THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Jan29

Plant of the Week: Mahonia

Really this post is about pruning…

Walking to the accountant in Chelmsford yesterday morning we caught a heavy scent in the air, making us stop in our tracks. Where was it coming from? Which flower, in January, could provide such a rich and intoxicating scent as the sun tried with great audacity to warm the air?

Looking around, there was no bright and gaudy flower, no obvious hint as to what was perfuming the air. So we went hunting into the borders, amongst the cubed, uniformally trimmed shrubs invariably shaped by a male gardener who finds satisfaction with a hedgetrimmer.

“It looks green doesn’t it?”

It does, we cannot argue with this. We can though, argue it looks boring and the cutting gesture lacks skill, and that it gives an air of death about a border because there is no movement or depth to the plant. The plant has been suffocated and stifled by the famine of imagination the shrub-trimmer brought to the task.

This effect is played out across every car park and new housing development in the country, as if a motto for the work made could be – “Shrub border pruning. To make your view of nature ugly.”

Speak out against this. We will be.

Our search was not long, as there at the back of the border stood three plants of mahonia, their yellow flowers fluorescent with the backdrop of their dark green leaves. Not a charming plant, it looks positively monstrous imposing itself over a delicate snowdrop. But worth having for the scent, that it flowers early in the year so is good to attract pollinators, and that it will give permanence and grounding to a border (if pruned so it doesn’t become too awkward and lurching.)

Have a look at Architectural Plants to see a picture. And how to prune with a dynamic purpose.

(These books will teach you how!)

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 …

READ MORE

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 …

READ MORE

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 …

READ MORE