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:

May10

Transforming Topiary

topiary transforming

Transforming Topiary – a video made for the European Boxwood And Topiary Society by Charlotte Molesworth and I, in her garden. We take a dog topiary and work out how to update it, turning it into a bird. Worth a watch I think, and hopefully useful to you! You can see more of my clipping on the topiary page. Or read my Spring 2021 Topiary Provocation here.

Apr28

Phillyrea From 1682

Worlidge Phillyrea

Phillyrea is one of my favourite plants for topiary. I have been using it for quite a few years as a specimen shrub, mostly due to the fact it clips well and has a tough habit – all good characteristics for a topiary plant. It also has a  reputation for being an excellent nectar source for bees… Read more about Phillyrea here. Mentioning this to Malcolm Thicke, a market garden historian and writer, he sent me a some photos of topiary and phillyrea mentioned by John Worlidge in Systema Horticulturae from 1682…. incredible! He also mentioned to me that in …

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Apr27

Kites And Strings Podcast – Topiary In The Garden

kites and strings podcast

Kites and Strings is a podcast about creativity, hosted by US-based Stephen Ploum and Catherine Chinnock. Back in March they asked me to come onto their podcast and talk about topiary, my past writing plays, the stand-up I did and how creativity can fit into your life. The Kites and Strings podcast was great fun and Stephen and Catherine are fantastic hosts. Listening back today I am surprised by some of the ideas I talked about (somehow I even started to describe a future where I run a ‘School of Creativity’ by the sea…. where did that come from?!) but it …

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