THE MODERN MINT BLOG
… Iceland is Europe’s largest producer of bananas.
Solanaceae (plants from the nightshade family) are known to produce alkaloids that can be either toxic or advantageous (this depends on your view of the world, and possibly how much you’ve ingested!) Three alkaloids borne by the family are Solanine, Nicotine and Capsaicin. Capsaicin is the one that gives you the burning sensation when you eat a chilli. Several members of the nightshade family are now important crops – tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, aubergines and tobacco. Who would have thought something so tasty could be so deadly too?
The Ginkgo tree is a botanical ‘living fossil’ with a lineage millions of years into prehistory. To put that into perspective, it hung out with the dinosaurs and stood there watching reptiles turn into mammals… turn into our ancestors… turn into us.
The conversion of forests, wetlands and grasslands for agriculture or development has resulted in the release of CO2 into the atmosphere. But this release can be slowed down by Carbon Sequestration, the capturing of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in an organic form. To do this, grow a cover crop (something as simple as grass will do) on any bare soil you have, add home made compost to your flower beds and do less digging in the vegetable patch. And finally…
Fritillaria meleagris is considered a native British plant, which (officially) means it got to this land mass on its own, starting from somewhere close by where it was also native. However it is not found at all in north-east France. Except in Poland, where they also believe it is native, the rest of Continental Europe considers it an introduction that then escaped to the wild. The first time it was spotted in the wild in the UK was 1736. The second time? 40 years later, in 1776. For a plant so easy to spot, a lot of botanists spent a lot of time missing it! Suspicion thus cast on the Fritillaria being more of a recent introduction than a bona fide native, we still think it should be grown – it is beautiful, after all.
(Bonus ‘did you know’ – the alkaloid Capsaicin does not effect birds, only mammals. Bore your children with that one!)
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