THE MODERN MINT BLOG
In Gardens Illustrated magazine a few issues back, they had an interview with Midori Shintani, the Head Gardener of Tokachi Millenium Forest. (You can find photos of the work done by designer Dan Pearson in the Millenium Forest here, at his website.)
She told the story of how she came to be there with great eloquence. She had learned the tea ceremony, ikebana and calligraphy before studying horticulture – “I enjoyed the course, but I still did not know what I should become… for 11 years I struggled to choose my path.”
This is the case with a lot of people, and sometimes trying to second guess what you want to be becomes a ridiculous merry-go-round that is hard to get off from. We look at our own path from labourer to playwright to stand-up comedian to gardener and… well, who would have guessed life would take us in such a direction? And who is to know where it goes next?
A lot of the places Midori Shintani worked had creative undertones (a design office, an art gallery) and you see this a lot in people who eventually end up gardening – it is work that allows for independent thought, so offers that crucial edge, that free-form outlet for your dreams and passions that other vocations may not.
After time in Sweden working at a garden she arrived back to Japan and had to train intensively – “I was in my 30’s so I needed to get the experience more quickly.”
She then ended up working at the Millenium Forest, as head gardener. Dan Pearson speaks highly of her, as a perfect fit for the garden. She herself seems to believe she has finally come home – “This really is the place where I can fully be myself.”
But the moment we loved most from the interview was what she said about how the garden is managed.
“This garden is a bridge between humans and nature. We use minimum tools, minimum management, but maximum vision. We have a mission to introduce a new garden movement. The potential is exciting.”
We highlighted the words that struck us so hard – we use minimum tools, minimum management. This is a beautiful thought, and if acted out well it is a philosophy of gardening that suits modern life – a sensitive hand to deal with nature, as little fuss as possible over what you use to do it.
We hope Midori Shintani will speak more about her way of gardening in the future. It is a way we feel a strong urge to follow.
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Waltham Place in Maidenhead is one of my favourite gardens of all time. The philosophy is to garden with nature, rather than against, so improving the soil and growing a diverse range of plants is placed at the heart of how to manage the space. Through the European Boxwood and Topiary Society I arranged a talk by the garden team at Waltham Place. It has been recorded and put on Youtube so if you missed it live, you can watch it there and get a feel for what they are doing. There are some extraordinary photos of the garden …
I am running a ‘Topiary Provocation’ for garden designers, via Zoom, over the next few weeks. Dates are: Tuesday 23rd March, 10am Wednesday 24th March 7.30pm Thursday 8th April, 7.30pm The ‘provocation’ is for garden designers anywhere in the world, is free to join and will last about 45 minutes. Places are limited to 12 per session, as I want to make sure we can share ideas about topiary and how it can be used (and managed) in a modern garden – especially if skill level and maintenance time is low. I hope that I can provoke a discussion around …