THE MODERN MINT BLOG
Looking online for where the word compost comes from, we found it originates in ‘composite’.
‘Com’ = together
‘Ponere’ – to place
To place together.
The perfect word for compost, the black gold of the garden.
Quick Modern Mint tip for making compost:
Place together a 50/50 mixture of green garden arisings (grass, flowers, vegetable peelings, stems) and brown, dry arisings (woody stems, cardboard, leaves, coffee grounds.) No cooked foods as it encourages rats.
Occasionally turn this heap with a fork or spade.
Leave for enough time and you will have compost to add back onto your garden.
Your garden will appreciate this.
Inspired by this idea of placing together, below are suggestions from garden writers to help you make thoughtful, horticultural compost… enjoy!
If we take a field that we don’t cut or graze with livestock, the grass will become long and tufty, and then perennial plants such as bramble will appear. Next come the pioneer tree species such as birch and willow. These colonise the area quickly but will only form a temporary canopy, and over time the climax canopy species, such as oak, beech or ash, will find their way to the top and become a canopy layer. This is what we refer to as ‘nature’s climax’.
Species that enjoy similar ecologies will almost always look good together… a natural piece of North American woodland, for example, would boast trilliums and smilacina; in Europe, solomons seal and hellebores might occupy the same niche; and in Asia these might be replaced by meconopsis and epimediums.
But in a garden, it is easy to bring all these together, like a horticultural melting pot, and to come up with a ravishing woodland garden.
And if plenty of our own natives are added – not just popular plants like bluebells and primroses, but also hedge garlic, figwort, even dog’s mercury – then the garden has ecological as well as aesthetic value.
A biennial cut (of your meadow) allows the eggs and pupae of grassland species (of butterfly) to overwinter in long grass.
An annual cut during autumn allows plants to seed, areas cut three times in one year encourage nectar rich flowers and grass maintained at 4 inches high encourages low growing flowers.
Green walls make spaces of monastic quiet and calm.
The house is modest but beautiful inside and out.
… clean spaces filled with light inside…
Rather as though one has stumbled upon an attic full of beautiful, yet slightly forgotten, objects or into a sculptors studio filled with work in various stages of completion.
The Wirtz’s use the garden to test the hardiness of plants and simply how they grow before using them for clients.
The horitucltural skill is worn very lightly indeed.
Here are flowers too. Lots of them. But no traditional borders. Everything has a utilitarian shape about it. They grow their flowers in rows and do so even in the gardens of their clients. This might sem brutally functional, but… Jacques is right when he says that a ‘good selection of perennials is always beautiful when planted in rows.’
The flower garden thus takes on the easy confidence of an allotment…
So delphiniums, nigella, cornflowers, roses, swetpeas, azaleas, weeping cherries, irises… are all in merging blocks… tulips and peonies each have their own blocks in amongst the topiary and then are left to die back gently.
It does not look abandoned or negligent.
Things have simply moved on from their moment, like coming across a patch of bluebells gone to seed in a wood.
Monty Don on Jacques Wirtz.
This is a composition (note: to place together), an arrangement.
I wanted to bring aspects of my childhood. I decide that I wanted to have living art, utilising a lot of indigenous art material – in a formal concept. That’s what I like.
My main criteria is to be water-wise… what I have now is really who I am. My garden is a complete expression of myself.
I enjoy recycling. It’s very imporatnat to me. Even a lot of the plant material is recycled. I rescue them wherever I can.
I take what I have and explore. Once I have the plant it will tell me what to do. I don’t want to have special plants that need extra protection. That’s for the collector.
I have really worked with the conditions.
Garden Designer Henk Scholtz.
I rarely build walls. I much prefer hedges. You can do so much with them. You can hide a view or make a window. You can use hedges as visual axes through a garden or divide up a garden with them like the walls of a house. They can be straight and formal or informal and organic.
A lot depends on the way you clip them. You can play around with different heights and widths.
Why have organic flowers when you don’t eat them? (Because) it is a choice of how we treat the landscape…
Amy Stewart on Cut Flowers.
Hope these words provide you with great compost!
Brought By Bike is an excellent website I found last month, where businesses offer their services by (of course) bicycle. Modern Mint and my topiary work is now live on the site offering my topiary services, via bike, to the following two postcodes – CM1 CM2 Now I can imagine I will need to borrow a ladder should anyone have a larger shrub, but most town gardens in the Chelmsford area have a need not just for privacy but to let light into the house… so a balance must be struck when shaping hedges and shrubs to cover both needs. …
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.
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 …