THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Aug20

Penelope Hobhouse

Penelope Hobhouse is a garden designer, lecturer, historian and writer. Below is her gorgeous book ‘Gardens of Persia’, an unusual gardening book in that it traces the history of paradise gardens – an eye-opener to the use of water and stone to us here in the UK who haven’t (yet) visited Iran.

We have been meaning to write about Penelope Hobhouse for awhile, as it is her books we often dip in and out of when searching for inspiration or a spark of creativity. Especially since hearing of her latest garden ‘Dairy Barn’ in Somerset.

The garden is a tiny, courtyard garden and we fell in love with it the minute we saw photos. Check out our Pinterest page to see for yourself! We think what appeals is that it is so small (around 23 metres square) and the single storey brick house runs on an L-shape around two sides of the garden. Small enough to feel like a minimalist, big enough to look after properly. Or is it?

“Too many plants… I moved here in a great hurry. I bought 64 pots of plants with me and now I’ve got to weed things out.”

Plants that are taking over and packing the space include:

Nnepeta racemosa ‘Walkers Low’

Lepechinia hastata

Verbena bonariensis

Acanthus sennii (from Ethiopia, which she is growing outside for the first time.)

Stauntonia hexaphylla

Carpenteria californica

Solanum jasminoides ‘Album’

Acacia pravissima

Valeriana officinalis

Chamaenerion angustifolium ‘Album’

Self-seeded poppies

Eryngium ebracteatum

Phlomis fructicosa

Salvia nemerosa ‘Caradonna’

Alliums

Nectaroscordums

Hoheria angustifolia (Not reliably hardy, from New Zealand.)

Boltonia asteroides

Olearia ‘Waikariensis’

Punica granatum f.plena (A pomegranate…)

Teucrium

Phillyrea latifolia (good for use in organic topiary.)

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Matucana’

Euphorbia x pasteurii

Bupleurum fructicosum

Campanula pyramidalis ‘Alba’

Umbellifers of all kinds

Myrtle

Plus rare species of box and elms from Iran, clipped into cubes.

You will notice many of these plants are not hardy, but this garden is sheltered and so the likelihood (with a little luck) of them surviving is higher. It may also seem a random selection, with lots of unusual species of familiar plants – but Penelope, now in her 80’s, has had a lifetime of experience and travel in order to discover them.

That is what we like so much about her – that she has such a wide knowledge. It inspires us to visit new places and look at the flora there – like when we went to Japan.

What though, is most important to her now in the garden?

“I want fewer annuals, fewer flowers, more green… at least I don’t worry anymore about colour in the garden. Foliage and the shape of a plant are so much more important to me than its flowers.”

For more on her garden you can get a back copy of Gardens Illustrated, where we discovered it.

So do check out her many books on gardening – as we say, Penelope Hobhouse is one place we turn when we seek inspiration and a vast sea of knowledge to swim in…

May03

Selection Of Topiary Videos To Help You Clip

Over the last two years I have been involved with a couple of projects that have ended up being recorded, then placed on Youtube or Instagram. I’m hoping they will be useful to you, so I have decided this morning to pop them together in one handy blog post so that you can bookmark the page and revisit when you need some inspiration for your topiary. See below then, a few videos about topiary I have recently been involved with… Garden Masterclass – Provocations of a Modern Topiarist Transforming Topiary Topiary Teacher Put On The Spot https://www.instagram.com/p/CTj-EfOKRL6/ In the above …

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May03

Mark Zlotsky – Topiary Tango In New York

Mark Zlotsky is an artist based in New York, and today I just wanted to share his project ‘Topiary Tango’. In his introduction to the project he talks of topiary being a forgiving art, which I love and is soooooo true…..! For proof, just take a look at some projects I have made with a sharp pair of shears, a hedgetrimmer and a pruning saw. Do check out Mark Zlotsky’s project, because although his interest began by looking at topiary through the prism of architecture and the relationship of one building to another, he touches directly onto a way of …

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Apr27

Gardenista Interview – I Talk About Modern Topiary

Gardenista, the online magazine about gardens and design, have interviewed me about topiary. The article is called ‘Rethinking Topiary: A Garden Tradition Loosened Up’ and was published this morning. Written by the excellent garden writer Clare Coulson, I share some thoughts on using deciduous plants, how to clip (name-dropping Anne Lamott and her book on writing at one stage… oh, how I wander off subject sometimes!) and how to improve topiary by what you plant around it. Do take a look at the article in Gardenista. Or for more about my topiary work, check out the topiary page.