THE MODERN MINT BLOG
Gardens of Inspiration explores the influences of 15 of the best garden writers, including Christopher Lloyd, Mirabel Osler and Dan Pearson.
Photos are by Vivian Russell, who wrote Monet’s Garden: Through the Seasons at Giverny: Behind the Scenes and Through the Seasons
Each essay certainly gives an insight into the personality of its writer, as they open up about how they treat the landscape and why they are motivated to work in this way. Beth Chatto writes beautifully about Cedric Morris, and how, “… one winter evening… I was stunned to hear Cedric say I would never make a good garden where we were living. My heart sank to my boots… then we realised we already possessed on the farm at Elmstead Market, right under our feet, the very place to make a garden where we could interpret much of what Andrew’s years of studying plants in the wild had taught us. It was an area of wasteland lying on the back end of the farm; just overgrown wasteland, but I loved it.”
Nigel Colborn’s essay is called ‘Breaking the Rules’ and conveys his wonderful attitude, “I look back on a life that has been marred – or made, it depends on your point of view – with a compulsion to question everything… the temptation to follow the herd and to abandon analytical thought becomes hard to resist. But resist it one must, if one is to assess true value.” This attitude, ability even, to look and think and then make your own decisions, is important in any walk of life. It comes through strongly any time you read his words…
“I cannot see the point of fiddling about with Edwardian pergolas and clipped box when the wild world, as we know it, is almost done for. But at the same time, I cannot contemplate a departure from horticulture into anarchy. Abandoning the garden could turn out to be a greater disservice to wildlife anyway…”
A fascinating essay and worth the book alone.
The last essay we want to share with you is by Mirabel Osler, who talks about being ‘haunted’ by a garden in California.
To haunt… possibly the essence, the most enduring element, of all the great creative acts (or atrocities?) To create something that stays with its audience, impressed upon their values and emotions long after the experience has finished.
“So what makes her garden so special? My first answer would be that here is a gardener who, owning a spectacular site, has used such an unaccented touch everything she has planted appears to have evolved… Only a gardener of sensitivity could have avoided overstating the obvious.”
She goes on to paint the garden so vividly, we couldn’t turn the light off and go to bed until we had finished the chapter. This is exciting gardening… “Nowhere is there a single flowerbed – not in the English sense at least. Instead cistus, valerian, euphorbia, sage and santolina thrive… Pritchard Hill is not a place of exotica; it’s a superb landscape enhanced by form, colour and without a lawn in sight… whereas we think a lawn is essential for young children, Molly’s six – all grown up now – had trees to climb, had thickets to nest in, innumerable seats and hidden trysting corners…”
It is rare to be so excited by a book that is gets you questioning your ideas of what a garden is – but these essays do that, they inspire… we also notice the three essays we have chosen to quote from all feature some element of misrule – Beth Chatto loving a wasteland and working with what she had, Nigel Colborn not bothered with fiddling about, Mirabel Osler falling in love with a lighter touch, a garden that does not show the ‘hand of man…’
It says a lot about our style of garden-making – low impact on the environment, yet visually, making something with high drama.
You can buy Gardens of Inspiration at Amazon…
… where you can also get these (recommended) books from the writers quoted above…
Making a new topiary out of the large, dull facade of a Taxus blob… My work was to change it up from a ‘jelly drop’ shape and give it texture, open it out and let the light through, and make it a sculptural feature in the background of the garden in summer… yet a major part of the garden in winter. A few more years before it becomes something special, but there was far more leaf and growth inside the plant than I thought and so it will not take too long for it to gain in character and become …
Two weeks ago I was invited to teach topiary at the garden of Griselda Kerr, the author of The Apprehensive Gardener. I love teaching and sharing skills, but I was placed on the spot in the afternoon and asked to show how I would make a new topiary from an existing shrub. So below is a speeded-up video of me creating a cloud-pruned topiary from an old boxwood tree. I particularly love the ending when the class get involved….! See the video here. One hour was all it took, and though it needed a little tidying-up, it was made by …
Charlotte Molesworth, my topiary mentor, and I are running our popular topiary workshop again in 2022. You can email me for details – or go here for information, your ticket and to find out about dates. Book A Spot On A Topiary Workshop, September 2022