Thoughts On Modern Mint, April 2018

Hey Modern Minters, we have been busy already this year – so busy! Here is some of the topiary work we love doing so much….

A post shared by ModernMint (@modernmintshop) on

Whilst evenings (and some afternoons!) have been spent travelling the country giving garden talks to clubs, horticultural societies, WI’s and U3A’s.

This is all fabulous fun but it has meant:

  • We have not been consistent with our mailing list
  • I have not finished the book ‘Helping The Honeybee’ I was due to get to the publisher by the end of February
  • There have been no new products on Modern Mint
  • This blog has barely been updated
  • We have not applied to be at the Chelsea Fringe this year, for the first time in years!
  • The website is looking tired

Problems? Not really. But it just isn’t as good as it could be. So below I am going to detail some thoughts we are having about the running of Modern Mint and the direction we could take it in.

Thoughts On The Direction Of Modern Mint

We have a few core values at Modern Mint that we return to again and again, sharing with people in our writings and talks. They focus on gardening without chemicals and enhancing life.

Because this is such an important theme to us, we are trying to work out the best way we can continue researching and developing the idea, to help people understand it as well as possible and so garden in a way that leaves our world in a better place.

We Could Make These Changes…

Reboot The Blog – we have an enormous back catalogue of posts from the last 4 years. Some are absolute gumph, some are no more than okay yet immensely popular, while others are (I wrote them, so forgive me for being the one who says it!) pretty darn good…. yet unseen. I am thinking about putting together a little book of the first 4 years of blogs, a top 10, then expanding on them and using the position I am in now to pull out the themes in a clearer way. It would then make it easier for people to find the most useful blogs on Modern Mint.

Blog posts from now on could be a little more focused, on the themes we care about, and shared on a slower schedule. This would allow me more time to write longer posts, better researched and of more use to you.

Or they could be funnier? Sillier and more irreverent perhaps? Or shorter and punchier and just sharing what other people are writing?

How does that sound? Which would you prefer the most?

Less Social Media – we are on so many sites, have been for years and we do have a community there who share our posts and like what we say. But I dislike using them. Instagram seems easiest to use, because it is on my phone and so quick to update. But I broke my phone last week and have not reinstalled it. It means our Instagram account has not moved on. I must say, however, I am very happy not thinking about what photos to take – instead, I am concentrating on the gardening and the work. How lovely is that! The same with WhatsApp – I have not installed it again, so though missing out on the family WhatsApp group is sad (although that may be debatable) I am enjoying not having my work disturbed or thoughts taken away from what is at hand, each time I look at my phone.

Could Modern Mint reduce its social media use without a negative effect on how we are seen? The answer is probably yes and no – we may not be as easily found online, so reducing sales and reach, but the people who do know about us and who genuinely see and care about our work will hopefully get a better service. I will be here, after all, working on the garden.

It is a decision that is coming….

Update The Look And Ease Of Use Of The Website – as I mentioned above, the website is looking tired. It felt so top of the range 4 years ago when we set it up. Amazing how quickly things move on…

We have been doing some research into reducing the page weight of your website, which in turn uses less energy and so burns less fossil fuels. Sincerely, you can reduce your carbon footprint by having a quick loading, mobile friendly website with less big images and carousels.

Now I am a gardener, not a coder, so going through the website myself and making this overhaul would be far too much. I am looking at quotes for it now and slightly worried about how much it would cost for someone else to do it. Is it time to spend a year learning this myself? Probably wise, in the world we live in, not to be left behind. But I want to be outside. Not here, writing on a computer.

But easier navigation, less page weight for faster upload, smaller photographs and bigger fonts would all make a massive difference to the website. The overhaul will come. We just hope the overhaul makes it better!

Less Products For Sale – there are only a certain number of products that we have really loved, that are related to the horticultural industry. Most are a waste of money, or made cheaply and just end up in landfill. Are ethos has always been to buy once, buy well. It means we make far fewer sales than a garden centre, but can rest at night knowing we sold something worthwhile.

The more and more I garden, the less I seem to need. I like having less. So why should I sell anything I wouldn’t use myself? By cutting down to just the very best of the products, it means you can be sure of getting something worthwhile.

We would like to be affiliated with a few products that we love but can’t sell online – wool compost for example. We love it, use it and are keen for you to do so too. But cannot buy enough and store it here, just to send it back around the country. It would be handy to have a way to be affiliated with products like these, so you know they are worth buying, even if you can’t get them from us. Perhaps a page with the people and products we love on them?

Less Newsletters – we have a brilliant mailing list, who click through and enjoy our newsletters. We have met just about every single person on the list personally, so there was an investment in joining us and subscribing from the very start.

We have been consistent with it for a long time too, which has helped people build their relationship with us. But as we are no longer adding so many new products, it seems silly to keep emailing. Until I finish the book about plants for honeybees, there may not be a new product.

So our thinking is to run a newsletter every season, so 4 times a year. This can then focus on some gardening advice, some links to articles we think are useful, some blogs and current trends that should be on your radar, and of course any news that we have about the book…. or something.

Less in your inbox. More time for us to make it useful.

More Talks – 3 years ago we did our first garden talk. It was a nervous affair and I still cringe when I remember how I bored everyone for a good solid hour. I have improved a lot since then. Promise! In fact, it is great fun and I try my hardest to not just share something useful that people can actually go home and do to make a difference to their gardening practise, but also to share it in a way that is fun. I get a large number of rebookings and have been fortunate enough to talk alongside Mary Berry, Jo Swift, David Domoney, Alan Titchmarsh, Val Bourne and a few others. Great company to be in and learn from.

I travel a long way for the talks, which I dislike (carbon footprint people!) and have thought about doing talks via Skype. But other than the technical side of it feeling like it would be nightmare, I think there is nothing better than that moment when a group comes together. You can look someone in the eye, react quickly to the atmosphere in the room and seek that complicity that really makes a difference to people. It is not what you say, often, that is remembered. It is the moment people in the room share that inspires the most.

So I will continue to travel for the talks. I would like in fact to push them more, find a wider audience and go deeper into my topics. This takes time to do the research, learn it and discover a way to express it well and with impact.

Less time on social media and more time reading and writing would be time well spent.

Plant More Trees – an overarching theme in my life has been a real enjoyment for planting trees. I love orchards, topiary and woodlands. I love hedges. I have no idea why I have always been drawn to this – perhaps it is the idea that what you do now will bear fruit (quite literally in the case of an orchard) in years to come. Forests are the lungs of the earth.

I would love more work like this – the planting of trees. I would also love to affiliate with a tree planting scheme, so that we could really focus on that and get as many trees planted as we possibly can. If Modern Mint was to survive another 30 years, with all of us donating and helping to plant one tree each per year, we could cultivate around 60,000 trees.

It seems a massive ask, but it feels a beautiful way to run a business. To plant trees. And all of the ways we help people now can be focused on doing that. So that at the end of Modern Mint’s time, we can look at the forest and say, ‘yeah, we did that.’

That feels like the way Modern Mint should be going, to me.




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 In the above …



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 …



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.