At the end of 2018, our aims for the new year were simply 'to make the most of the gardens and studio in 2019'.
A year later, as I write, I am astonished by all that happened. It has been a memorable year for us. In March we welcomed our 4th child, a baby daughter and, together with some unexpected goodbyes to loved and invaluable team members, we realised we would need to focus our attentions very carefully.
I am so proud of what we have achieved and built in 2019. We navigated some rough waters and right now we are shattered from the festive period of classes and making. Sometimes it is hard to see things clearly when tired and emotional but I reckon we exceeded our aim by making the most of the gardens and studio.
One the greatest joys was opening and sharing the gardens and studio. The highlight of the summer was 'Dine Among the Flowers'. It was a very special weekend, read more about it here and watch the videos here and here. This was hands down the easiest event I have ever been a part of. Yes, there was tablecloth and chutney disasters (and a baby that wouldn't settle late into the night unless outside) but Liz, Riadh, Gabby, Gemma, Elley, Jess and of course Alex worked tirelessly. The atmosphere was so joyful and we knew we were creating something enchanting for our guests.
Boyed by that weekend, we created a new event 'Noel Magic' named after a little Festive Wonderland in the little town in France that Alex is from. We had a day of creativity and food, slowing down and pausing enjoying the run up to Christmas. It was as magical as we'd hoped and we'll certainly be running it again together with more of the same style of experience at different points of the year.
Another great success was 'Gardening Club'. This has been much more than the sum of the labour that gets completed each week. We have continued this every week, especially over the Festive period, weeding and clearing during bright mild days.
It was a treat to create collaborations and classes with Kettles Yard and National Trust's Anglesey Abbey. Providing flowers to Kettles Yard House and exhibition dinners together with our classes and creating unique Christmas Wreath Classes at Anglesey Abbey from material cut from the gardens. Two of the most wonderful local institutions, the pride and privilege is not lost on us. Not to mention our own seasonal arranging classes and 'Grow Your Own' in the gardens and studio which allow us to share our beautiful spaces and knowledge.
And now looking through photos of the last year, I recall all the weddings, corporate events, Kit and Caboodle collections, buckets of flowers, wholesale buckets of flowers, private classes in homes and our studios, photo shoots, hen parties and children's classes. We have been very fortunate to be part of so many celebrations.
We had some setbacks though - the Dahlias were a spring saga. We had a lot of Crown Gall on Dahlia Tubers, both out of storage and from a supplier. I really had sleepless nights about what to do! In the end, after throwing 80% of cuttings out and going backwards and forwards about how to grow what was left, we did have a great crop. I feared we wouldn't have any which would have been awful when they are one of our main feature flowers. After being so confident with growing Dahlias and it just shows you that gardening will throw up lessons every year and we chalked it up to humble experience.
The Braybrooke Garden produced its first crops. We realised that despite this space being only metres from the walled garden, it is far more exposed to sun and cold. The soil is very shallow and poor, the raised beds are already almost depleted of the compost we applied thickly just one year ago, but we hadn't reckoned on just how much hotter, and colder this space is. The Ranunculus did well here but sweet peas were a disaster. The soil was too shallow despite much rich material added and they hated the full sun aspect.
The other learning curve was planning and preparation. Yes, a baby is a great excuse for not finishing off the seed schedules and planning, let alone not sowing the seeds, but excuses don't grow flowers and we had huge holes in our beds and material missing in the late summer. Needless to say, that is my big job for the next week and the focus of the next Grow Your Own Cut Flowers Class this month. I intend to ensure that every square metre of soil in all the gardens are as productive as possible.
Writing this piece has been cathartic. Reminiscing and understanding just how far we have come in a year. I can only imagine and wonder at where we might be this time next year.
We look forward to welcoming you to the gardens and sharing much more with you. Thank you for all your support, love and encouragement.
With love Anna