THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Mar18

Ken Thompson, Botanist

We are big fans of the botanist and author Ken Thompson, who was a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield.

His books are accessible, fun and full of information. Which makes for pretty good reading. What they do best though, is introduce you to ideas that you will be inspired by and interested in discovering more about. So we share some examples of his words with you, from the books No Nettles Required: The Reassuring Truth About Wildlife Gardening and Do We Need Pandas?: The Uncomfortable Truth About Biodiversity.

“The best single thing you can do for wildlife in your garden is to find a young tree and leave it alone. Failing that, plant one.”

“Long grass is good for wildlife, and in short supply in gardens. If you want to leave some long grass, while at the same time convincing the neighbours that you are not some kind of dope-smoking layabout, by all means introduce wildflowers into the grass and call it a wildflower meadow. Most wildlife, however, will take no notice of the flowers – it’s interested in the undisturbed long grass…”

“Maintaining soil carbon is easy: make as much compost as you can, grow lots of plants and go easy on the digging… in the UK, plants conatin only just over 1 per cent of our total national store of organic carbon – the rest is in the soil.”

“…grow as many different flowering plants as you can, and make sure you cover the whole year, from Mahonia for the queen bumblebee that needs a snack on a warm day in February, to ivy for the butterflies that need one last fill up before the winter.”

“As we become wealthier and eat more meat and processed foods, and acquire more consumer goods, vast quantities of water are needed for their production… every small bag of imported salad from the supermarket exports another 50 litres of drought to the Kenyans who grew it…”

“…the new, fertile landscape created by intensive farming delivers cheap food (for animals and people) in unprecedented quantities… unfortunately that’s all it delivers. The challenge is to devise multifunctional landscapes that also deliver better water quality, less soil erosion, more carbon storage and healthier and happier livestock, and are also less dependent on cheap oil…”

“In evolutionary terms, the Cape’s plants are astonishingly young, which perhaps explains how many of them manage to be so rare – there are only a few hundred individuals of many Proteaceae. Are these future successes at the start of their careers, or failed evolutionary experiments on their way to extinction?”

“Birdlife International reckons that with £19 million over the next five years, they could save from extinction all the world’s 189 critically endangered bird species… I’ve seen such sums described by conservationists as ‘vast’, but it’s hard to see why. For some reason it’s seen as naive to point out that tiny fractions of military budgets could pay for this without anyone really noticing.”

He also writes for the Telegraph, articles like this one on using crocks for drainage in pots… it is a classic example of how he makes you question and think about traditional gardening advice.

On Thursday his new book Where Do Camels Belong?: The story and science of invasive species is out on Amazon. Discounted at the time of writing!

Jun15

Boxwood – Dealing With Blight & The Caterpillar

Boxwood is one of our absolute favourite plants. The evergreen leaf that shines in winter, the smell as you clip it, the brilliant shapes you can make from it… but it is suffering somewhat from two major problems: Box Blight Boxwood Caterpillar and Moth None of this is the be all and end all for boxwood, but it helps to be aware of it and know a little about what you can do should either of these problems arise. Boxwood Caterpillar & Moth I hadn’t seen this in a garden I worked on until this spring, when a client I …

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Jun06

Orchard Design At Brogdale, National Fruit Collection In Kent

Last weekend I visited the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale, to take part in an orchard design course they were running. Beautiful place and a warm day, I recommend a visit. I came home with 3 bottles of cider. Drank them all. Then realised they were weighing in at 8%. I don’t recover that quickly (no longer being 20 years old) and so had something of a musty head the next morning. The power of apples I say! Below are some notes I made from the day. They may be of use to you, although really they are there for …

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Apr27

Beekeepers – Quick Notes On Plants For Bees

tulips for bees

Fine news for beekeepers today – a total ban on bee-harming pesticides has been announced! To celebrate, here is a list of plants we recommend as being brilliant for the bees: Helenium Sedum Echium vulgare Marjoram or Oregano Eupatorium (common name? Joe Pye-Weed. But don’t let that put you off!) Borage Nepeta Veronicastrum Teucrium Bonus plants for shady spots? Try hellebore, lamium and pulmonaria. Looking for a shrub to plant near your apiary? Phillyrea ought to do it. Although it is difficult to get hold of…. we are working on making it more available though, so check back with Modern …

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