THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Apr16

Gilding the Lily – Amy Stewart (Part Four)

This is the fourth part in our series about the fabulous book Amy Stewart wrote on the cut flower industry, ‘Gilding the Lily’.

You can read previous blogs here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

It is a fascinating book that tries to describe what life is like for cut flower growers (and sellers) around the world. Do you buy this ‘luxury’ item from a country where people depend on growing flowers for an income, or does it not really help them in the long run? These are tough decisions to make, as any action you take affects a long chain of people.

We personally had a ball when we grew cut flowers for florists, and quickly discovered the amazing quality flowers from your own garden have. They last longer, they smell better, they aren’t grown with chemicals and the choice is far far better – because you decide what to grow, and each month something new will thrust its way forward to be seen. You will also start looking everywhere for that elusive cut flower – hedges become a place to discover treasures you have never thought of using, banks of earth grow flowering diamonds you can’t wait to take home, and climbers that have grown too large, too vigorously, become new material for your next vase.

Even vases become a tough choice as you hone your floristry eye…

Vase 'Vivien'

It also challenges the mind – you look at the flower you want to cut, and you have to work out how best to treat it to make it last as long as possible. Your technical ability gets stretched. It is great for you to grow cut flowers.

But here is what Amy Stewart has to say about the cut flower industry, especially growers from abroad… this quote is from an organic flower farm…

Amy Stewart on working conditions for organic flower growers…

“In the production room I had to ask why the workers wore so little protective gear – just a rubber apron and gloves…

‘When you use less chemicals, you don’t need all the protection.’

That’s when I realised that what I couldn’t see made all the difference. What they weren’t doing was every bit as important as what they were doing…”

In one company in Ecuador the women who harvested the flower would write their name on a label – this bouquet is handmade by… – it is a way to add soul to a product, but also remind people of the work that went into these flowers, that their is a craft and a provenance to what you buy.

We hope you will look through our other blog posts about Amy Stewart, as well as looking at her book Gilding the Lily.

But more than anything, we hope you will try and grow you own flowers at home – it really is a wonderful way to get out into the garden.

(Try our cut flower kit below, to make sure you have everything you need!)

Cut Flower Kit

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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