THE MODERN MINT BLOG

May01

Jake Hobson and Creative Pruning

Ripe for Pruning

The buxus hedge in the picture above – ripe for pruning!

Jake Hobson is a cloud pruning specialist, and we love his work here at Modern Mint.

But what is creative pruning/organic topiary? It is a step away from the traditional or old-fashioned forms of topiary and into something with a freer form, something that has movement to it, an opulence, a life force. We realise we are heading into esoteric territory here, but we are talking about a creative act, one that works best when hedge and pruner are working together symbiotically… the pruner bringing attention to a shape half hidden, the plant guiding the pruner to how it really wants to grow.

(The other day we heard a philosophy about bringing up children; that your children are only on loan to you, they are not to keep. Try all you might and worry all you will, but one day they will have to go. This gives you something of the flavour of organic topiary – you can exert your influence, but the hedge must also do its own thing!)

There is a lot of fun to be had with the terms associated to Organic Topiary; ‘blobberies’ and ‘twmps’ distort language as much as the style distorts our expectations of the traditional topiary shapes. Formality and grandeur is out, skewed and peculiar are in.

The video below is from a series Carol Klein did in her own garden. In it, Jake Hobson cloud prunes a box hedge (“elevate this hedge into art!” she says) his section starts around the 18.50 mark…

We love what they were trying to do with the hedge, linking its shape to the landscape beyond it…

“It should be natural and organic looking, with just a little bit of definition to it, and nothing too strong or dramatic.”

But imagine pruning it with a sharper intent, to create contrast amongst unrestrained grasses or a meadow. That would look fantastic too.

In his book ‘The Art of Creative Pruning’ Jake Hobson asks where pruning might go next, “… trends change, but for every decline there follows a revival.  The influence of the East will surely continue to grow, along with an informal style of pruning that embraces natural, organic forms. Conversely, formal topiary and traditional western skills will continue to thrive as people refine, and redefine, them.”

We love organic topiary and think it suits modern gardens perfectly – clients want something (if not fully bespoke) then most definitely unusual, and this is the most low impact and gratifying way to deliver it. Do please give us a call if you wish to discuss a possible creative pruning or organic topiary project you might have. The subject is close to our hearts!

Topiary books and Jake Hobson’s ‘The Art of Creative Pruning’…

The Art of Creative Pruning: Inventive Ideas for Training and Shaping Trees and Shrubs

Niwaki: Pruning, Training and Shaping Trees the Japanese Way

Topiary: Garden Craftsmanship in Yew and Box

A Practical Guide to Topiary

… and this beautiful book from Jacques Wirtz…

The Gardens of Wirtz

Jan12

A Topiary Calendar – When To Prune

Below are a few pointers on when you need to think about your topiary and hedges this year, so you can make sure you clip at the best time and not waste any effort doing work you don’t need to do… January & February Roses, fruit trees and wisteria is where the focus lies. Yes, it is cold and the work can be unpleasant because you are often stood on a ladder with your secateurs, barely moving enough to warm the body, but get these jobs done well, with care, and you can enjoy the fruits and flowers of your …

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Jan11

The English Garden Magazine – On Our Topiary Workshop

Last September when I and topiary artist (and mentor) Charlotte Molesworth ran a weekend of topiary masterclasses we had a visit from the garden writer Non Morris. You can read more about Non and her garden design work and writings here. She has written a lovely article for the February 2022 edition of The English Garden Magazine about her afternoon working with us and learning about topiary – I’m really thrilled by the piece, because she mentions not just a little of the wonderful history of Balmoral Cottage and how the garden grew, but also shares a little of how …

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Nov17

Topiary Provocation Autumn 2021

This Autumn I have presented another ‘Topiary Provocation’ to keen gardeners and designers. If you want to know more about topiary, the report on what we discussed and where modern topiary is going can be read by clicking the link below: Topiary Provocation Report Autumn 2021 This report is free to post on your own website or blog, just credit Modern Mint, and don’t change anything within it. Alternatively you can just share it with keen friends… or enemies?