The Pyrus Garden

The Year

The Pyrus Garden

Volume 2

After the first growing season at the Pyrus garden, we caught up to discuss the highs and lows and see how the original vision was taking shape.

  • This season started with a very long, cold spring; the longest we have known since we started growing. The plants took a while to catch up through the summer and autumn arrived earlier than normal which was quite unexpected. We have been surprised to learn how windy the garden can be, a little micro climate of its own. We are researching natural wind breaks for future planting and hope to plant trees and shrubs that can also be useful crops for us. It is also the first time we have had to tackle any serious garden pest problems; we had an infestation of pollen beetles and are at war with aphids which is an ongoing battle! We are just learning to read the garden, some things have really taken off and others have struggled in comparison. Every season we learn so much.
    Natalya Ayers and Fiona Inglis

  • The energy within the garden this year has been incredible, we have been lucky enough to have an amazing group of volunteers to help our small team move forwards with development. The garden has a special energy of its own and together the dynamic has made this our favourite growing season to date, so many laughs and a great deal of positivity for the future.

  • What have been the biggest challenges and successes?
    The ground preparation remains our biggest challenge, as we knew it would be. We have inherited an incredible weed bed, in particular couch grass which to date we have dug out by hand to prevent the use of chemicals. Moving forwards to the next stage of the garden development we are exploring agricultural machinery to help us with time efficiency and productivity. We recently test drove a compact tractor which was an eye-opener (not to mention fun) but that is an enormous investment for us so we are considering crowd funding to help realise our tractor dreams! Looking around the garden our greatest success this year has been achieving what we set out to do in Year One- cultivate and fill the first section of the garden with flowers and erect our first polytunnel. There have been moments in high summer on a hot, cloudless day when the garden has been alive with swathes of perfumed colourful blooms and the humming of pollinators, a world away from the neglected waist high weeds we took on a year ago. That feels like success.

    Tell us a bit about the team that have helped you and made it all possible.
    We are a small team, a committed all female group that generally work between the studio and the garden. This year we also had a wonderful garden intern with us for the summer and a brilliant set of volunteers that have been with us throughout the season digging, weeding, planting and nurturing the plants. We cannot overstate the importance of these incredible women and how much energy, commitment and value they bring to PYRUS and the garden. We love that the garden gives back in return; time to reflect, work in the sunshine, escape to the country and meet new people. We could not do it without them and it is very much a group effort to develop and maintain the space. That is not to say that our partners do not get roped in, they both have invaluable skill sets and our polytunnel, compost loo and shed would not be here without them!

  • The Dahlia beds have been incredible this year, they took a long time to establish but our patience has been rewarded with the most beautiful crop of velvety blooms, we have grown lots of new varieties and it’s been so exciting watching the buds slowly unfurl, each with its own personality and character. The wild flower beds and foxgloves have done well and all the tunnel crops have been amazing, we tend to prefer unusual botanicals so the black tomatoes, white squashes and vines have all been favourites. There are always a few ‘misses’, mostly disappointments with flowers coming through the wrong colour, size or, on occasion completely the wrong variety!

  • Did you manage to wholesale anything this year?
    Since August (the peak of our season) we have been wholesaling locally, testing the market among a few florists. The response has been wonderful and we are learning what people want to buy from us next year. For the festive season we are hoping to wholesale further afield with winter produce and materials for wreath making.

    What has the garden meant in terms of your brand being more social - have people been visiting to see what you are doing?
    Having such an enormous space and running a volunteer group has certainly meant that there has been a larger team in the garden than past years. This has seemed like a natural progression, particularly as our business grows. The garden is a very special place and welcomes guests, we love having visitors within the walls and sharing its seclusion and sense of restfulness. We have had a regular stream of visitors this season from the RHS, local historians, press, photographers and locals interested in the garden’s revival. One of the last structural jobs remaining for this year is to pave and build a bower at the centre of the first cultivated section; this will be a place to bring our clients and have lunch with the team, covered with fragrant rambling roses and surrounded by garden herbs.

  • What have been your favourite things to watch and discover about the garden?
    It seems clichéd but nothing compares to watching flowers open that you have nurtured from seed, planted with numb hands on a grey gritty day and watched develop slowly into a strong healthy plant. The excitement in the morning of being the first to spot a crop coming into bloom or seeing a brand new variety showing her face never loses its wonder. With the help of local residents we have also been learning about the garden’s history as a working estate and have been poring over photographs from the late 1800’s when the garden was in its heyday, they have helped us feel closer to the garden’s past and connected to the people that worked the soil for so long. We are certainly connected to nature too! This is the first time for many years that our studio has been an enclosed, working space; however the garden birds seem oblivious that we have moved in. Over the course of the summer we have played host to two broods of blackbirds (and had to place a bucket underneath to catch the dropped worms) and watched them fledge, one straight into our bin. Also swallows, house martins, tree creepers and a wren have taken up residence and, most impressively, a wood pigeon who constructed a fantastic ‘contemporary new build’ in a bunch of white sticks hanging from the rafters!

  • Being custodians of such an historic and incredible garden naturally influences our practice every day; we are privileged to work and grow our business there. It feels very special to be raising crops within the walls and the cyclical journey from seed back through to the compost heap really informs how we think about our work. We have become accustomed to using parts of plants that are ignored or never come to market: root systems, weeds, decaying material, elements that are considered too imperfect and that we find beautiful. We often say that we grow bored easily and have short attention spans when it comes to flowers and the garden suits us perfectly for this reason; we can adapt and change our crops year to year to suit our mood, future trends and new plant discoveries. That slightly restless and impatient nature is mirrored by the garden, always pushing through the seasons, pushing up weeds, pushing us on to be better florists, artists, thinkers and gardeners.