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.

Ken Thompson – His Books Make Learning Fun

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 below we share some examples of Ken Thompson’s words with you, from two of his books –

“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.”

Ken Thompson 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!

Or you can read more from him on this blog post about his Panda book.

May10

Transforming Topiary

topiary transforming

Transforming Topiary – a video made for the European Boxwood And Topiary Society by Charlotte Molesworth and I, in her garden. We take a dog topiary and work out how to update it, turning it into a bird. Worth a watch I think, and hopefully useful to you! You can see more of my clipping on the topiary page. Or read my Spring 2021 Topiary Provocation here.

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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