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!)

Sep29

New Topiary In South London Out Of Yew

Making a new topiary out of the large, dull facade of a Taxus blob… My work was to change it up from a ‘jelly drop’ shape and give it texture, open it out and let the light through, and make it a sculptural feature in the background of the garden in summer… yet a major part of the garden in winter. A few more years before it becomes something special, but there was far more leaf and growth inside the plant than I thought and so it will not take too long for it to gain in character and become …

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Sep27

Topiary Teacher – Put on The Spot!

topiary teacher

Two weeks ago I was invited to teach topiary at the garden of Griselda Kerr, the author of The Apprehensive Gardener. I love teaching and sharing skills, but I was placed on the spot in the afternoon and asked to show how I would make a new topiary from an existing shrub. So below is a speeded-up video of me creating a cloud-pruned topiary from an old boxwood tree. I particularly love the ending when the class get involved….! See the video here. One hour was all it took, and though it needed a little tidying-up, it was made by …

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Sep27

Book Yourself A Topiary Workshop 2022

organic topiary snow

Charlotte Molesworth, my topiary mentor, and I are running our popular topiary workshop again in 2022. You can email me for details – or go here for information, your ticket and to find out about dates. Book A Spot On A Topiary Workshop, September 2022