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Fieldnotes; a garden diary 2019-2021, thoughts and observations on nature

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

We started our flower farm in 2018, with our first flower season arriving in 2019. In tandem with growing flowers, managing our field and spending much time in the countryside, I kept a diary of observations and thoughts on our farm and the surrounding landscape. What started as a modest readership of 9 people back in 2019, is now a growing group of 700 readers. My writing is now a regular feature of our newsletter and as we embark on a new year with plans to increase the content and regularity we communicate with our subscribers, here is a look back at 4 years of nature writing.

16 September 2019 High summer turning in September, delectable as honey.

August brought a blanket of heat like never before, rain, a once-in-a-decade butterfly migration, and Echinacea Pica Bella. June, July and August have raced by with weddings, markets, flower sales, workshops, and an ever expanding garden to tend; sharing our flowers with the many visitors to grace our flower studio has made for a very special season. We find ourselves in September, at that pivotal point in the year when glimpses towards the next season start to push through and being summer-weary feels good, ready for a new phase. We started this flower growing journey in October 2018, when we buried many bulbs and corms in the ground, waited, and saw an onslaught of tulips, anemones and ranunculus come Spring. Geed on by this plenty, we sowed a few varieties of amaranths, cornflower, echinacea, sweet peas, poppies, and more, planted austere-looking bare root roses, becoming more and more hooked with every new bud, every show of new leaves, every unfurling flower head. Learning valuable lessons in patience and listening along the way. I have known this patch of ground, our 5 acre small holding, for 19 years this month. As I stand on it now, tuning into the sights and sounds and jotting them in my diary and planning our next growing year, the rest of the world feels enormously far away, as does any other time. Our companionable flowers are silent and swaying gently in the breeze, it's hotter than usual and there's a drowsy atmosphere all around. It's been a day of garden maintenance, cutting, tidying up, weed control (into battle), and planting. Days like these slip by in a slow, drifting sort of way as if time is being carried slowly on a current of air or water. Satisfaction feeling as thick as the dirt under my fingernails. I am learning to slow down, I am learning that everything will take the time it needs, even when there is a lot of it to be done in a little time. As we prepare to clear the flower beds of annuals that have come to an end and ponder about next year and next year's flowers, an unceasing soundtrack of starling murmurations plays out above as they dive together from one rooftop to the next.

3 November 2019

November, the roses have opened their factories of sweetness for one last time.

In the last few weeks, the gathering frosts and fogs have put a spell on the landscape and drawn a line under our flower growing season until next year. Forgive us then, as the weather turns, we look towards Christmas - caught in its light and listening again to its story. We spend our days making wreaths with these circles representing seasonality, as the wheel turns away from Summer, through Autumn and into Winter. The wreath, a symbol for the season, the shape representing the circle of life and the evergreen symbolising growth. Beautiful all the way around.

9 December 2019

Ah world, what lessons you prepare for us, even in a leafless winter.

Since October, we have been working hard doing all those thankless and muddy jobs in the garden, missing the company of bees and butterflies, but being entertained by one brazen robin, puffing himself more and more bulbous and bulb-like as he curiously observes us at work. We sift through boxes of flower bulbs, preparing with great excitement for the next growing season and all that it will bring. Gazing out at cleared flower beds of spent annuals and skeletal perennials, like bones picked clean on a dinner plate. We place bulbs in the ground, carefully and tentatively at first as if they were made of glass, then with more and more haste, covering them with dirt as the light dwindles and the temperature dips rapidly with the sun. Come March, for our efforts, we await alliums, anemones, fritillary, hyacinth, muscari, narcissi, ranunculus, and of course, tulips, tulips, tulips.

Are you going to plant me? I am.

Will I sprout? You will.

When? Next Spring.

Will I bloom? You will

When? Next Summer. Keeping us busy inside; wreaths. Creations beautifully representing all the seasons at once with a combination of dried flowers and grasses collected from Spring & Summer, paired with fragrant winter evergreens; an ode to a whole year. Wreath making has become something of a meditation for me, a celebratory practice dedicated to the circle and all that it symbolises. Flowing, continuous, ever connected, interdependent. From within a hierarchal and unequal society, it struck me as having a redemptive power. A circle renders all things communal, symbiotic, united, and uniting. Isn't that beautiful? An important reminder at the most joyous in many ways, sad in many ways, poignant time of the year. In a winter landscape stripped bare and stark with a dearth of green and a plentitude of brown, I turn to the skies for something brighter. When clear and blue, with a setting sun, it takes on the flush and pink of the garden roses I miss so much. Little reminders. During the day there is a mingling of light and cloud giving everything an alabaster dusting. Light has the ability to reveal and conceal. The mountains of the Trossachs which can be seen from our field, look as though they rest in the bottom of a glass of milk. Through all this milk, come forth the flaming details of rusty beech leaves, hawthorn berries and rosehips, they cut through like sparks. I stand looking out, lightly wringing my hands which are stinging hot from the burning effect of cold. Many convergences.

24 February 2020

On winter's margin

It's raining as I write this, hard, driving down steadily and laminating everything with a glassy soak. And the forecast tells me it's far from over. However, we prepare for Spring. The allium, anemone, hyacinths, narcissi, ranunculus, and tulips push forth from the soil defiantly assurgent. The hardy annuals in the tunnel are doing their thing too, outgrowing seed trays, then pots at a quickening rate as February brings 10 hours of daylight to feast on. The hellebores and snowdrops defy any weather that gets thrown at them, exuding such happiness from their little flower heads and looking so delightfully incongruous in a winter scene. It's heartening to see all this growth in an otherwise fallow time. In the studio, we are sowing seeds on every available surface we can find and Summer feels very present as we prepare ourselves and the studio for a busy year ahead. The seeds sown in Autumn 2019, have had a considerable head start and now we begin our pre-spring sowing, placing tiny specks as small as a grain of sand into trays of soil with an almost nauseating micro intensity, "I need my glasses for this" my mum says many times in a day. We established our cutting garden in 2018 to gain a more intimate relationship with our materials, going beyond simply buying and selling feels important. Floristry and nature have drifted apart to a place that feels synthetic and manufactured, much like our food. Our materials tell the story of the season, the land, the weather, and the hands that plant them; deeply evocative objects of beauty and nurture, little moments of earthly delight, perceptually felt. February is by far our quietest month, spent mostly in front of a screen. This 'screen work' is not my most natural habitat but there is something ruminative about this dormant month. The restorative calm before the glorious storm.

8 April 2020

Life is at a standstill, only ideas flash past, yet still, flowers grow

It's hard to know what to write. It's hard to know anything. We hope that you are all finding safety and solace in our new inward reality. For those of you who continue to work in the public realm and essential services, we hope you are finding the best and safest way through this anomalous situation. To all of you, we hope this brings a little of nature's nourishment, a green embrace, albeit through a screen. I am a great believer in gardening through crisis. Not everyone has access to a garden but gardening could be anything from a delightful postage stamp full of pots, caring for a houseplant, to germinating some tomatoes or sweet peas on a windowsill. If dirt under your fingernails isn't your thing, admiring the green fingered efforts of a neighbour or a gaze at a tree from a window or the street can sometimes be just enough of an earthly delight. Anything to forget the news for moment or two. During my walks through the city where I live, I am missing our flower field, unaccustomed to not being there most days. I miss the open countryside and the lightness, tranquility and excitement of a studio full of flowers, people and dogs. My daily dog walk has become a hyper-vigilant anxiety dance between me and every runner, cyclist, and walker also getting their 'one a day'. But I find myself charmed by the dandelions and forget-me-nots flourishing through cracks in the pavement, bringing me right back down to 'earth' and releasing me from fear of proximity, for a moment. Now I have taken to looking for these weeds wherever I go, I see how much more spiritedly yellow and blue they are than yesterday. I hope we all are gaining a little vibrancy by the day. Based at our farm, my mum Louisina has been able to continue to look after our garden with the help of my dad Derek. I miss them. They send me daily updates and there is so much comfort in this steady stream of whats app happenings. There are anemone, narcissi, and hyacinth in full swing, and snakes head fritillary we forgot we planted. The sweet peas, poppies and cornflower are developing their first buds in the tunnels. The first few tulips are ready for picking, we lift them from the soil with their giant, heavily-whiskered, root laden bulb satisfyingly intact - as is the way to harvest tulips as a cut flower. In the wild spots there are cherry blossom colouring the landscape from winter to spring. The first bees arrive. Growing flowers is always about seasons, cusps, right nows, and thens; time. The butterfly, the bud, the flower, the weed, the sun, the rain, the heat, the cold, all these beautiful right nows. With a never-ending flow of tasks, worries take a back seat as you move from hour to hour, day to day, season to season, year to year. My mum always says, 'it's 4 o'clock already!'. Nothing is ever truly finished, no final iteration ever reached. The only outcome that drives us is that there will be flowers to pick. And there always is. A cluster of discarded muscari bulbs grew on top of the compost heap, against all odds, without soil or shelter, just bloomed on regardless. Of course, as with any business, there are worries and stresses but I’ve yet to find an activity as suitably tiring and soothing as working in a garden. As our calendar for the summer season ceased, all plans and work on hold for an unknown time, the workaholic in me struggles to accept it. The flowers keep growing, much like my own inability to stand still. My final thoughts came to me this afternoon, as my flower-vigilant eyes caught sight of last year's hydrangea flowers in my front garden. Not much left of them but the faintest, skeletal whisper of the former flower, suggesting their outlines so they were just identifiable enough, just. In these times, it is important to remember that everything fades, even us. Whatever else happens, a fade, a replacement, a seasonal shift is certainly on the way.

10 May 2020

It's May!

As I write this, a Flower Moon rises, named so by Native Americans to track a tipping point in the season, reaching its zenith at 6:45am on Thursday 7 May which is the day before my birthday. The Flower Moon was the last super moon of 2020, its predecessors being the Worm Moon of March and the Pink Moon of April. I read this culmination of moons as a divination. The current pause in all our lives feeling insignificant in the grand scale and boundlessness of time and space. The timing of this Flower Moon is not surprising with flowers springing forth in sweet abundance this month. For the staunch followers of folklore among you, it is the ideal time to accept a life changing proposal...

4 August 2020

July meets August

It's been a funny sort of time lately. It feels like a long time since I last wrote and also no time at all. Funny how time throws you like that. The garden keeps us busy and grounded and somewhat distanced from the outside world. We concern ourselves with removing aphids from roses, deadheading, sowing perennials and biennials for next year, daily watering, daily cutting, writing lists, ordering bulbs, counting stems, wrapping them, admiring them, arranging them, handing them over. Everything is flowering madly. With flowers in our arms we look skyward, clouds gather and we don waterproofs quick, clear skies appear again and we strip off just as fast. Steam rises from every surface with the mingling of heat and rain. Raindrops make cobwebs discernible in every corner, gatepost, fence, and plant; intricate golden lattices like the finest jewellery. Everything is ambient and golden. The tumult of the weather is reflective of the disorder of the moment; but we take the calm with the storms. "See how it goes," my mantra, an attempt to reassure in this year that never really was. Late summer approaches and colours in the garden deepen, each new detail a little more russet than the last. Fe fi fo fum comes to mind when I see how the amaranthus in the tunnel are more beanstalkish than cut flower. The echinacea adds a daub of crimson to our world and how ardent we are to see them. It's been a whole year after all. Old friends. In the wild places, the rosebay willowherb towers and sways like the masts of a great ship at sea. The meadow grasses are turning to dust as they follow the call of the wind. Everything moves on. There has been a hive of activity in the studio as we cut flowers and prepare for them to be delivered. Messages of love seem to be more pressing than ever. Distance is tough, flowers are shared. As well as the flowers, we have been making our own aprons for the shop. After many a failed attempt to find an apron that suited, we decided to make our own! Handmade by us, each fabric and detail has been brought together after months and months of research, trials, tests, tribulations, and triumphs. Flower work is varied; physical, sedentary, muddy, wet, cold, warm, informal, formal. You may be in the garden shovelling compost in the morning and be hosting a workshop in the studio in the afternoon. Crocs and jeans have never been our thing. We wanted to be able to work in the clothes we love to wear whilst still being able to do all the practical jobs we need to do. These garments have a story. I come from a long line of women who worked with cloth. My great grandmother, Lizzie, was a "hawker" in mid 20th century Glasgow. The hawkers would travel to the upper and middle-class areas of the city knocking on doors and asking for unwanted bundles of clothes which they would then wash and mend to sell. This system of street bartering was an incredible thrift where a pair of gent's trousers for instance would be transformed into 3 or 4 pairs of boys' shorts. Hawking was women's work and provided an income for women like my great grandmother. It also made clothing an affordable commodity for those who could least afford it. My late grandmother, May, was kept her from realising her true talents as a fashion designer through family constraints (yet a designer is how I will always see her). She worked in a factory making patterns as a young woman and spent her latter years charity shop hunting for the most beautiful vintage outfits which she would change and adapt to fit her tiny 4 foot frame. Her sister Anna, my great aunt, has been a seamstress all of her life too. My mum, Louisina, another sewing machine great is adept at making patterns and constructing her own clothes effortlessly. Further back, my female ancestors of the 19th century were workers in Dundee's jute mills. All these threads. It is from this background of thrift, ingenuity and creativity that we find our inspiration today, in this group of women's inherent sustainability and care for the objects that are already in the world, I search for my own way of life.

1 November 2020

October meets November

September and October,

the last dances of summer

October's closing days,

a song of rain.

Within a few weeks all the colour was washed away and a patchwork of moving water runs down every surface, gathering in every dip and grove. I make every effort to dodge puddles with footwork as careful as a rehearsed dance while I make my way around the farm. I notice how I move has changed with this change in the weather, scurrying in and out to complete outdoor tasks as quickly as possible. I hunch under the weight of the weather, trying to make my body as small as possible laden with coats and waterproofs and wellies, hanging on the end of every forecast. Rarely accurate. The wind is distinctly more harsh and I notice how the inclement weather makes us so much more aware of our bodies. Everything requires a little more effort. With a deep breath I inhale the landscape and everything somehow feels bigger, more epic. The clouds are so solid they could be cut from rock. Sunshine penetrates rain making rainbows on watercolour skies. Everything at this time of year feels expanded, dramatic. We no longer see the leaves, we see the tree, the branch, the stem and the space behind it. This blank, skeletal landscape becomes a new page, one on which to pin all hopes and plans. On the farm, we relish this new phase by pulling up all the twisted masses of plants to find crumbly, dark, delicious earth underneath dotted with little mushrooms. We are all the more heartened in a disheartening year by every green shoot, every seed germinated, every bulb sprouted. We go boot first into this new season, we fill the ground with thousands of bulbs and we germinate seeds under the acoustic cocoon of the polytunnel tarpaulin, with a satisfying rat a tat tat of rain from above. As we watch everything around us gently disintegrating, blowing away or melting sodden underfoot, we feel ready for this interlude, stepping from the cold into warmth. Nature is full of small miracles that soothe and comfort, if you take the time to look. Autumn into winter is a picture of transformation. One which we very much need right now. This year the seas have been rough, there could be more rock and sway to come but our thoughts are now are with spring and the flowers it will bring. I write this as a storm rages outside but I remind myself, that storms always pass. They leave everything changed but they do pass.

16 November 2020

Gentle Yuletide

Today is the 16th of November, the 321st day of 2020, counting down the next 35 days until the winter solstice and the 44 days until we welcome in 2021. How did we get here? I ask myself every year, this year especially so. The moon is a sliver of 3% full and one day old. An excellent time to start a new project according to my trusty almanac! The sun rose at 7:56am and set at 4:07pm. By coincidence, this is precisely the time I pull on a jumper, light the fire and a few candles before sitting down to write this. Such a joy to be had in these simple, tactile acts. I enjoy striking the match and the scent of friction, holding it close to the wick, failing a few times and having to strike a couple of times more until the flame finally catches with a crackle. There is so much joy to be had in the indulgent luxuries of this time of year; they have always held a particularly intoxicating magic. As a young girl I remember the rush and excitement, the poinsettias, hand painted wooden baubles with little red ropes to tie on the tree, the ritualistic untangling of Christmas lights, all hands on deck, clementines with the leaves on, nuts in their shells, wrapped chocolates, gold leaf sticking to your fingers, incense, candlelight...

I am not at the farm today having spent the day drying out and heating up from planting 1000s of bulbs in the most penetrating of rain yesterday. It has been a beautiful and cold day today, perfect for outdoor work. Just the luck. At half past three yesterday, I let down my hood for a moment during a dry interlude and looked up to see a pink sky and dusk settling over the fields. You can always tell when the sun has dipped, as the temperature drops almost instantly and takes the light with it. I could feel it deep within my bones. We have been working hard in the garden as we always do at this time of year. In the tunnels and outdoor beds, green shoots are bursting through the dark, wet soil already - thousands of alliums, narcissus, ranunculus, and anemones springing up day by day. The sweet peas, sweet rocket, yarrow and aquilegia seedlings we sowed back in September are doing well. With the Autumn-sown mallow now big, meaty plants already braving the elements outside. The only thing stoically flowering at the moment are the roses in the polytunnel and a few cosmos, albeit very slowly and tentatively. They seem more beautiful to me now in the absence of all the wild abundance of summer. There’s still plenty more to do, more to plant, more to sow - always always more to do.

15 February 2021

Hello February!

February can be a colourless month, but the light sluices through and gives us beautiful lilac dawns and dusks. January and February have been spent under a blanket of snow and ice, save a few interludes of rain, only to be frozen over and smothered in white once more. There is something soothing about snowfall, precipitation in slow motion. I love it and tire of it. It's been a cold winter. Life has been small for a long time, our movements curbed yet our thoughts vast. Tonight, the 15 February 2021, the moon is a waxing crescent meaning its illumination is ever growing. This brings to mind the old saying 'light at the end of the tunnel'. It is said a waxing crescent moon is a good time to set intentions, I intend to. We are very much missing flowers. I check the ground daily for signs of spring and something in the mild weather today spoke of change, I am listening. Throughout winter I often find myself longing for Spring but as I gain more experience in having a seasonal practice, I learn to appreciate each season for its changes in pace and mood. Having distance from the day-to-day grind, a time to reset, regroup and reenergise, is essential no matter what you do. Observing our farm and landscape throughout winter, I witness its steady decline. Autumn is when everything ignites but throughout winter the embers go out and everything slowly slides into mud and disintegrates. Anything that is alive rumbles on under the surface, out of view. There is such pathos and beauty in this unbecoming, everything that summer has spun into a frenzy of life disappears. Perhaps the thing us humans struggle with most is how inextricably linked this is with our own unbecoming. I intend to enjoy the quietness of winter and to be thankful for my own season in the sun. Every year without fail, sometime around mid-February, shoots start to appear; tulips, narcissi, iris, fritillary. Snowdrops and hellebores do their thing. It's all the gee up I need to fling myself back into the saddle!

25 April 2021

Dear Spring

Longer days, working in the garden late, warm air, sunshine, growth. Hello flowers! We've been cutting flowers for around 6 weeks now and how different everything feels since I last wrote of the light sluicing through February's snowy skies. March came and went in a blink before I had time to write to you all. My dad reminded me of an old saying about the month of March, “In like a lion, out like a lamb”. A true enough proverb; when March begins it feels very much like winter and by the end it should be, Spring. Looking to the stars in March, Leo is the rising sign. By April, it’s Aries, the Ram. I decided to dig a little deeper into folk wisdom and discovered another proverb, "So many mists in March you see. So many frosts in May will be". I decide not to be too comfortable just yet. One thing is for sure, how giddy I feel to be around flowers again. The familiar rhythms; awakening each morning gently and slowly to bird song and light. The many seed ceremonies; misting and hoping and checking. The small acts that punctuate the day; cutting and watering, watching the water run over waxy and impenetrable foliage before disappearing through the soil, darkening it for a brief moment. All of this, like Derek Jarman so beautifully and unforgettably describes as “...the Amen beyond the prayer.” When you work on the land or in a garden, there is no time for procrastination or laziness, no place for pessimism or doubt, there is always work to do and plenty of it and always gifts to behold. Faith. After a long winter and a fractured year, I stop and stare at these flowers with a wonder that is both familiar and strange, their ability to take my breath away, I covet them like precious jewels, like shiny coins in the palm of my hand.

30 August 2021

An overdue hello

It has been a while since I last wrote. The 2021 flower season has been quite different from 2020, quite different. With our hands full, I haven't been able to write but hoping to put that right as we sluice into a new and gentler season. We've been cutting flowers daily since March and it’s been a glorious time - the highlight certainly being able to bring lots of special, seasonal stems from our farm to homes, weddings and newsfeeds! However you have experienced our flowers this year, we hope you have appreciated the chance to stop and savour the magical, brief and seasonal moments that flowers so perfectly represent. As the light cools and the air freshens, these misty late Summer/early Autumn mornings are a welcome breather to the headiness of high summer. As the air swirls with moisture, it clings and furnishes every spiders’ web with delicate glass beads - a favourite sight. The setting sun gives everything it touches a warm lustre - another favourite sight - and beds down into the horizon a few minutes earlier every night. At this time of year, this in-between moment between Summer and Winter on our farm, I am reminded of the phrase 'Halcyon Days' which denoted a period of calm to the Ancient Greeks, when the wind didn’t blow and the waves of the sea were stilled. September marks the beginning of the 2022 flower season, as we sow seeds and spend the next few months preparing the farm for Winter and the Spring beyond. There is a different pace and a different focus, like the bustle before bedtime as you prepare to rest before the day ahead.

1 November 2021

Autumn meets Winter

Today is the 17th of November, the 322nd day of 2021, counting down the next 34 days until the winter solstice and the 44 days until we welcome in 2022. I wrote almost these exact words to you all this time last year, albeit a day previous, on 16th November 2020 with the same ponderings: How did we get here? I seem to ask myself this every year, around this time in between seasons and phases, when the end of our flower season collides with the beginnings of the next. The moon is not yet full, waxing its way along night by night and at that beautiful phase when its illuminated area increases in size every day until the Full Moon rises and then wanes again, its light diminishing bit by bit every day. Forever changing, waxing and waning just as we do but always keeping its course, such gentle power, softly influencing and inspiring awe, whilst coaxing oceans from shore to shore. Is there any other object so ordinary and so everyday that inspires such reverence? So faithful to nature and never diminished? As the moon rises at 3:19pm today, this is precisely the time I light the fire and a few candles before sitting down to write this. It is time for us to put boot, fork, spade, bulb, and seed into soil once again. On the farm we are clearing the annual plants, cutting back the perennials, mulching, lifting and splitting dahlia tubers, digging tulip trenches, and collecting seed with wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow thrust into the compost heap with a satisfactory nudge. Autumn mornings are the very best, with every crisp start, every dew drop, every cobweb, every ray of mellow sunshine, every sunrise, all coming together to create pure magic. Below our feet a mosaic of brown, yellow and red leaves, at their very best when crunchy. Early mornings in November are a gift, when there is still some semblance of night hanging in the air, with low lying fog resembling a pastel drawing of a landscape snubbed out by a rubber. Everything is there to be soaked in and how wonderful it is to work outside with a red nose and a justifiable reason to say 'tools down' at 3pm. I am a great believer in being guided by the seasons, by the natural world and for immersing yourself within it at every and any available opportunity. It seems incredible that we are already fast approaching 2022. This year has certainly been a whirlwind for which I am only just catching my breath. With all the activity going on in the farm, we are also finding the time to prepare the studio for making wreaths, cutting willow branches, weaving and twisting them into circles, opening up the boxes of dried flowers we have been saving all year, cutting foliage and collecting branches, pinecones and moss and dyeing swathes of silk velvet with our flowers, plants and kitchen leftovers. As the days get darker and we retreat inside, now is the time to decorate our homes with botanicals by way of wreaths and trees. Beautiful foliages, dried flowers and branches seem so much more precious now in the absence of all the wild abundance of summer. The practice of bringing evergreens into the home is a beautiful and ancient tradition, sparked by a reverence and respect for those things which survive the harshness of winter.

Read the next edition of our Fieldnotes series by clicking here.

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