A heavy envelope which felt like it had books in it arrived the other day with the postmark of my publisher on it. It’s funny how after nearly two years in the making, and the pulling teeth process of editing which can make even the most committed of authors fall a little out of love with their book, the excitement is still there when you see all that work come together for the first time. It’s not as if the content comes as a surprise, you spend hours in front of a computer writing the words, there’s the time coming up with the ideas, in my case growing the plants to provide the material and there’s the photo shoots. Finally there’s the editing process. Time spent working with your editor and the designer marrying the photos and text together, and the juggling of it all to fit the layout and design of the book. Weeks and weeks of looking at PDFs and going through edited text can strip you of most of the passion and excitement you had when the book first started to form as an idea.
Fortunately there is a breathing space when it all goes quiet, the emails from the publisher stop and you return to a life no longer dictated to by your book. You stop waking up early, usually with a sudden jolt, worrying about whether you’ve spelt someone’s name correctly in the acknowledgments, or whether you remembered to send that urgent email about the photo that’s in the wrong place.
Several months later the emails start again – publication date is drawing closer. Then a package, a book-shaped package, arrives and that excitement you felt all those months ago when you first starting working on the idea returns. It’s a little odd seeing all those long hours, the frustrations but also the fun times, staring back at you in book form. It’s a team effort to bring everything together and it was a delight to work with the very talented team behind my last book, editors Helen and Joanna, photographer Jason Ingram and designer Becky Clarke. Wellyman is also rather chuffed that some of his photos have made it into the book too.
The Crafted Garden brings together my love of gardening, crafting and nature. For me these three loves go hand in hand. Why buy a fake wreath to adorn your door when the natural materials to make a gorgeous seasonal wreath can be grown so easily in your garden or foraged from the hedgerows? Why buy Christmas decorations shipped in from the Far East when simple ways to festoon your house can be made from cones, lichen-covered twigs and evergreens collected on a winter woodland walk? They can be thrifty, fun to make, connect you and your home with the seasons, and they can be composted when the New Year arrives.
I think more and more people have grown tired of mass-manufactured products that have little or no charm, made in vast factories and shipped from the other side of the world in massive container ships. Many of us are rediscovering the pleasure in making our own or seeking out skilled craftspeople who make bespoke pieces. I think this is all a bit of a backlash against the homogeneity of the high street. Being creative is also good for us. Neuroscientists are looking into how creative tasks impact on the brain. It’s believed it can have an impact similar to meditation, and increasingly crafting is being used as a way to help people suffering from stress or mental health problems. Why do gardeners and florists regularly top the lists of people happiest in their jobs? Because there’s a real connection between a task and a visible outcome and in many cases the chance to be creative.
I’ve found crafting with natural ingredients has broadened my ideas about what I might grow in my garden or on my cut flower patch. I now regularly include flowers which dry well alongside those I pick fresh. I also look out for plants with great seed heads which I can save or pretty leaves for pressing.
For me it has also been a great way to beat those winter blues. Projects give the mind something to focus on as the light levels drop and by creating projects based on the seasons it has made me learn to appreciate what each season has to offer. I’ve always loved the weeks before Christmas and decorating my home but I can’t be the only one who really feels the gloom of January, the house bare after the winter festivities. But if you have some pots of paper white narcissi and flamboyant hippeastrums waiting in the wings to decorate a dining table or windowsill it’s amazing how they can lift the spirits and remind you spring isn’t far away.
The Crafted Garden is divided into the seasons with projects inspired by the plants and countryside of each. And, because I’m a gardener and plant lover, each project includes details of how to grow plants which could be used in the project with some other recommendations too. The projects range from ways to make your home look pretty, to floral fascinators perfect for a wedding or festival, with some ideas which would work as presents too. And there are ideas on how to craft and arrange flowers in a more environmentally friendly way. I’ve included a range of projects; some are very easy, others a little more complicated but still achievable. Lots of them are fantastic for crafting with children and inspiring them to appreciate nature.