THE MODERN MINT BLOG
As a garden design company we at Modern Mint are always thinking about our relationship to the natural environment.
We try to use our vehicles and power tools as little as possible.
And we try very hard to educate clients in how to reduce their use of chemicals in the garden.
But just how far can you go to ‘help the environment’ while living in UK society in 2014? Because to fit in, to live in anyway at all, requires you to consume – whether it is fuel, food with sugar or palm oil in, or products that are transported a long long way for our use.
(This dichotomy was written about by George Monbiot in an essay he wrote about advertising – “We think we know who the enemies are: banks, big business, lobbyists, the politicians who exist to appease them. But somehow the sector which stitches this system of hypercapitalism together gets overlooked… I am talking about the industry whose output frames this column and pays for it: advertising…
I detest this poison, but I also recognise that I am becoming more dependent on it. As sales of print editions decline, newspapers lean even more heavily on advertising.”)
Where do we begin answering this question, when every little thing we do, thinking we are making just a tiny bit of difference to the world, can be exposed as a fraud when someone points out we ‘still get on an aeroplane’ or ‘you advertise your products!’ or ‘how can you use Fairy liquid and not Ecover if you’re that eco-conscious?’
It is difficult, but we simply begin by making a list of things we have and use for our work at Modern Mint…
An internet connection.
A plastic flask.
Pens and pencils.
Website and server.
Products we sell on our shop.
And so the list goes on… without even getting started on the materials we use in constructing a garden!
Next we take this list and we ask questions of it.
Can we reduce our use of this? Can we recycle here? Can we reuse anything at all?
For example, we would like to reduce our use of hedgetrimmers. So we have decided to invest in decent shears. We have gone for two pairs – one made by Okatsune, as good all-rounders for any job…
And these expensive ones from Niwaki. Because they should last a lifetime.
We hope to reach a stage, within the next five years, where we can live and work without the need for a mobile phone. It means educating your clients to know they can’t contact you at any time of the day, in any place. It means you must (re)educate yourself to be somewhere when you said you would be, instead of taking the easy option of texting to say you’re running late. At the moment we can’t see how you can have a business without using a mobile phone, but who knows? The thought is there, the wheels will start turning, and an opportunity may arise to dispose of it and create a way of life that doesn’t need one…
None of this answers the question we started with – how can you live in UK society in 2014 and help the environment? Or more specifically, not leave yourself open to people pointing out all the ways you aren’t helping the environment. But it does open up a new avenue of exploration for us as garden designers – we don’t just have a moral duty to the client and their outside space, we also have a duty to the legacy we leave for others.
We plan to write more about this subject in the near future, so do subscribe to get updates. If you want more right now, you may want to read the interview we made with Essex Bees – Richard is a fascinating voice to get to know. You can also try these Shades of Green…
While a few writers worth reading are these:
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 …
Kites and Strings is a podcast about creativity, hosted by US-based Stephen Ploum and Catherine Chinnock. Back in March they asked me to come onto their podcast and talk about topiary, my past writing plays, the stand-up I did and how creativity can fit into your life. The Kites and Strings podcast was great fun and Stephen and Catherine are fantastic hosts. Listening back today I am surprised by some of the ideas I talked about (somehow I even started to describe a future where I run a ‘School of Creativity’ by the sea…. where did that come from?!) but it …
Robinia is often forgotten – by me, actually! – when thinking of plants for topiary. But when I work on it I do love it, brittle and soft as the wood is if you climb into it. But that danger of snapping a branch with a heavy step and falling out of the tree aside, I love it for the dappled light it allows into the garden space. Robinia Near The Sea Below is a Robinia I have gently clipped over the last few years, down near Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. The tree was large when I arrived, although it is …