THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Feb21

A Busman’s Holiday

Two years ago on Gardeners World we saw the work of Brian and Denise Herrick, who farm and manage the 85 acre estate Barcroft Hall.

They had decided to create a wildflower meadow on poor land, to create “a little piece of heaven.”

A few of us went down to see it and our director Darren Lerigo was interviewed by a local paper. You can read in the link what he had to say about ‘his busman’s holiday.’

Our memories of this still stand strong – especially the buzzing of bees that thrived on the nectar rich flowers, densely sown to cover as much bare earth as possible.

A quick story for you…

…last year we had a client ask for a wildflower meadow. On asking honest questions of the client and what he thought a wildflower meadow looked like, it turned out he saw in his mind’s eye a meadow of cornfield annuals, a completely different entity. We quoted him and were given consent to go and make it happen.

We cleared the ground, created the seedbed and then sowed a mix based on Dame Miriam Rothschild’s ‘Farmer’s Nightmare’. This includes corn cockle, corn marigold, cornflower and field poppy with its beautiful tissue paper red and black flower.

It germinated and took off, flourishing in the conditions we had created. It had just reached its peak, looking almost gossamer when evening light slung across its flowers, when…it turned black, shrivelled, and died off completely.

It turned out the farmer who had been spraying the field next door with weedkiller had seen this patch of ‘Farmer’s Nightmare’ and, showing some initiative, decided to spray them off because he thought they were unwanted plants. If we were growing crops, they would be unwanted plants. But an ornamental garden is different to a productive garden and the flowers had not only been intentional, but had looked stunning.

We laugh about it now, but it is worth questioning where you get your ideas of beauty and ugliness from….

Try these for a few ideas:

Sep29

New Topiary In South London Out Of Yew

Making a new topiary out of the large, dull facade of a Taxus blob… My work was to change it up from a ‘jelly drop’ shape and give it texture, open it out and let the light through, and make it a sculptural feature in the background of the garden in summer… yet a major part of the garden in winter. A few more years before it becomes something special, but there was far more leaf and growth inside the plant than I thought and so it will not take too long for it to gain in character and become …

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Sep27

Topiary Teacher – Put on The Spot!

topiary teacher

Two weeks ago I was invited to teach topiary at the garden of Griselda Kerr, the author of The Apprehensive Gardener. I love teaching and sharing skills, but I was placed on the spot in the afternoon and asked to show how I would make a new topiary from an existing shrub. So below is a speeded-up video of me creating a cloud-pruned topiary from an old boxwood tree. I particularly love the ending when the class get involved….! See the video here. One hour was all it took, and though it needed a little tidying-up, it was made by …

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Sep27

Book Yourself A Topiary Workshop 2022

organic topiary snow

Charlotte Molesworth, my topiary mentor, and I are running our popular topiary workshop again in 2022. You can email me for details – or go here for information, your ticket and to find out about dates. Book A Spot On A Topiary Workshop, September 2022