THE MODERN MINT BLOG
How would a minimalist gardener think?
A few weeks ago we wrote about ‘the minimalist garden’ – and this got us thinking not so much about the features a minimalist garden has, but about how minimalism can be applied to the way we garden.
What then would a minimalist gardener do?
1) Have more of what you value
If you love lawns then sweep away the flowerbeds that clutter up your precious gardening time and go, tend your lawn.
If you love topiary – in whatever form or style – then start adding plants that love to be clipped.
Ask the question (and answer it truthfully) – is this something I value? If the answer is no, let it go.
(The above is a great book for those wanting to know more about minimalism – if you click on the picture it will take you to Amazon where you can find it for under £4… or less than £1 on the Kindle!)
2) Have less tools
Get yourself secateurs, a piece of hessian for collecting prunings and weeds, a spade and a fork, a hand trowel, some shears, a hoe and a scythe and a stone to sharpen it. What else is there?
(Okay okay, we are almost retreating into the dark ages – a scythe? No-one has time to cut the lawn anyway, so who will get the chance to scythe it? But look in your shed and see what never gets used…
… what do you mean your shed is so full you can’t get into it to check what you don’t need…?
And that is the point. Question what tools you actually use. Then buy quality tools that will last. You can’t go wrong with the Okatsune make below…)
3) Water less
That means less pots on the patio. Better compost in those pots. Mulching borders to improve the soil structure, which increases its water holding capacity. Putting the right plant in the right place, so that it thrives rather than looking ill because the conditions don’t suit it.
It means being a better gardener.
4) A stitch in time saves nine
Catch weeds before they seed. Don’t disturb the soil. Design well – make sure there are mowing margins against walls (or better yet, flowerbeds!) terraces are well-built, paths lead somewhere and sculpture has a sense of scale and grandeur that fits in with the rest of the garden.
If you keep having to duck your head to mow underneath a tree, or go up a ladder three times every summer to cut ivy out of the gutters, or hire a hedgetrimmer to cut the Eleagnus that keeps growing in front of the windows and blocking the light – do something about it!
Cut the branch, reduce the ivy by 50% and remove the Eleagnus and plant something better suited to that position.
A minimalist gardener would not allow the hassle!
5) Allow nature to do the work
Don’t bother spraying. Don’t bother fertilising. Sow a meadow instead of a lawn. Don’t worry about clearing up the borders in October and then composting the material (you know, all the turning and the sieving and the sweating and the barrowing it around the garden.)
Let the aphids have their fill, because soon the predators will come and dispose of them. Let the plants grow how they will – without fertiliser they may not grow as tall but they will be stronger and more durable for it. Let the meadow flowers come up where they want to, not where you have ‘artfully’ placed them. As for making compost – throw the material on the ground and it will turn into compost right where it sits – why do you need to give it a special place to do what it wants to do anyway?
Let your normal gardening routines go a little, see how different practises affect your landscape. Nature might just surprise you…
That then is our idea of a minimalist gardener. Some may sound silly, but we think answering the question ‘what do you value?’ is an incredibly important and useful place to start.
Guanock House needs a trainee topiary artist! Some of you may know it as the first home and garden of designer Arne Maynard, but is now owned and maintained by Michael Coleman and his wife Michelle. They offer meditation workshops and retreats there and it is as beautiful a house and garden as you could wish to visit. They called me in last Autumn to help shape up some of the topiary as it was all getting out of hand, but what it really needs is someone with a steady hand and lots of patience to take over the clipping …
Here are some photos of work I have been doing at the garden of Charlotte Molesworth in Kent. Snow and ice brings out the depth of the different planes and angles carved into the boxwood. A garden has to look beautiful in winter – and topiary (green architecture) helps do that! For more topiary pictures, click here.
I am an experienced teacher of topiary and pruning, running workshops in the topiary garden of Charlotte Molesworth in Kent, as well as for The English Gardening School and The European Boxwood And Topiary Society. So if you are a keen gardener, a garden club, a group of friends who want to know more or even an absolute beginner who has been bitten by the gardening bug, then do contact me about what you might like to learn. What a laugh we are having in this workshop session I ran for a group of friends in Essex… Many people employ …