Seasonally inspired things to Learn, Make and Do

Journal

The Studio Meadow

The Studio Meadow was created from necessity. When the studio was built, tucked down the slope out of sight of our neighbours, the spoil that was excavated was graded to make a curving path down from the orchard.

The spoil was a mish mash of soil – our soil is pretty random at the best of times with seams of clay and gravel, large boulders and rocks - but a few generations of farm dumping meant that there were bits of rusted machinery, blocks of compost, tangled fencing, bottles and all manner of things buried deep in the earth. We chose to keep and cover.

It gave us a space that could not be used to grow produce because of potential contamination, but which was on the daily commute from home to work.

It felt like it should be ‘something’. It felt like a potential experiment. At the same time, I was scaling back my cut flower business, clearing out the perennial cut flower beds. I moved all the unwanted plants and bulbs into the slope, scattered a bag of perennial ‘damp meadow’ seed and waited to see what would happen. What has happened has been a lesson in letting go.

The rules were that plants had to thrive or die – there would be no cossetting along – and that there would be as little maintenance as possible. The only weeds that would be controlled would be nettles, brambles and docks which we have in profusion elsewhere, and I would stop it from returning to woodland by taking out broom and willow seedlings.

Apart from that it would be left to its own devices. As meadow spaces go it really wasn’t promising – the soil was technically too fertile for a meadow, the seed bank was full of strong grasses – I thought that it might end up just grass flopping in the rain, squeezing everything else out.

To begin with that seemed to be what would happen – the first year the cutting flowers bloomed half-heartedly amongst wispy grass, it looked very patchy, bald, raw. But the second-year wildflowers began to appear amongst the steadily bulking grasses – some were ones I had sown, mallow tansy, ox eye daisies, but others, cow parsley, fox and cubs, harebells, plantain, yarrow were locals – blown in from the verges or buried deep I don’t know. Now – several years on – it is my favourite space, the most alive and inspirational part of the garden.

Every season is different. In the Winter the teasels stand tall above the bleached grass, goldfinches fluttering as I walk down to work, voles hiding in the thatch. In Spring cut flower bulbs appear, allium seem happiest but bizarrely flamboyant parrot tulips seem to be more settled here than in the main garden beds. Summer sees wave after wave of colour seen through the haze of grass – with spreading patches of flowers passing the torch around, bees and butterflies following the rhythm. Autumn is for seed heads, layer on layer of browns and greys, chattering birds feeding themselves up against the cold, a collapsing in.

In maintenance I have a light touch. Nettles and docks are dug out, as is broom. The chickens are fed here on Autumn and Spring afternoons – scratching up the grass thatch so that plants can seed into earth. If it all gets a little too lush in the future I might strim and rake the grass but so far we haven’t had to and I like that the collapsed stems give small creatures a cosy winter space.

As a gardener it has taught me that nature is the best plantswoman. No well-thought-out matrix planting has quite the same texture as one where plants self-seed and gently creep, no deliberately planned nature garden has quite the same consideration for insects. I now appreciate grass – there are 17 distinct types of grass, from tiny soft tufts a few inches tall, to towering plumes that are high above my head – and the way it is constantly in motion, the way it brings life.

It has also given me a much better understanding of plants, of which plants from my borders are happy in the hugger mugger competition of a strongly growing meadow – some are to be expected, astrantia, thalictrum and sanguisorba thrive there, a throw back to their grassland roots – but others are more surprising.

The stars of the meadow in May and June are great blowsy Oriental Poppies – reds and pinks amongst the grass flowers – and they are beginning to seed themselves down the slope, new colours springing up as they go.

Tags: gardening

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This weekend the valleys were full of mist - great screeds of it swelling up as the afternoon lengthened and the air cooled.⁠⠀
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This is a rescue horse who now lives a couple of fields down - if I happen to be passing his gate around 4, he is up  stretching his over it, looking for friendly scratches and food. ⁠⠀
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A perfect time keeper.
It doesn't take much . . . . ⁠⠀
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These stems were picked in the five minute walk from the house to the Studio.⁠⠀
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A teasel head, some rusty dock seeds, a bleached shell of columbine, bright rose hips.⁠⠀
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None looked very promising outside but indoors, tucked into test tubes, they look wonderful.⁠⠀
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As they would in bottles . . . .⁠⠀
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The rose hips are the last of the berries to go from the hedges - the birds strip everything else as soon as it gets cold, the elders and rowans first, then the haws.⁠⠀
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Inspired by their bright longevity I have ordered a small clutch of rosa moyesii 'Geranium' - with their spectacular bottle shaped hips - to make an informal hedge down by the airstream.⁠⠀
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My plan is to plant them amongst crab apples to keep back the dull green march of the Scots broom. ⁠⠀
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I have honeysuckle in mind too.⁠⠀
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This is the Studio - nestled into the dip of the valley, surrounded by wild meadow and trees.⁠⠀
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At this time of year it is a cosy den, the stove lit, the fabrics piled up around me.⁠⠀
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Today I am finishing off some large embroidered wool cushions and sending out lots of craft kits in the post.
This was taken last week when we had snow. You can see Dixie’s dachshund toy abandoned in a drift.
A winding path, a bare tree reaching up, blue sky above ribbons of mist, patches of scruffy frost in the rough grass.⁠⠀
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I have walked this road more days than not this year.⁠⠀
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It never gets old.
I said I wasn't going to make a wreath this year.⁠⠀
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But then I saw one @talenamaria made on behalf of @jamjarflowers for the @papier Instagram feed and I was smitten.  The glorious mess of the hedgerow encapsulated in a twiggy ring.⁠⠀
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The birch twigs from further down the grid were still in the hall  and I had some dried hydrangeas left over . . . .⁠⠀
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(I also say I never watch video tutorials as I get distracted too easily and find that they are often too long - but Talena's is good and short and easy to watch and follow.)
A snowy gate, photographed last week, snow piled up on rungs and branches.⁠ ⠀
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I loved how the field on the other side was completely untouched. ⠀
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A fresh sheet of paper. ⠀
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A new week. ⠀
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If you want to make a little wool tree like this one the step by step instructions are now on my website - www.snapdragonlife.com.⁠⠀
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If you want it to look exactly like this one, you can also buy a kit with all the bits to make three trees ⁠⠀
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I first made these trees for a Country Living Fair in Glasgow back in the mid 2000s - raiding my button box for the decoration and dyeing old blankets for the wool. ⁠⠀
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Sometimes I still see the trees from that generation appear on people's Christmas windowsills and it makes me very happy.
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I 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.

 

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