THE MODERN MINT BLOG
I recently wrote a piece for Topiarius magazine, the flagship publication of the European Boxwood & Topiary Society – of which Modern Mint is both a member and big supporter.
Check out the EBTS here. They frequently run courses and talks too, so worth keeping an eye on.
Below is the piece I wrote about the tools I use when making topiary and pruning trees….
Darren’s Piece In Topiarius Magazine
I use Okatsune Secateurs, which I started pruning with when working on a large orchard in Hampshire.
My Felco’s were too difficult to open with cold hands, but the chunky clasp at the bottom of the Okatsune, with their iconic red and white handles, made them a practical replacement. The steel is strong and the action channelled towards the cutting blades. They are my everyday secateurs.
Newly hooked on Japanese tools, I bought the Okatsune shears and the soft whetstone to keep it sharp. I love the balance of the 21″s, the blade length allowing for a smooth and rapid flow as you clip, the handles light and strong.
Tobisho make the ‘Barracuda’ topiary clippers I use.
I hated most hand clippers; too clunky, too stiff, too blunt, too painful to use for longer than five minutes. Handmade, these clippers are worth the outlay, so sharp and tough they make the work fun and allow you to focus on adding detail to the topiary piece you are making.
My indefensible purchase are the Tobisho shears with curved blades. Imagine two samurai swords, just bolted together. A weapon for making organic shapes! You don’t need them and you can only really use them on boxwood.
But I bought them because they are thrilling to use, so light and sharp and shiny. They seem able to slice the air. A foolish purchase. Yet as I write this, I catch myself smiling thinking about them. Roll on the boxwood season….
If You Have A Plant You Need Pruning…
Get in touch and see if I can help you.
I happily clip hedges into interesting shapes, sculpt shrubs, make topiaries, prune roses, wisteria and fruit trees.
Don’t let a plant in your garden go to waste. Make it architectural and interesting by pruning it with an eye for the detail.
And of course, make sure you use some decent tools whilst you make it. They will help save you time and make pruning a joy.
Check out more pruning tools here.
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 …
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 …
Robinia is often forgotten – by me, actually! – when thinking of plants for topiary. But when I work on it I do love it, brittle and soft as the wood is if you climb into it. But that danger of snapping a branch with a heavy step and falling out of the tree aside, I love it for the dappled light it allows into the garden space. Robinia Near The Sea Below is a Robinia I have gently clipped over the last few years, down near Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. The tree was large when I arrived, although it is …