THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Feb25

Midori Shintani, Gardener

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.

Mar19

Wasting Water

Well worth a read in the BBC today – a note on how wasting water in the UK “as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby.” Read the report here. I have written a talk about how we use water in the  garden. It was written when I moved from Hampshire to Essex and found out for myself just how dry this area of the UK is. It completely changed the way I garden. The lack of such a precious resource as water made me question what we can do to save it, store it and …

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Mar14

The Foie Gras That Tastes Like Nature

Ethical Foie Gras? Is That A Real Thing?   Foie gras – can it be ‘grown’ ethically? The video showing how this farmer works suggests it can… We first read about this in a book called The Third Plate by Dan Barber. I loved it and I love how Eduardo the farmer, who farms on the Dehesa in Spain, has a ‘take half leave half rule’. When talking about how the geese eat his olives… “They’re always quite fair. If you make sure the geese are relaxed and happy, you’ll be rewarded with the gift of fatty livers. That is God’s …

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Mar04

Hardy Orchids Via James Wong

Hardy orchids – here is a subject I would love to know more about – so lo and behold, James Wong has written about it in the Guardian! Read the article about hardy orchids here. I love having orchids in the house, just your usual run of the mill buy them in any shop orchids, but it is a pleasure to read about the plants that will grow outside and cope with this weather. (This insane weather! From the hottest days of February on record to Storm Freya, all within a week. Weather is always such a factor in gardening, but …

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