THE MODERN MINT BLOG
Lent, a Christian religious observance that runs from Ash Wednesday through to Easter Sunday, is a special season for the gardener to – after all, the winter is fighting the onset of spring, the ground is beginning to warm and the daffodils are taking over from the snowdrops to provide a bright fizz of sunshine across the landscape.
But the idea behind Lent is important as well.
For Christians, Lent is a time to deny something from their normal lives. This is used as a way to prepare for Easter, but also gives space to the observer to consider the way they live.
This is the part that really interests us, as a gardener.
Winter is like Lent
The winter is almost a Lenten season for the gardener – the weather stops us getting outside and growing our vegetables and flowers, or trimming our shrubs, or cutting our grass. It is a period of dormancy, of rest, and we find ourselves battening down the hatches of our homes and getting a gardening fix from books and nursery catalogues – the practical nature of gardening is turned theoretical, and the fantasies of what we can grow when spring arrives normally gets us so excited we order vast quantities of new flower seed we will never have the space or time to grow.
(Hurrah to that little ritual, that every gardener knows!)
This space in our lives, this Lenten season, allows us to grow as gardener. It allows us to question and discover the garden we want to have, where we have gone wrong previously and the projects we want to make happen in the coming year.
We love the winter for this and have been busily allowing our thoughts on gardening to run wild. Have you?
With A Little Space…
In previous years we have decided the following about our garden practises:
- We will stop working for clients who insist the only way to garden is with herbicides.
- We will try our hand at topiary.
- We will grow cut flowers for florists (and how we miss that now we no longer do it!)
- We will learn to use a scythe, then start a London-based eco-friendly lawn cutting service where staff dressed in black cowls take their scythes to different small gardens in the city to cut the grass. Staff will take the Tube to get to each garden, so making the world a more wonderful and weird place by populating the Underground with folk dressed as the Grim Reaper carrying his work tools. We loved the idea…
- We will look more deeply into stock-free gardening (that is where you use green manures, not animal products to build soil fertility…)
As you can see, sometimes the Lent season for the gardener gives you the space to come up with a good idea… and sometimes a crazy one too!
Lent, for You
We hope Lent – whether the Christian period or the ‘Gardening Lent of Winter’ we have spoken about today – will encourage you to take part in this practise, to give yourself a little space and think about how you can become a better gardener.
Here’s to Lent!
Brought By Bike is an excellent website I found last month, where businesses offer their services by (of course) bicycle. Modern Mint and my topiary work is now live on the site offering my topiary services, via bike, to the following two postcodes – CM1 CM2 Now I can imagine I will need to borrow a ladder should anyone have a larger shrub, but most town gardens in the Chelmsford area have a need not just for privacy but to let light into the house… so a balance must be struck when shaping hedges and shrubs to cover both needs. …
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.
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 …