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!)

Jun10

Brought By Bike – Topiary Making

Brought By Bike is an excellent website I found last month, where businesses offer their services by (of course) bicycle. Modern Mint and my topiary work is now live on the site offering my topiary services, via bike, to the following two postcodes – CM1 CM2 Now I can imagine I will need to borrow a ladder should anyone have a larger shrub, but most town gardens in the Chelmsford area have a need not just for privacy but to let light into the house… so a balance must be struck when shaping hedges and shrubs to cover both needs. …

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May10

Transforming Topiary

topiary transforming

Transforming Topiary – a video made for the European Boxwood And Topiary Society by Charlotte Molesworth and I, in her garden. We take a dog topiary and work out how to update it, turning it into a bird. Worth a watch I think, and hopefully useful to you! You can see more of my clipping on the topiary page. Or read my Spring 2021 Topiary Provocation here.

Apr28

Phillyrea From 1682

Worlidge Phillyrea

Phillyrea is one of my favourite plants for topiary. I have been using it for quite a few years as a specimen shrub, mostly due to the fact it clips well and has a tough habit – all good characteristics for a topiary plant. It also has a  reputation for being an excellent nectar source for bees… Read more about Phillyrea here. Mentioning this to Malcolm Thicke, a market garden historian and writer, he sent me a some photos of topiary and phillyrea mentioned by John Worlidge in Systema Horticulturae from 1682…. incredible! He also mentioned to me that in …

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