“Do what you love.”
I started a previous post with that familiar mantra. This year we have taken our ambitions further – doing what we love at places we love, and working with people we admire (more to come on this).
Dove Cottage Nursery is a place we adore: a small haven of tranquility nestled just 6 miles away from us in the Shibden Valley. It’s a place we visit on an almost weekly basis throughout the summer months so that we can add to our ever-expanding collection of herbaceous perennials and grasses, in an attempt to create a garden with movement and life (sounds a lot like our floral designs!). One sunny Saturday afternoon chatting with Kim Rogers, who, together with husband Stephen, owns this critically acclaimed plantsman’s paradise, we came up with a simple idea. On a Summer’s morning we could bring guests, have the place to ourselves, tour the garden and take away buckets of flowers so that we could create garden-style arrangements inspired by the Dove Cottage borders.
The Dove Cottage nursery catalogue lives on our bedside table. Throughout the winter months my husband reads it almost daily, creating lists and drawings of dream borders in the style of Piet Oudolf, whose designs provided some of the inspiration for Kim and Stephen when they planted their garden (open to visitors under the National Gardens Scheme from June to September). It’s hard to imagine how prairie-style planting translates into the Yorkshire landscape, but this garden illustrates how well the grasses, and all those sculptural hardy perennials sit within the Yorkshire stone and the hills on a north-facing site. The huge range of plants, painstakingly grown by Kim and Stephen, are perfect for the northern climate. Windproof, rain tolerant and, on sunny days – which actually have been frequent this year, they catch the light and shine and dance.
The catalogue itself is written with true Yorkshire style. The asterisks indicate plants which are suitable as cut flowers (nearly every one!) and ‘zz’ means ‘attractive to bees’. Here’s an example :” Actaea, **zz, grows best on rich retentive ground. They provide attractive almost black foliage emerging in spring with sweetly-scented flowers in late summer and autumn and good seed heads. Never eaten by slugs and very hardy. ” No wonder such a plant punctuates the main border in the garden; no wonder we were all drawn to its stunning dark form, and if you catch a whiff of its delicious scent you’ll understand why it’s one of Kim and Stephen’s top 20 ‘must haves’ and appears on the front cover of that covetable catalogue.
Replete after the award-winning breakfast at the nearby Shibden Mill Inn, we began two hours of sheer bliss. Let into the garden via the heavy wooden ‘secret garden style’ gate we ‘oooed’ and ‘aaahed’ and reached out to touch. This is one of the most tactile of gardens and can only be properly appreciated by giving it a good stroke! We wandered happily for a good couple of hours, stopping for Mrs B’s coffee, and regrouping to exclaim over our discoveries of grasses, Angelica gigas, Filipendula, Eupatorium, Salvias and, Mrs B’s own favourite, Thalictrum.
Truly inspired, we returned here to our own garden and workshop and set about recreating what we had seen, but with our own individual styles, often pausing to waft around the garden and snip new delicacies.
A legendary afternoon tea, whipped up by Mrs B as we worked outside, gave us the chance to take a break and chat – about flowers of course, but also our shared favourite topic ‘Instagram’. Since we had Ed Chadwick from Snug Gallery held captive amongst the scones and jam, we fired questions at him on how best to use the world’s current favourite social media platform. A productive tea indeed, as you can see from the accounts of @lucytheflowerhunter (who was encouraged to start using her new name instantly) and @faffingwithflowers. “Be yourself” was the agreed ideology. And so, as the sun started to set over the back fields, high on the sugar from a dozen exquisite cakes, we carried on. Photographs were taken, new areas of the garden were discovered for Instagrammable moments. Flowery friendships were formed – which seems to be the main benefit of the Instagram world.
Visit www.dovecottagenursery.co.uk if you would like to order their catalogue and if you would like to see the wonderful garden do it soon before it closes on 30th September.