Arne's journal

The Ever Evolving Garden

This year I feel very fortunate to have been asked to speak at several UK and USA based horticultural events and conferences. I thoroughly enjoy sharing my love of plants and my approach to garden design with new audiences and particularly like speaking to people after the talk about their own garden plans and love of gardens.

Recently, I spoke at the Perennial Plant Conference in Pennsylvania, USA, held in the wonderful surroundings of the Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College. My lecture, entitled The Ever Evolving Garden, was based on my garden Allt y bela. I wanted to show the process of the garden's evolution from scrubland to cultivated garden and share some of my dreams for Allt y bela in the future.

The talk explored how different parts of the garden have evolved to offer seasonal interest and year-round joy. The woodland, the bejewelled meadows, the enclosed garden that is my 'curiosity cabinet of plants', as well as the kitchen garden and cottage garden borders, are all continually honed and adapted to accommodate new passions and discoveries of plants that are new to me.

I find that speaking to audiences about my ideas and approaches to design helps me to organise my thoughts and appreciate the progress that we have made over time. I was thrilled to be able to show some of the early shots of the garden at Allt y bela in this lecture and realise how far we have come since taking the house on over 10 year ago.

The slide show I used in the talk is given here as a short film. Unfortunately there is no commentary with the slides, but the plants I mentioned are named throughout.


The Perennial Plant Conference is an annual event for both professionals and keen amateurs that takes place at the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College. It is organised by The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Longwood Gardens, The Hardy Plant Society (Mid-Atlantic Group), Chanticleer and The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College. 

COMING UP: Arne will be speaking at New York Botanical Garden in February 2018. Tickets are available now via NYBG website here.


Formality & Informality

Earlier this year I was asked by Peter Lyden, President of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA) in the USA to give a lecture for its members in New York. Peter wanted me to talk about how I go about designing gardens - the elements I choose and the reasons for their use in particular designs.

My garden designs are contradictions and play with the balance between formality and informality. I deliberately juxtapose the clipped and the unclipped, the tame and the untame to create gardens that have year-round interest and which my clients feel comfortable in. It is the combination of these two principles that yields gardens full of romantic, atmospheric and informal planting, and which have a longevity that comes from the enduring strength of a formal structure.

The lecture, which was co-hosted by Architectural Digest magazine, took place in the ICAA Library in central New York City in mid September.

For more information about the ICAA, visit the website here.

A book and a meadow


You can view a full gallery of images by clicking here.

When we finally decided on the cover for my new book, The Gardens of Arne Maynard, we chose an image of the meadow with beech topiary at Haddon Hall because it seemed to capture the essence of what I try to achieve in gardens. When it came to planning the launch of the book, I wanted there to be something of this atmosphere at the party as well, in fact a meadow of some sort and topiary too!  

So a 'meadow' was conjured to hang upside down in the glass roof of a London mews studio that we were so kindly loaned by my friend and client.  It was a meadow of grasses from Wales (19,000 individually hand cut grasses that is), peppered with angelica and meadowsweet from Allt-y-bela and wonderful dahlias, asters, Echinacea purpurea and fennel from Shropshire (with thanks to Tammy Hall from

We worked with the remarkable artist Rebecca Louise Law, whose brilliant floral installation I had seen at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. She interpreted my vision for this event in a way that surprised and delighted me and the effect was of a hanging meadow, dipping and soaring in drifts around the roof space and then swooping dramatically down at one end nearly touching the floor. The flowers flowed through the grasses in groups of colour and type that merged or were held apart, (like the asters at the centre), adding a sense of rhythm and surprise as you walked beneath, gazing upwards, seeing the full head of the flowers as we rarely can in a border. 

Whilst Rebecca calmly hung one bunch or flower stalk at a time, her team and mine curled copper wire around the thousands of grasses and flowers, and positioned topiary in vast geometric oak planters made by the craftsmen on the Haddon Hall estate. By the time Lottie Muir arrived to set up her bar, serving 'botanical cocktails', and friends and colleagues arrived to celebrate, the atmosphere was a very good one indeed.

This book evolved over three years, and to finally see it in print has been a real thrill. It is now two months since its publication by Hugh Merrell in the UK and I have been overwhelmed by the reception it has received. Wonderful reviews have appeared and I have been humbled by the comments I have had from clients and from those who have bought and enjoyed it.

Since the UK launch I have given talks in LA and San Francisco to help introduce the book to readers in the States and have further lectures planned at the beautiful Marders Nursery in East Hampton over the Thanksgiving weekend this month.

I am so delighted that readers are enjoying the book and want to thank everyone for their continued support. I hope you enjoy these photographs taken at our UK book launch in September, and as the nights draw in, dream a little and remember the delight of a real meadow, or one created for one special night in the city. 

To view a full gallery of images from this event, please click here.

Words: Arne Maynard

Photographs: Britt Willoughby Dyer

To order a signed copy of Arne's book, gift-wrapped with a limited edition bookmark, visit our book page here.

It is also available via a number of independent and online bookshops including:

Potterton Books, Chelsea (where Arne will be signing books on 1 December from 6.30pm)

John Sandoe Books, Chelsea

Heywood Hill bookshop, Mayfair

Daunt Books, London

Hatchards, Picadilly

Topping and Company Books, Bath, Ely and St. Andrews

Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, Bath

The Art Shop, Abergavenny

Hauser & Wirth, Somerset

RHS Wisley shop, Surrey

RHS Harlow Carr shop, Harrogate

Waterstones, nationwide

W H Smith, nationwide

Blackwell's, nationwide

Wordery, online

The Book People, online

The Book Depository, online


And it can be purchased via Amazon in the UK and USA.







Inspired by Allt-y-bela


In July, earlier this year, award-winning writer Helena Attlee and Emma Beynon led their second 'writing workshop' here in the garden at Allt-y-bela. With playful exercises that stretched our minds, and 'free writing' to overcome inhibitions, they encouraged the group to write closely observed, precise responses to the garden and its surrounding landscape.

We are so pleased they are offering a second workshop, on 26th September and it seems apt in the week that Arne's new book is published to be encouraging bookings.

If you write, or want to write, in a personal or professional way, it is a great treat to spend a day with two such inspiring and stimulating writers, who both have such a true gift for teaching.

Below are a couple of short pieces written at the last writing workshop. The first is a response I wrote to the courtyard at Allt-y-bela, an area of the garden I know very well. It was a joy to sit amongst the topiary and coolness of the courtyard, focused on articulating my feelings towards the space and the collection of plants it is home to.

Thanks very much to Ardyn Griffin for the second, which followed a discussion about an extract from A Shepherds Life by James Rebanks. It is specifically an exploration of the notion of 'heft', a word that describes a special attachment or belonging to a particular piece of land. It is used in the north of England to describe a pasture to which a flock of sheep specifically belongs. It's a moving idea to explore; the place, the land, the earth to which you feel hefted.

For more details about the course and to book a place:

Words: Kristy Ramage

Photographs: Emma Benyon and Kristy Ramage


In The Courtyard at Allt-y-bela

Tamed, trammeled, fruit rich limbs hold in, protect and tip touch the pumpkin crust.

Banding plinth of zip tongued stone flows over earth, past pounded by iron arch and hoof.

Rounded boxy children cluster, playful, up and down, infiltrated by foxy cinnamon spires, a slight unease, relieved by the Turk's Cap lily, adorned with golden gems.

Pure brilliance, centre stage.

Kristy Ramage



The top of the garden is warm, sheltered from the wind, quiet.

The welcome, the relief.

The grubby disarray. With the plants I am absorbed,  'This has germinated, this has wilted, this needs another pot, is this a weed?'

The dog grumps for she is against gardening, she will flop and sleep.

This is her home, the smells, places to lie, she has absorbed into her life's patterns.

Now the chickens have found us, they circle, they chatter, they demand.

They alarm the dog.

The peacock arrives, he finds a flower, he eats it. He is not really a garden friend.

Ardyn Griffin


Propagation: Gardeners' Magic

There is something about the spring light that triggers an automatic reaction in a gardener to sow seeds and propagate plants. There have been days this week, when the wind drops, and you can actually feel the warmth of the sun, and know that the soil will be warming up too. Thoughts race forward to the summer and my mind fills with images of plants that I know I need to start sowing soon.

Until now at Allt-y-bela I've had no real space for sowing and raising my own plants, and I've missed the magic of seeing pots of cuttings and trays of young seedlings with all their promise of riches to come. So this year I have set up a couple of cold frames with soil warming cables at their bases, and am awaiting delivery of a small greenhouse. There are plans for a more elaborate greenhouse for the future, (always so many plans!), but for now I can, at last, propagate some of the difficult to get hold of, rarer plants I want to grow and sow seed of things I want to plant out in abundance.

Poised for propagation action, I've invited a friend, and brilliant nursery woman, Marina Christopher, to come to Allt-y-bela and run a propagation workshop for us and a small group of people. She gave a very inspiring short talk on the subject here last year, and we are really looking forward to her returning to give us a full day on the topic. 

What I particularly like about the way Marina talks about raising plants, is that she shares her own experiences with such clarity. Her scientific background and a naturally curious and questioning personality has led her to develop many techniques that are entirely her own, often subtly different from propagation techniques you might find in a book. For me these skills are most definitely best learnt or refreshed directly from an expert, in person, where all the senses can be involved; watching and listening, touching and feeling and having a hands on experience and the chance to question things along the way.

Meanwhile I'm starting to plan which annuals I'll raise for companion planting and cutting flowers in the kitchen garden, and the rarities that I want to ask Marina how I can increase. There are many websites and catalogues full of wonderful choices, but I particularly love the selection from Chiltern Seeds and their adage 'grow something new from seed' is very hard to resist when you look through the exquisite photos, mainly by Sabina Ruber. They have a very broad offering of unusual and tempting plants, many of which I plan to grow at Allt-y-bela. We have a few places left on the workshop with Marina on 31st March, so do get in touch and come along, whether you are set up with a large greenhouse for mass propagation, or like me, you have only a small area of glass, or even windowsills to raise precious plants.

Words: Arne Maynard

Photos: William Collinson and Sabina Ruber (courtesy of Chiltern Seeds)

To find out more about the Plant Propagation workshop on Tuesday 31 March at Allt-y-bela, click here.

For more information about Chiltern Seeds and their wide selection of seeds visit