THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Nov04

Plants for Seaside Gardens

Seaside gardens are fascinating and here at Modern Mint Garden Design we cannot wait for our first commission to work on a garden by the sea.

In preparation for that moment we are trying to learn all we can about the plants that can cope with living by the seaside. Below is a document Plantlife have put together that gives great information and pictures on seaside wildflowers – easy to print off and take with you while walking along the coast too!

seaside plants

We recently visited the West coast of Ireland to take a look at the landscape there – we saw sea holly growing wild on the most beautiful (and deserted) sandy beaches. We got soaked by rain that would lash down for ten minutes and then be gone, saw vivid rainbows that appeared so solid you could reach out and touch them, felt the wind barging past us like a handbag thief running away from a victim. It was a beautiful landscape – probably the highlight was getting up early one morning, in darkness, and going outside to meet the sunrise… and seeing a man run his two wolfhounds across a mist-veiled field. An image that will live a long time in the memory.

Another good resource for seaside gardening is this video – not so much for information but for inspiration – about the seaside garden of the Chilean garden designer Juan Grimm.

“There are certainly no showy displays of flowers, and no neatly defined borders, just an infinitely sophisticated use of local plants…”

Watch from 50 minutes onwards, and note how the plants suit the sunshine and the sea.

The quote we like best from this short part of the video is when Juan Grimm says…

“The landscape says to you what you have to do.”

It is an antithesis to ‘Capability’ Brown, or those who deem weedkillers to be an essential part of the armoury for controlling nature – instead you are teasing out what the site tells you to do, what it wants to be. It is also a remarkably fashionable concept in contemporary garden design. How long this lasts before fashions change and we come back full circle again…

Last of all our favourite books about gardens near the ocean are these – the classic by Derek Jarman:

Derek Jarman’s Garden

and this less well known by equally satifying book by Barbara Segall (satisfying because the pictures are beautiful, it discusses and shares gardens from all over the world, and it contains a useful plant appendix with growing notes for plants that can cope with salt and high winds…) – a fantastic read:

Gardens by the Sea

Enjoy your seaside gardening!

Apr28

Phillyrea From 1682

Worlidge Phillyrea

Phillyrea is one of my favourite plants for topiary. I have been using it for quite a few years as a specimen shrub, mostly due to the fact it clips well and has a tough habit – all good characteristics for a topiary plant. It also has a  reputation for being an excellent nectar source for bees… Read more about Phillyrea here. Mentioning this to Malcolm Thicke, a market garden historian and writer, he sent me a some photos of topiary and phillyrea mentioned by John Worlidge in Systema Horticulturae from 1682…. incredible! He also mentioned to me that in …

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Apr27

Kites And Strings Podcast – Topiary In The Garden

kites and strings podcast

Kites and Strings is a podcast about creativity, hosted by US-based Stephen Ploum and Catherine Chinnock. Back in March they asked me to come onto their podcast and talk about topiary, my past writing plays, the stand-up I did and how creativity can fit into your life. The Kites and Strings podcast was great fun and Stephen and Catherine are fantastic hosts. Listening back today I am surprised by some of the ideas I talked about (somehow I even started to describe a future where I run a ‘School of Creativity’ by the sea…. where did that come from?!) but it …

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Apr27

Robinia – Pruning A Beautiful Tree For Small Gardens

topiary Robinia

Robinia is often forgotten – by me, actually! – when thinking of plants for topiary. But when I work on it I do love it, brittle and soft as the wood is if you climb into it. But that danger of snapping a branch with a heavy step and falling out of the tree aside, I love it for the dappled light it allows into the garden space. Robinia Near The Sea Below is a Robinia I have gently clipped over the last few years, down near Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. The tree was large when I arrived, although it is …

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