Arne's journal

Dan's Cretan getaway

Dan Back, Designer and Project Manager at Arne Maynard Garden Design, recently returned from a sunny holiday in Crete with a surprising tale of cliff top wild flowers. He shares some of his holiday snaps and takes us back to Greece.


I reluctantly returned from a wonderfully sunny two weeks in Crete to the Central London design studio with a surprising tale of Greek cliff top wild flowers. Yes, a holiday is supposed to give you a break from the day-job but when you love and work with plants you can never quite escape. And, to be honest, there's only so much beach bathing and sea fishing one man and his son can indulge in before heading for the hills!


So, we found ourselves taking a brisk and refreshing hill walk, setting off from our beach-side hotel and heading up and over the cliffs. The views were breath-taking but even more amazing were the wild plants I found growing there. Native Cretans must surely never tire of seeing the caper plant (Capparis orientalis) flower, particularly when they find wild alliums and giant thistles growing alongside. I also found sea-holly (Eryngium maritimum), sea-lavender and a brilliant wiry, ground-hugging plant calledLaunaea arborescenswhich creeps over cliff top rocks and among other plants giving everything a silvery sheen. Its silver blue foliage is the perfect complement to an azure blue seascape.

Capparis orientalis (caper berry) in full flower in CreteEryngium maritimum (sea holly) in CreteLaunaea arborescens gives the cliff top a silvery sheenWild alliumGiant thistles in bloom

Chelsea calling

I am really very excited to have been announced by Laurent-Perrier as their designer for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2012, the bicentenary year of the iconic champagne house. Having thought about a design for the show for several years now I am very pleased to have this opportunity to work alongside such a brand. I spent a few days at the show this May to start to choose plants for my design. I always enjoy Chelsea, particularly the time I spend wandering round the floral marquee. I never tire of it. The nursery displays are what make Chelsea so special.


Also exciting of course was seeing this year's show gardens. Cleve West's garden for the Telegraph was indeed beautiful as was Luciano's for Laurent-Perrier. My congratulations go to both of them for their gold medals.


I always find inspiration from the show and this year was no exception. I thought the planting scheme on Anne Marie Powell's garden for the British Heart Foundation was particularly lovely. Red is very hard to use in a colour scheme but its use in this garden, cooled considerably by the green palette of plants, was incredibly inspiring. I certainly hope to borrow and reinterpret ideas from this garden.


When visiting any show or nursery I can't help but spot plants I would like to introduce to my own garden. Rosa 'Natasha Richardson', introduced by Harkness Roses, is a beautiful clear pale pink scented rose and Avon Bulbs showed an amazing new crushed mulberry coloured opium poppy, Papaver somniferum 'Chartreuse', both of which I have ordered for Allt-y-bela.


Britt escapes to the country

Britt Willoughby Dyer, Office Manager and in-house photographer at Arne Maynard Garden Design, recalls a beautiful early summer day taking photographs at Woottens Plants near her childhood home of Southwold.


A few weeks ago my office was transformed from its usual EC1 studio to a wonderful early summer day in the open countryside of Suffolk - what heaven! Arne asked me to join him at Woottens of Wenhaston to photograph irises. By mid morning I found myself standing in endless acres of stunning irises listening to heavenly bird song - a lovely change from the usual noise pollution of traffic congestion on Old Street.


I arrived early enough to get cracking on taking a few photos before Arne arrived - I knew I'd be distracted by his enormous enthusiasm and excitement as soon as he got there.  Together we walked the fields, drinking in the colour and scent of every iris, making notes of each of his favourites. Pictured here are some that we both found rather beautiful and elegant.


Iris 'Black Swan', Iris 'White City', Iris 'Benton Susan', Iris 'Thornbird', Iris 'Ginger Snap' and Iris 'Spuria Medallion'.


We couldn't bear to go home empty handed and purchased some of Michael's other treasures at his nursery including scented pelargoniums - an iconic heady summer perfume.  Michael's own herbaceous garden was overflowing with warm summer colour and scent inspiring us both to get home and get planting.

Woottens Plants, Blackheath Road, Wenhaston, Halesworth, Suffolk IP19 9HD

Home for June

We have enjoyed some great summer garden courses over the past couple of weeks. I have loved sharing the emerging garden at Allt-y-bela with a really lovely combination of people who have all contributed to a fabulous two week celebration of plants. Some of our visitors like to come to at least one of my courses each year and it is through their eyes I have been able to see the garden here this month. I see it almost every day and so I don't always notice the changes - but it has developed enormously this year and so it has been encouraging to hear the great response it has received from visitors.


People make a garden come alive and no more so than when using it to learn and create. I thoroughly enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with the people who visit us for our garden courses.


Now that our June events are over I look forward to spending a few months visiting clients and enjoying some time in my own garden over the summer.

Cottage garden gems

Having spent four full years laying out and planting up the land around the house at Allt-y-Bela, I have found that this is the first year it is turning into a garden. The fruit and cottage garden looks amazing this month - some of my favourite plants have been flowering since early May.


Paeone 'Molly the Witch' opens early with my incredible black tulips Tulipa 'Black Hero' and T. 'Queen of the Night'. These have finished now and have been replaced by black Geranium phaeum and shortly the alliums will join in. Lupinus 'Masterpiece' has been exceptional this year and I have recently put in a new soft pink dahlia (Dahlia 'Naples') which I am looking forward to starting its flowering period next month.


On a recent visit to Watermeadow Nursery I bought a really lovely Super Poppy (Papaver 'Medallion') which I have added to this area. It builds its colour slowly and fades beautifully with no brown edges to spoil the effect. I would highly recommend it.


Watermeadow Nursery, Alresford Road, Cheriton, Alresford SO24 0QB