THE MODERN MINT BLOG
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!)
When do you prune? Below are a few pointers on when you need to think about your topiary and hedges this year, so you can make sure you clip at the best time and not waste any effort doing work you don’t need to do… January & February Roses, fruit trees and wisteria is where the focus lies. Yes, it is cold and the work can be unpleasant because you are often stood on a ladder with your secateurs, barely moving enough to warm the body, but get these jobs done well, with care, and you can enjoy the fruits …
Last September when I and topiary artist (and mentor) Charlotte Molesworth ran a weekend of topiary masterclasses we had a visit from the garden writer Non Morris. You can read more about Non and her garden design work and writings here. She has written a lovely article for the February 2022 edition of The English Garden Magazine about her afternoon working with us and learning about topiary – I’m really thrilled by the piece, because she mentions not just a little of the wonderful history of Balmoral Cottage and how the garden grew, but also shares a little of how …
This Autumn I have presented another ‘Topiary Provocation’ to keen gardeners and designers. If you want to know more about topiary, the report on what we discussed and where modern topiary is going can be read by clicking the link below: Topiary Provocation Report Autumn 2021 This report is free to post on your own website or blog, just credit Modern Mint, and don’t change anything within it. Alternatively you can just share it with keen friends… or enemies? I did a similar meet-up with garden designers in spring 2021. Here is where you can read the Topiary Provocation Spring …