THE MODERN MINT BLOG
…would look nothing like in this picture.
So what would it look like? What do people want?
According to a survey conducted by the Horticultural Trades Association, there are several key ideas that go into making a contemporary garden:
It must be tidy and easy to maintain.
It must be centred around a social area – a patio evokes strong memories of happy times and associating with friends.
It must prompt a feeling of ‘holiday’ (rather than ‘I have to go out and work on it.’)
Sunshine, grass to walk on with bare feet, space for children to play and the sound of birds are desirable.
The survey also found people have a taste for the unusual – an unconventional pot or sculpture can make you prouder of your garden.
As gardenmakers, we at Modern Mint can vouch for the truth of this survey. Again and again we come across clients who ask us for low maintenance gardens, built with materials that are unusual or different.
The reason is simple – people do not have the time to work in the garden, and gardening can be hard work. There is also a generation (we are this generation, in fact! Though we are glad to have discovered the joys and rhythm of gardening sooner rather than later…) wh0 have grown-up without a need to garden. Food, as well as unusual materials, are readily available. So why bother putting in the effort when you can pop to Waitrose and buy what you want, or order online a bowl that is handcrafted in a cave under a full moon by a river next to a fire burning on logs from the mastic tree by the seventh son of a seventh son trained in the dark arts who only has one eye and works nude and which just so happens to also be dishwasher safe and only £6 for delivery next day all the way from Morocco?
Because there has been no need to garden the pleasure of the work has never been discovered. This lack of knowledge is why we are asked to create gardens that are easy to keep on top of – so without flowers please. (The silly thing is flowers are easier to look after than lawns, yet most people would answer they need a lawn. The green green grass of home has a major hold over the British psyche.)
One of the best things about this job is when we can inspire and inform a client about other choices they could make with their garden. When we can provide them with the low maintenance garden they want, without using artificial lawn. Throwing in a few herbs and flowers and making them feel confident they can deal with it. Small steps like this, helping to ignite a care for the way your garden looks and what it does for you, make our job one of the best you could possibly have.
Go back to the picture above, and look closely…
… this may surprise you, but it actually does what most people want from a contemporary garden.
It is easy to maintain – you don’t even need to cut the grass yourself!
It is tidy – sure, the grass is a tad long, but there is no rubbish strewn everywhere or broken plant pots and compost bins to hide away.
It is centred around a social area – the trough is the place to meet at (if you turn your head to one side and squint a bit.)
It prompts a feeling of holiday – a lush, green field. We’re out in nature guys! Wahey!
Sunshine, grass to walk on with bare feet, space for children to play… and there are bound to be birds nesting in the trees behind.
It also contains something unusual – have you got a great big Portland sheep staring at you from the far side of your patio? How much more bloody unusual do you want?!?!
What is contemporary garden design then? An interesting question to try and answer, and could be far more complex than just building everybody a patio to enjoy the sun from.
For more new ideas, take a closer look at these books:
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 …
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 …
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