THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Jul03

Plants for Clay Soil

There are lots of plants for clay soil. Difficult as it is to work with, the opportunities to tend a fabulous garden of well-fed, strong and voluptuous plants are second to none (just try not to despair, at the end of the day, when trying to remove the clay from your boots!)

Oak House 26
Roses are the absolute first choice for clay.

We made a beautiful rose garden for a client in Hampshire. It was on blue clay and halfway down a gentle slope, so got plenty of water. Each bed had a single variety of rose in, 15 plants per bed, and it looked fabulous as you peered through the hornbeam arch (we chose hornbeam, though not as nice a hedge as beech, because it could cope with the site.)

The client had wanted lavender and box to edge the roses and fill in any gaps – but there is no way they would have survived. Ilex crenata may have coped better, but we doubted its longevity (the site really was wet at times.)

So instead we built a small seating area, added a sculpture and made sure the grass sward was beautiful and cut consistently.

Simple and striking seemed the way forward in this case.

Val Bourne gives a rundown of some fantastic plants in her book The Natural Gardener: The Way We All Want to Garden: Preserving Nature’s Jigsaw. She said…

“Roses (even those old-fashioned beauties), viburnums, hostas, phlox, monardas and asters will love your garden.”

You won’t go far wrong if you just planted these!

The hostas may get eaten by slugs, so if you don’t want the hassle either steer clear of growing them, use copper rings around the plants, or add gravel and grit across the whole bed. Decide on your maintenance capabilities really, and how much time you want to spend on picking off and squashing slugs. It wouldn’t be our first choice of jobs to do…

If you do want to buy hostas then you can see what is on offer here – Jersey Plants Direct – they also sell a Viburnum opulus at a fair price if you type that into the search. Viburnums are solid plants (see the V. carlesii in the picture below) and they provide a cluster of flowers at the start of the season and then berries at the end.

Do plant them!

viburnum carlesii


Cornus is another fine choice for soils that are damp – normally planted for winter stem colour, we also think they do a good job during the summer when in leaf – Cornus alba ‘elegantissima’ has a white margin on the green leaf, which provides a lovely calm backdrop for bigger summer flowers.

Astrantia is a favourite of ours, if you want something perennial. Let some aquilegia seed around it, maybe some campanula and forget-me-not, and you have a soft (possibly too soft? If so, add euphorbia palustris!) late spring scene of delightful flowers.

We always found, when growing dahlias, that lots of water helped. So though you will lose the tubers over winter in clay soil, putting them in for summer will give you a beautiful display. Crocus are currently doing a special offer on dahlias in there ‘bulbs’ section – so don’t miss it, go now!

That should get you started. Just remember to suit the plant to the place – that is what modern garden design is about, and it means the plant is happy and you won’t have as much work to do… unless (and it’s a fine problem to have) they grow too well…

All the plants we’ve talked about can be bought and delivered from Crocus or Jersey Plants Direct – Jersey Plants Direct offer a free delivery no matter the size of the order. Which we think is more than reasonable….

Or for decent books to use as a guide, try Beth Chatto…

Or this one on plants for problem places…

Or this one…

May03

Selection Of Topiary Videos To Help You Clip

Over the last two years I have been involved with a couple of projects that have ended up being recorded, then placed on Youtube or Instagram. I’m hoping they will be useful to you, so I have decided this morning to pop them together in one handy blog post so that you can bookmark the page and revisit when you need some inspiration for your topiary. See below then, a few videos about topiary I have recently been involved with… Garden Masterclass – Provocations of a Modern Topiarist Transforming Topiary Topiary Teacher Put On The Spot https://www.instagram.com/p/CTj-EfOKRL6/ In the above …

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May03

Mark Zlotsky – Topiary Tango In New York

Mark Zlotsky is an artist based in New York, and today I just wanted to share his project ‘Topiary Tango’. In his introduction to the project he talks of topiary being a forgiving art, which I love and is soooooo true…..! For proof, just take a look at some projects I have made with a sharp pair of shears, a hedgetrimmer and a pruning saw. Do check out Mark Zlotsky’s project, because although his interest began by looking at topiary through the prism of architecture and the relationship of one building to another, he touches directly onto a way of …

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Apr27

Gardenista Interview – I Talk About Modern Topiary

Gardenista, the online magazine about gardens and design, have interviewed me about topiary. The article is called ‘Rethinking Topiary: A Garden Tradition Loosened Up’ and was published this morning. Written by the excellent garden writer Clare Coulson, I share some thoughts on using deciduous plants, how to clip (name-dropping Anne Lamott and her book on writing at one stage… oh, how I wander off subject sometimes!) and how to improve topiary by what you plant around it. Do take a look at the article in Gardenista. Or for more about my topiary work, check out the topiary page.