THE MODERN MINT BLOG
“One person may become a gardener and another one may be a ‘pilgrim’ for life. The first will be found in a simple garden with rose parterres. The other will create an arcane, geometric display. The first will use his hoe to repeat a daily performance like a fecundity rite. The second will wander from place to place, searching out different shapes. In the end, both of them will arrive at the same point; their patient pursuit of fantasy will be rewarded in the creation of a real garden. The traveller will ask his friend with the hoe what has happened in the garden during his absence. He, in his turn, will say, ‘tell me, tell me, what have you seen on your travels?’ Both question each other with the wonderful innocence of men who have tried to put something beautiful back into the infinite treasure of life.”
Fernando Caruncho, in an interview at the start of his book Mirrors of Paradise: The Gardens of Fernando Caruncho
We have always liked that story. The pilgrim and the gardener living seemingly opposite lives, with opposing attitudes, and yet getting to exactly the same place. Easy as well to recognise ourselves as both the pilgrim and the gardener at different stages of our life.
Fernando Caruncho is a landscape designer, or a ‘gardener’ as he insists on calling himself. His most famous work is at Mas de la Voltes, where huge fields of wheat constitute the landscape, but you can also see some of his design work at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Madrid. We highly recommend a visit (and the city itself is great fun.)
Stephen Lacey wrote an interesting interview with him here, and in it Caruncho himself says, “I like to utilise mainly the basic plants of the region, such as olives, vines and cypress – plants that connect the garden to the landscape and the culture.”
This can be testified in the limited range of plants he uses in his designs. Just count below how many appear throughout his book…
Trees and shrubs:
Bay, Cypress, Holm Oak, Lemon, Lime, Mastic, Myrtle, Olive, Orange, Palms, Pine, Arbutus, Acer, Oleander, Camellia, Hydrangea, Lonicera, Roses, Buxus, Escallonia, Pittosporum…
Grapevines, Bougainvillea, Ivy, Trachelospermum, Wisteria…
Waterlilly, Wheat, Bamboo, Lawns…
In variety of course, but still a very small palette. But this gives his work a restful nature, and a definitive stamp. You will quickly learn to recognise his work and the formality that pervades it.
Fernando Caruncho has been a big influence on our topiary design work at Modern Mint, although you may not think it with the range of plants we use – but the excitement that envelops us (or any designer!) when we begin work on a new garden means halfway through the draft work we will have 1000 ideas and want to use them all… and it is this moment when Caruncho’s adage for simplifying exerts its profoundest impact.
An important impact, as the garden must be unified and tell a story that works. Caruncho is a master of this.
Do check out his gardens, his books… and a few other blogs we have written about his work!
Then he also features in the following:
(Finally, don’t miss an intriguing interview in Monty Don’s ‘Around the World in 80 Gardens’…)
Guanock House needs a trainee topiary artist! Some of you may know it as the first home and garden of designer Arne Maynard, but is now owned and maintained by Michael Coleman and his wife Michelle. They offer meditation workshops and retreats there and it is as beautiful a house and garden as you could wish to visit. They called me in last Autumn to help shape up some of the topiary as it was all getting out of hand, but what it really needs is someone with a steady hand and lots of patience to take over the clipping …
Here are some photos of work I have been doing at the garden of Charlotte Molesworth in Kent. Snow and ice brings out the depth of the different planes and angles carved into the boxwood. A garden has to look beautiful in winter – and topiary (green architecture) helps do that! For more topiary pictures, click here.
How To Use Topiary In The Garden is my new talk, which I first gave last year via Zoom for the European Boxwood And Topiary Society. Returning to Zoom again, there are two dates available to see and hear the talk: March 16th – Book your ticket here April 6th – Book your ticket here The talk is great fun, perfect for keen gardeners or people who want to know how to improve their garden with hedges and architectural plants. How To Use Topiary In The Garden looks at how to move away from the idea topiary is twee or old-fashioned, …