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!)

Nov13

Learn To Clip Topiary Workshop 2020

topiary artists

I am running a topiary workshop in 2020 with the wonderful topiary artist Charlotte Molesworth at her spectacular topiary garden in Kent. This is a topiary workshop where you will learn to clip, so be prepared to do some cutting. We start with a tour of the garden, which Charlotte and her husband Donald have been cultivating for 34 years. It is organic, full of wildlife and has the most extraordinary pruned shapes made from yew and boxwood. You can see more photos of the garden in an article in the Guardian here: Topiary Garden In Kent What Else Will …

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Oct09

Hardy Plant Society Middlesex Talk Notes

On Monday night I gave a talk to the Hardy Plant Society Middlesex. Below are a few links for further information based on some of the ideas discussed in the talk: Real Seeds – a fantastic supplier of fruit and vegetable seeds for growers. Boxwood Caterpillar Advice – from the European Boxwood & Topiary Society. I will also write a little companion piece this winter with more information and some topiary techniques, so watch out for that on this website. Boxwood Lure & Nematodes – my preferred option for dealing with the caterpillar. Discount code for 10% off is EBTSBOX29GBZ …

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