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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.

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Snapdragon social

Every year the sudden sink in light catches me by surprise. ⁠⁠
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Usually I first see it when I fail to take a photo. When I can't get my camera to capture what I want. When all the advances I've made in my photography get swamped by not knowing what to do to make a difference to something so ethereal.⁠⁠
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Yesterday - taking a photo of the Studio windowsill with its seed heads and berries - I hit a problem of grain.  All my images looked dull, in focus but somehow lacking light.  I randomly changed camera settings and lost half the morning peering at a screen foolishly trying to edit light back in.⁠⁠
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In the end I messaged my friend Rebecca @poshyarns - whose photos capture light in the most beautiful way. She called me back and talked me through, and even gave me the confidence to ditch my tripod. ⁠⁠
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And suddenly the light came back into my photos and the murk was gone. ⁠⁠
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If Rebecca ever decides to teach I will be right at the head of the queue.⁠
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#howihueit #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ihaveathingwithwindows #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #floralstories #allthingsbotanical #underthefloralspell #slowfloralstyle #petalsandprops #nestandflourish #livethelittlethings #thehappynow #ihavethisthingwithflowers #moodforfloral #cornersofmyhome #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife #aflowerfilledlife
Kat @katgoldin took this photo of me a few weeks ago on a photoshoot that consisted of her telling me to 'just do the things you do and ignore me'.⁠⁠
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Despite having been friends for ages, she had never seen me embroider - the buzz and shimmy of the needle on fabric. ⁠⁠
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Sometimes seeing things through other people's eyes helps you see them anew yourself. Kat's joy in the emerging lines helped me see that what I've created here in the studio is a very special and precious thing.⁠⁠
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The doors to the Studio Club - which is basically a seasonal exploration of all that goes on here - open again in a few weeks time.  You can sign up to get a personal invite via my profile. ⁠⁠
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You can see how good I am at 'ignoring' - my face is quite clearly mid laughter.⁠⁠
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This is perhaps a bit of a downbeat photo for my 1000th post. messy faded daisies in the Studio Meadow.⁠⁠
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But I think it pretty much sums up what I hold dear - imperfect, natural, wild.⁠⁠
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Today my elder daughter graduates from drama school (a year late), in two days time my younger daughter turns twenty one. ⁠⁠
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A weekend of reflection, celebration and joy lies ahead.
The last of the dahlias. They are declining with the light. ⁠⁠
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Though you can't see in the photo the doubles all have that mucky chicken bum at the back and the singles have dropped their petals.⁠⁠
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The best things in the garden at the moment are the sanguisorbas - bought from @quirkybirdgardener in the summer - and settling in so well that one is now as tall as me.⁠⁠
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They've always been one of my favourite cut flowers - these white ones remind me a little of of lambs tails.
Home⁠
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After an incredibly inspiring couple of weeks. ⁠
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We ended up our holiday at Camp Goodlife @thegoodlifesoc - where it seemed that every single person we spoke to was making a positive change in the world. From creating new ways of running restaurants to connecting people to the land to making beautiful clothes to teaching children about growing food. 
And for everyone, these changes were centred around joy. ⁠
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I loved our trip but I’m so excited about getting back into the Studio this morning. 

📷 @katgoldin
Thistledown is so beguiling. ⁠
The soft cream catching the light, waiting for goldfinches to alight. ⁠
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I’m heading to Hawarden today to join the lively people at @thegoodlifesoc and teach about foraged colour and dyeing socks with all kinds of plants. I’m hoping to be able to harvest some thistles as they give a particularly beautiful mustardy yellow.
Though I grew lots and lots of straw flowers for Christmas wreaths back when I had a proper commercial flower business,  it was only this year that I slowed down enough to really see them. ⁠
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I’d assumed that they wouldn’t be good for insects until fully out - flat dulled daisies, past the point of picking - but actually wasps seem to pollinate them when they are still tightly furled. ⁠
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This patch was wasp central for weeks. ⁠
A few butterflies flitted about, but mainly wasps⁠
I am somebody who needs distance to see a bigger picture. ⁠
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For the past couple of months I’ve been really struggling with where Snapdragon Life is, and how to get from here to where I want it to be. ⁠
I filled books and books with notes but was going round in circles - unable to commit to anything with the kind of conviction a small business needs. It was all too fuzzy somehow. ⁠
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Now I am away from the Studio. ⁠
Right in the middle of two weeks of walking and eating and photographing gardens and meeting friends and suddenly it is all much clearer. ⁠
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I now have 5 sentences written in my phone notes and a high clear soaring route to take. ⁠
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The multi talented @katgoldin took this photo of me in the Studio before I left - part of a photo shoot that took almost three years to actually schedule because I will do almost anything to avoid being in front of a camera.
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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.

 

Learn more about why here

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