decorate the house - plant the amaryllis in glass vases, put up the fairy lights, hang the big mercury glass baubles in the window, get the paper white narcissi our from the cool of the guest room. 
For some reason it hasn’t felt right until today, but now it feels like a family Christmas can begin. 
I’m much more of a Hogmanay person so I suspect that I’m actually decorating for the new year. 
And then I’m going to close everything down, put on the auto responders, sit with a gin and crisps by the stove and celebrate the gradual returning of the light.
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About Snapdragon

At Snapdragon we gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

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