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…

Apr22

Topiary Provocation Spring 2021

organic topiary snow

Topiary Provocation? What is this about? Topiary Provocation, Darren Lerigo, Spring 2021 This spring of 2021 I invited a number of garden designers to a series of meetings via Zoom, to discuss how topiary can be used effectively in modern gardens. I wanted to discover how both clients and designers felt about topiary, whether it was a part of the garden that got as much thought as, say, the choice of stone for a patio…. and if certain plants and shapes tended to trend in designs or if it truly was a mish-mash of different topiary styles. The provocation and talks …

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Apr22

Waltham Place Talk – Watch On Youtube

waltham place talk

Waltham Place in Maidenhead is one of my favourite gardens of all time. The philosophy is to garden with nature, rather than against, so improving the soil and growing a diverse range of plants is placed at the heart of how to manage the space.   Through the European Boxwood and Topiary Society I arranged a talk by the garden team at Waltham Place. It has been recorded and put on Youtube so if you missed it live, you can watch it there and get a feel for what they are doing. There are some extraordinary photos of the garden …

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Mar15

Topiary Provocation For Garden Designers

snow topiary

I am running a ‘Topiary Provocation’ for garden designers, via Zoom, over the next few weeks. Dates are: Tuesday 23rd March, 10am Wednesday 24th March 7.30pm Thursday 8th April, 7.30pm The ‘provocation’ is for garden designers anywhere in the world, is free to join and will last about 45 minutes. Places are limited to 12 per session, as I want to make sure we can share ideas about topiary and how it can be used (and managed) in a modern garden – especially if skill level and maintenance time is low. I hope that I can provoke a discussion around …

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