Springtime is the perfect season to refresh the she shed and make plans for the garden. Amanda Edwards plots her lofty goal to create a Mr. McGregor-inspired garden … complete with tender cabbage, lettuce and carrots, of course. “I’ve been reading through my Beatrix Potter books and buying seeds like mad,” Amanda says.
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If you have this year’s She Shed Living calendar you will have delighted at the simple white schoolhouse-style shed that graces the month of March. In 2019, Amanda Edwards of @thisblueridgelife, a farmwife, mother and rural herbalist in western North Carolina, designed her dream she shed for her husband to build.
The shed featured board-and-batten siding, a white standing seam metal roof and a schoolhouse-style cupola on top. Ample flower beds surround the structure on all sides. A year later, Amanda and her husband enclosed the front garden area with a picket fence and a gate.
Inside is a simple, restful place with just a few furnishings — bench, dresser and rocking chair. Dried herbs hang from a metal rack. The floor is unadorned wood, painted a pale green.
The Journey to Herbalist
Furthering her longtime interest in fresh herbs and their healing properties, Amanda began growing plots of peppermint, lemon balm, lavender and parsley from seed. She researched and experimented with herbs as healing teas and medicinal applications.
Amanda credits a learned 12th-century German Benedictine abbess, Saint Hildegard de Bingen, for illuminating the deep connections between nature and man. Saint Hildegard’s book Physica explores the interrelationships of nine healing systems including plants, animals, metals, trees, stones, fish and birds.
“I learned a lot from her,” Amanda says. “She was way ahead of her time.”
For something a little lighter, Amanda will whip up a simmer pot recipe using lemon, rosemary and vanilla extract. She also taught herself to make all-natural candles, which she hopes will soon be scented with her own rosemary and lavender.
Amanda plans to continue her work as an herbalist; she uses her she shed for drying herb and also capturing her thoughts and plans in a journal. The shed also contains a small chalk-painted table for her writing. “I like to come to the shed in the morning after my chores,” Amanda says. “And, besides the garden, it is my favorite place for tea after lunch.”
Right now the she shed is also indispensable as a place for potting and storing garden supplies. However Amanda and her husband broke ground a few months ago for a new greenhouse that he designed. When complete, Amanda will move her potting bench and supplies out of the she shed, leaving her more space for working on her hand embroidery, which she just picked up. No, Amanda is not an idle person.
Tips for Creating a Beatrix Potter Garden
Amanda read the Beatrix Potter to her children when they were small and remembered the wonderful details and illustrations. She decided that this year she was going to create an English-style vegetable garden, using heirloom seeds. Here are some of her tips for recreating the magical world that Peter Rabbit discovered over Mr. McGregor’s fence.
Re-read the tales of Peter Rabbit. Amanda did and aside from thoroughly enjoying the walk down memory lane, she also made lists as she went of the flower, vegetables and herbs that were mentioned. She even plans to grow a blackberry patch.
Sketch your garden. Based on available plots in your backyard create a landscape sketch (a bird’s eye view) that shows the layout. Include fun details using color (watercolor would be nice!) and label where each of the plants will go.
Add storybook touches. Remember how that mean old Mr. McGregor used Peter Rabbit’s coat for a scarecrow? All you need is a stake with a crosspiece and hang a little blue jacket over it (look for a baby coat at your local thrift shop).
Be interpretive, not literal. Create “patches” using raised beds, arbors, gravel pathways and low fencing. Mr. McGregor’s garden was very large and he cultivated his cabbages and lettuce in long rows. You will want the spirit and the old-fashioned goodness of the produce that he grew, but you don’t have to mimic the garden exactly. Create your own interpretation.
Read up on Potter’s life. Marta McDowell’s book, Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life, provides rich detail about her life as an author and illustrator as well as her gardening pursuits. In the reviews, readers note how valuable it is to see her garden and learn about nurturing it through each season.