THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Nov19

Fernando Caruncho, A Couple More Interviews To Read…

Fernando Caruncho is a garden designer from Madrid. I am always inspired by his work – his clean lines, ‘green architecture’, sense of proportion, balance and minimal plant palette. This seems to bring out the atmosphere of the garden, the space, intensifying its… spirit.

I have written about him a lot – here, for exampleand here.

But recently I have discovered a few more interviews with him, so thought I would link to his words as he always has something interesting to say, the opposite of prosaic.

This first interview from the Society of Garden Designers will give you a great overview of his whole career, alongside wonderful quotes from Caruncho himself. Especially worth noting his obsession with the sunlight, but I want to share with you a few parts from near the end, that I have not heard him speak about before.

It chimes with my thoughts on topiary design, the teaching of it, which I have been thinking about a lot recently – that topiary technique is easy to learn, but topiary design needs more thought.

Here is what he says about garden design, that so inspires me when I read it.

“Designers need not just technical and botanical knowledge, but an understanding of the arts. They should also travel as much as possible, and have a depth of experiences to draw from.

You need to fill your soul with memories – memory is the mother of the muse. Without memory and knowledge, it is impossible to create and transform reality, and that is what we do as designers.

When you create a garden, you reveal your interior life, and without this filling, any garden you design will be a banal experience.

Design is too mental now. It needs to be more unconscious… take time to be in the place, maybe for days. Have the discipline to hear, see, understand. Don’t project your thoughts onto the place – when you do this you violate the place.

Let the place be, and take action only when it is absolutely necessary.”

 

Read it here.

This thoughtful approach probably doesn’t fit in with our culture, to take action only when necessary… we want to see things happen, get results.

There is also a need to stand out, to be seen and heard amid such noise and so many platforms to speak. It has led to a coarsening of the rhetoric (Trump/Trump Junior?) for sure, but also a lack of nuance and empathy in what is made – we want the slick, the fast, the flash, the twisted, the new, the shiny… whereas the classic, the quiet, the calm equates to boring and easily overlooked.

I must say I am uninterested in the new. I want a twist in connection with something deeper, like the way designer Arne Maynard uses native yew in his garden designs. It links us to the past, to our landscape, yet by designing a topiary shape from it that has a clean form you give it that contemporary feel, updating it to a modern sensibility.

That to me is where garden design works best, claiming territory in both the present and the past. The work of Fernando Caruncho does that for me, which is why I am drawn again and again to his work and what he speaks of.

I also love the need to design more unconsciously, to open yourself out… a favourite writer of mine, Alice Oswald, speaks about this… and I try my hardest to do it myself when I work on a new topiary, or am asked to create something new.

There are technical aspects to think about, practical ones too, but drawing on memories and ‘forgetting yourself’ as you work is jsut as important. This happened on a piece of my work recently, where the Covid year of 2020 changed what I made with a particular boxwood topiary.

organic topiary blob autumn

organic topiary blob

Big changes in style from one year to the next!

The second interview is jsut as interesting…

Read the second Caruncho interview here

He speaks of light, geometry (proportion/balance/scale) and water being enough – plants are an addition to the garden – as well as his favourite gardens, inluding Ryoan-ji in Kyoto (a favourite of mine!)

Do go through and really enjoy what he is saying, study it. It is intense, a little mystical, but worth getting into your thoughts about how to look at a garden.

It has certainly inspired my topiary.

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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