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.
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 …