THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Jun19

Around the World in 80 Gardens – Monty Don

‘Around the World in 80 Gardens’ is a television series and book by Monty Don. He does exactly what the title says – travels all over the globe visiting remarkable gardens. Some he walks away from bouncing with excitement, others he is disappointed with, but never once do you feel he hasn’t appreciated the chance to see a new garden or left having not learnt something.

It is a book we have come back to again and again, each short chapter giving enough information about a garden philosophy and its maker to inspire our spirit of imagination – like this quote from Strilli Oppenheimer, “where’s the colour? That is the antithesis of the way that I feel comfortable in nature. I could quite easily – and find it exciting – do nothing at all with a garden and just watch it become totally wild again and meet its climax, then find another rhythm…  There is a wholelife force that happens when you start relating with nature.”

How wonderful is that?! It brings up all sorts of questions about the way we garden, what we find beautiful, what our starting point is and what levers we pull to set off in the direction we want to go… the book has many of these nuggets, just a few sentences hidden away in every other chapter… here is what James Van Sweden said…

“I wanted the house to be floating in a meadow… so all the grasses used in the garden are native and the garden is based around grasses.”

Monty Don then goes on to explain what he sees…

“There are no edges. It all merges out into the landscape… it has great confidence in that it appears natural and effortless…

… despite the apparent nauralness, I realised that he has used a wide and extensive range of plants to create the artless effect.

It was as though he had taken the idea of a flower border, shaken it up and set it down with all the pretension and preciousness taken from it.”

The mind boggles at what that looks like, the joy you would feel trying to create something like that.

We were drawn most of all to his meetings with designers in their own home – Fernando Caruncho, Juan Grimm, Jacques Wirtz – although his trips to Brazil and Cuba were fascinating too. Brazil for the way the term ‘garden’ had no meaning whatsoever in the Amazon (it is just the rainforest, here, right by where we live) and Cuba for the systems it uses (all organic) to grow food.

Then, of course, Monty had the experience of being on his own to enjoy the garden at Ryoan-ji…

We highly recommend that experience to anyone!

What comes out again and again in the book is that context is everything. That bunch of rocks over there? It is a garden, if you are in Kyoto and stood in the rain. That Plumbago, isn’t that a houseplant…? No! Of course not! These are lovely moments, when your own… it’s not ignorance… it is… it’s a conditioning towards your own surroundings, that blinds you to the obvious… and so when you are removed from your ‘habitat’ you end up feeling surprised. Surprised that the rest of the world gets right along without you putting any thought into it.

Much like what happens in the garden when you don’t have time to ‘work’ on it…

Speaking about the gardens he enjoyed most, Monty Don said, “Most of my favourites are modern, break the mould and are strongly architectural. I found myself, not bored, but less inspired by plantsmen’s gardens…”

Then he got onto the subject of native plants…

“Elsewhere in the world indigenous plants play a key part in establishing national identity. In Chile, Brazil, South Africa, China and India I saw gardens designed to celebrate the local cultural heritage. The British don’t do that because plant-collecting was a way in which we demonstrated our domination of other countries and displayed our new-found wealth… we have an incredibly rich and fascinating plant heritage which we downplay, so I am planting oak, ash, hawthorn, yew, aspen and alder, as well as primroses, violets, roses. What I want is a garden that is less of a display and more integrated into the landscape…”

(If you want to grow some of our own native plants, try starting with these… Seedballs…!)

It is thoughts like that, ideas like that, which make us keep coming back to this book. For the small gems of ideas that can be found when traced across the globe…

Click on the image to buy the book now!

Or find the DVD of the whole series here…

 

Mar19

Wasting Water

Well worth a read in the BBC today – a note on how wasting water in the UK “as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby.” Read the report here. I have written a talk about how we use water in the  garden. It was written when I moved from Hampshire to Essex and found out for myself just how dry this area of the UK is. It completely changed the way I garden. The lack of such a precious resource as water made me question what we can do to save it, store it and …

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Mar14

The Foie Gras That Tastes Like Nature

Ethical Foie Gras? Is That A Real Thing?   Foie gras – can it be ‘grown’ ethically? The video showing how this farmer works suggests it can… We first read about this in a book called The Third Plate by Dan Barber. I loved it and I love how Eduardo the farmer, who farms on the Dehesa in Spain, has a ‘take half leave half rule’. When talking about how the geese eat his olives… “They’re always quite fair. If you make sure the geese are relaxed and happy, you’ll be rewarded with the gift of fatty livers. That is God’s …

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Mar04

Hardy Orchids Via James Wong

Hardy orchids – here is a subject I would love to know more about – so lo and behold, James Wong has written about it in the Guardian! Read the article about hardy orchids here. I love having orchids in the house, just your usual run of the mill buy them in any shop orchids, but it is a pleasure to read about the plants that will grow outside and cope with this weather. (This insane weather! From the hottest days of February on record to Storm Freya, all within a week. Weather is always such a factor in gardening, but …

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