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

May03

Selection Of Topiary Videos To Help You Clip

Over the last two years I have been involved with a couple of projects that have ended up being recorded, then placed on Youtube or Instagram. I’m hoping they will be useful to you, so I have decided this morning to pop them together in one handy blog post so that you can bookmark the page and revisit when you need some inspiration for your topiary. See below then, a few videos about topiary I have recently been involved with… Garden Masterclass – Provocations of a Modern Topiarist Transforming Topiary Topiary Teacher Put On The Spot https://www.instagram.com/p/CTj-EfOKRL6/ In the above …

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May03

Mark Zlotsky – Topiary Tango In New York

Mark Zlotsky is an artist based in New York, and today I just wanted to share his project ‘Topiary Tango’. In his introduction to the project he talks of topiary being a forgiving art, which I love and is soooooo true…..! For proof, just take a look at some projects I have made with a sharp pair of shears, a hedgetrimmer and a pruning saw. Do check out Mark Zlotsky’s project, because although his interest began by looking at topiary through the prism of architecture and the relationship of one building to another, he touches directly onto a way of …

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Apr27

Gardenista Interview – I Talk About Modern Topiary

Gardenista, the online magazine about gardens and design, have interviewed me about topiary. The article is called ‘Rethinking Topiary: A Garden Tradition Loosened Up’ and was published this morning. Written by the excellent garden writer Clare Coulson, I share some thoughts on using deciduous plants, how to clip (name-dropping Anne Lamott and her book on writing at one stage… oh, how I wander off subject sometimes!) and how to improve topiary by what you plant around it. Do take a look at the article in Gardenista. Or for more about my topiary work, check out the topiary page.