THE MODERN MINT BLOG
We have previously featured John on the Modern Mint blog (we called his writing subversive… that’s a good thing…!) It was in an interview we made with him about his work gardening organically at home in Wales. The interview makes for wonderful and inspiring reading… just check out the extract below…
“Taking a deliberately earth- and climate-friendly approach… encourages you to garden more laterally, more locally and more gently. Why would you buy a polluting pesticide, the product of a long chain of energy-intensive processes (usually involving oil) to poison aphids, when you can sow some calendulas, whose beautiful flowers attract hoverflies, the larvae of which will eat those aphids for free?”
Having made this previous interview with John, it meant we came to his new book ‘Digging Deep’ with eyes wide open – we knew this was going to be the words of a man who asks difficult questions about our gardening practises. As John says himself in the introduction to the book…
“Now more than ever, we gardeners need to ask questions. To quiz, to probe and to challenge gardening’s status quo is a gentle yet powerful way of changing things for the better – which is, after all, what gardening at its simplest, its most essential and earth-friendly, is all about.”
Digging Deeper is a collection of essays John wrote for Organic Gardening magazine. Gathering them together allows us to explore with him issues like climate change, the use of pesticides and our connection to the seasons. They were exhilarating essays then, but feel just as relevant and contemporary now, and his occassionally dramatic prose will not make comfortable reading for everyone…
John Walker on his neighbour using a patio heater
“This is outdoor living gone mad, and I seriously wonder if those living on ‘planet patio’ actually inhabit the same miraculous orb of interconnected life that I do.”
Abrupt and direct (and his writing is far less gentle than the way he gardens) we love it – his is an authentic voice in an often dull crowd of garden writing. How great is it to hear someone speak up and say what they believe? It inspires us here at Modern Mint, when we write about gardening, to write better, to research more and not trot out the same old ‘things to do in the garden this month’… there is a place for that, yes, and people want it, but we also crave a voice like John’s – which is why we want to cherish his new book and share it with people.
— Modern Mint Ltd (@ModernMintLtd) June 29, 2015
We notice that collecting a number of essays together into a book, essays that had originally been written for a magazine, gives the rhythm of the whole piece a singular dynamic – each essay is the same number of words, so the power and punch in the writing can be lost as we move from essay to essay, new topic to new topic. It may be better to read one or two of the essays at a time, then have a break, to absorb and think over the ideas encapsulated in each piece. They deserve it, so why not read the book over a week?
Recommended essays from ‘Digging Deep’:
“When I moved here, there simply was no wheelie bin, and as time passed, the need for one never arose, largely due to my obsessive penchants for recycling, composting, and making minimal-waste shopping choices.”
Organic gardening: the end?
“I’ve always believed that being able to grow my own food was up there among the most inalienable of human rights.”
Great Expectations (we love this essay because it invites us into John’s garden, into how he works and what he is trying to achieve…)
“Imagine my incredulity, after staggering in from one of my ‘compostathons’ to plonk down with a cup of tea and a magazine, when I saw screaming out from its front cover ‘Bumper crops, zero effort’… the subtext read something like this: gardening is easy, quick and effortless. My aching back, sweaty armpits and blistered palms begged to differ.”
Refreshing (and graphic!) stuff, yes…?
What John does best is keep us questioning, improving, learning – not just accepting or taking the easy option in the choices we make in our garden. His new book ‘Digging Deep’ is calling us to take action – are we really digging deep enough into gardening in an earth friendly way?
To read more about John the Earth Friendly Gardener see our interview with him on this very blog.
Over the last two years I have been involved with a couple of projects that have ended up being recorded, then placed on Youtube or Instagram. I’m hoping they will be useful to you, so I have decided this morning to pop them together in one handy blog post so that you can bookmark the page and revisit when you need some inspiration for your topiary. See below then, a few videos about topiary I have recently been involved with… Garden Masterclass – Provocations of a Modern Topiarist Transforming Topiary Topiary Teacher Put On The Spot https://www.instagram.com/p/CTj-EfOKRL6/ In the above …
Mark Zlotsky is an artist based in New York, and today I just wanted to share his project ‘Topiary Tango’. In his introduction to the project he talks of topiary being a forgiving art, which I love and is soooooo true…..! For proof, just take a look at some projects I have made with a sharp pair of shears, a hedgetrimmer and a pruning saw. Do check out Mark Zlotsky’s project, because although his interest began by looking at topiary through the prism of architecture and the relationship of one building to another, he touches directly onto a way of …
Gardenista, the online magazine about gardens and design, have interviewed me about topiary. The article is called ‘Rethinking Topiary: A Garden Tradition Loosened Up’ and was published this morning. Written by the excellent garden writer Clare Coulson, I share some thoughts on using deciduous plants, how to clip (name-dropping Anne Lamott and her book on writing at one stage… oh, how I wander off subject sometimes!) and how to improve topiary by what you plant around it. Do take a look at the article in Gardenista. Or for more about my topiary work, check out the topiary page.