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The Enchanted English Garden

Sarah Gardner

Author of Art Beyond the Lens, Working with Digital Textures

Based in Buckinghamshire, England



Tending Your Spirit

I find growing a garden, sowing seeds and bulbs and waiting for their abundance to be hugely rewarding on a spiritual level. The process reconnects me to the English seasons and makes me hugely grateful for life’s smaller pleasures.

Winter Tea Essentials

I’m a big tea drinker and love the varieties from the English Tea Shop. I mostly drink organic mint and peppermint teas, but the English Tea Shop offers some tasty blends, including their organic chocolate, rooibos and vanilla.

The Magic of the English Countryside

Beauty for me has always been with the rolling English countryside, with walks along lanes banked with ancient hedgerows, birds spotting and watching the seasons roll by. I enjoy visiting heritage sites and old country houses steeped with history and landscaped gardens. But nothing quite beats the sight of a perfect English rose in an English garden. The Tudor rose is the international flower of England, and I grow six varieties of David Austin roses in my garden that are quintessential in every way.

Slowing Down + Taking the Time

One of my favorite quotes is “There are always flowers for those who want to see them” by Henri Matisse. The reason I’ve chosen this quote is that it reminds me of my beloved late grandmother. When I was a child, we often went on long country walks and she would always be far behind everyone else admiring, and naming, every small wildflower she came upon. To see beauty along the way is one thing, but to stop and take time to truly appreciate it is something else altogether.

Staying Positive and Grateful

The best advice I’ve ever received was from my father, who always said, “Turn adversity, whenever you can, into an advantage,” and I have found it to be true on every level. The ability to view and regard what I have is to have a positive and grateful outlook on my life.

Winter Hygge

Our winter days can be quite mild—we rarely get more than a sprinkling of snow—however, as the sun sets my home becomes a haven for scented candles and tea lights. There is something instantly homely about putting the kettle on, making tea, wrapping up in a cozy throw, lighting the candles and reading a good book.

The Balance of Seasons

I adore the ethos behind the slow living movement, and I even teach my children the importance of taking time to step into being both the contributor and the observer. To watch, witness and respect the natural world we live in. To be aware of the flow of life, its breath, the balance of the seasons.

Staying Close To Nature

Flowers are the perfect example of the cycle of life, the way they self-seed, grow, bloom, produce seeds and start again… constantly in a rhythm with the seasons and in balance with nature. That’s also one of the reasons I prefer, whenever possible, to work with seasonally available homegrown flowers. The best flowers are those that self-seed and are discovered growing, as if by magic, somewhere new in the garden.

Plan + Plant

One of the most valuable lessons as a gardener and a floral photographer is to plan. Plan and plant for the future, because the months come around very quickly and it’s often quite tricky to source homegrown blooms from the florists. There is nothing quite as satisfying as stepping into the garden and selecting your own cut flowers.

Creating Dried Arrangements

One of my creative must-dos is to make the most of the flowers I work with. So for the past several years, I’ve been drying them. By the end of the flowering season, I have a huge bowl full of dried rose heads, hydrangeas, lilacs, daisies, yarrow and honesty seed pods. I then use them to make small dried arrangements as well as winter wreaths. Any leftovers get sprinkled on the yule fire; rose petals and dried lilac give off a wonderful burst of fragrance as they hit the flames. This marks the end of the season, and in the new year, the process of collect - ing starts all over again. The move towards preserving flowers is definitely gaining momentum, and I think we’re on the brink of returning to the popularity of dried flower arranging.

Grow More

Regardless of what I choose to grow, the best advice I have is to grow enough to both enjoy in the garden and cut for the home. There is nothing more beautiful than a posy of homegrown flowers on your nightstand.

Photographing Flowers

When I set about photographing flowers, it’s important I create a calm and tranquil environment to work in. It always involves tea making as well as relaxing piano music, preferably classical. I find if the setting is right it all works out right, and the final images convey that stillness and calmness. It never works when I’m in a hurry or trying too hard. I take the time to assess each flower individually, remove unwanted leaves and give them a good drink before I start. I also like to think about the narrative I’m trying to convey and to consider the flowers’ own “voice.” Sometimes I like big, showy arrangements, and other times a single stem is all that’s needed.

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