THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Aug14

Essex Meadow

Some inspiring pictures of an Essex Meadow, from just outside of Chelmsford – this should give you an idea of the meadow you can create in your own garden.

We love meadows because they are a haven for wildlife. To be fair, even undisturbed long grass will attract insects and other animals, who aren’t as fussy about their postcode as humans are. Though long grass is great, when you see flowers that are also providing nectar and pollen you know you are somewhere special.

Meadows are a recent addition to the gardeners armoury, but are in fact nothing more than a man-made agricultural system that has been used for years – take a large tract of land that gets lots of sun, let it grow until July/August, then cut it down and store it for farm animals winter feed.

They are dynamic, ever-changing tapestries – one year may see a huge display of cowslips, the next year the golden yellow buttercups take over – and this is one reason they have become fashionable recently, because they appear to be hugely diverse, with more species per metre squared than you would find in an average flower border.

Biological diversity is the current Governmental watchword!

(The other current trend is a zeal for ‘Native Planting’, which appears to contradict entirely the lust for diversity – the native British flora is so small (about 1000 flowering species, around 200 of which are described as ‘doubtfully native’) that if we created a meadow of the most common UK plants all we would get is a big patch of nettles!

These opposing Government aims for the natural stewardship of our country are a tacit version of a naive Farage policy – we want to protect what is ours, ‘rightfully’ ours… except when it benefits us to fill the gap with ‘aliens’ who are more useful and harder working…)

The first benefit a meadow will bring to your garden is that of a lifestyle choice – once established, the maintenance regime is one hour per year for every ten square metres of meadow. The creation of the right plant community means each flower will be able to co-exist with little input from you. As mentioned above, some years one species of flower may prefer the weather conditions and be the most visible, but the following year a different weather pattern will stop it dominating and allow something else to flourish.

A perennial meadow (one which comes back year after year e.g. rhubarb is a perennial because you plant it then leave it alone, while broad beans are not because you have to harvest the seed and re-sow them every spring) will, once established, be long lived and resilient. Once in motion and growing you may not have to plant or add anything else for at least ten years.

If this interests you, please do see about becoming one of our Ten Meadows.

And last of all, for more information on making meadows try these books – they are an excellent place to start…

Making a Wildflower Meadow

Meadows

Apr28

Phillyrea From 1682

Worlidge Phillyrea

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 …

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Apr27

Kites And Strings Podcast – Topiary In The Garden

kites and strings podcast

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 …

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Apr27

Robinia – Pruning A Beautiful Tree For Small Gardens

topiary Robinia

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 …

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