Arne's journal

A March day in the garden

March is a time of preparation for gardeners, and for our first garden course of 2014 we focused on getting the garden ready for the full blown show that should play out over the coming year.

Imagining ourselves to be in the garden in June we filled our minds with roses, and perennials, with swaying meadows and full vegetable beds, and we prepared. Ian showed us how to coppice hazel, while Jacky and I made wonderful domes for the roses to be trained on, runner bean arches that add structure to the kitchen garden and broad bean supports in many patterns which not only perform their supporting role, but add another layer of decoration to the garden.

We looked at planting combinations and teasing the herbaceous border into shape, by editing and adding and dividing plants, and allowing some of those plants to leap out into the meadows around. My 'liberation borders' and meadows took in new arrivals, and we all joined in, setting out great swathes in the upper meadow, of Centaurea 'Jordy' and 'Carnea', Achillea 'Summer Wine', Lychnis flos-culculi (Ragged Robin), Persicaria bistorta 'Superba' and Trollius cultorum 'Lemon Queen'

We can't wait to see it all in flower!

The humble hellebore

Sitting quietly amongst the current chaos of amphitheatre earthworks, tucked in alongside the stream and under the dappled light of the trees, are some beautiful highlights of spring colour.


Slender elegant stems with beautifully heavy petalled heads sway in the breeze like small clusters of nodding bells. Their full beauty can only be appreciated when up close and personal, tipping their heads to see their stunning uniquely marked faces; some speckled and some as dark as chocolate.

One of my favourites is a soft dirty pink with wonderful fluted skirts, much like a huddle of ballerinas. The varieties vary and because many are self-sown it is impossible to identify each one, but some of them would have seeded from a Harvington hybrid.  Here are just a few images taken from the grassy banks at Allt-y-Bela. 

I love to use these as cut flowers around the house, however they are a little tricky to condition. For longevity I would recommend cutting the stems under water (this avoids air locks), immersing them in lukewarm water and leaving overnight still immersed, re-cutting them under water in the morning.  This should keep them firm and upright, ready to use in a vase or jug.

Photos are by Britt.

Allt-y-bela evolves once again

This year at Allt-y-bela we are adding another wonderful and intricate layer to the garden, an amphitheatre is in the making! 

Each day the landscape around the granary, where the stream meanders its way through the garden, is changing and a beautiful gently curved dry stone wall has begun to weave its journey around the banks of the stream. Watching how each stone is carefully selected and skillfully positioned by traditional craftsmen is fascinating to watch and the transformation is mesmerising.  The buildings now sit amongst the new framework as if it had always been there and carefully positioned stones are adding to the orchestra of birdsong in the valley creating the wonderful sounds of rushing water as it gurgles along its new path.

I have always imagined that Allt-y-bela could be used as a backdrop for plays in the garden and in fact have already hosted a couple of theatrical events here. So the amphitheatre has evolved from a desire for the garden to be enjoyed in different ways, by different people. We will be hosting a play in the garden on Saturday 21st June this year. Details are still being finalized but tickets will be on sale very soon and we'll post details here as soon as we can.

Photographs are by William.

Allt-y-bela springs to life at last

The torrential rains and winds have finally relented and given way to glorious sunshine; we are well in the throes of springtime now.

The spring bulbs are emerging in succession at Allt-y-Bela and have so far created a beautiful tapestry of colour on the earthworks. On the common, the drifts of pure white snowdrops have just gone over and given way to a breathtaking carpet of narcissi lobularis, which have self sown and each year begin to claim more land.  With the sparkle of light picking up all the spring colours it is one of my favourite times of year. Day by day I watch and wait to see each new jewel emerge. 

My pots are filled with crisp white scented hyacinths and violas that are supported by some simple hazel supports.  These were created on the first day of our new four-day garden course in early March using hazel from the drove that travels along the top of the common.  The course - entitled The Making of the Garden for all Seasons - was a great success and I am already looking ahead to May when I will welcome everyone back. More details and pictures from the day will be shared in a later journal.

Photographs are by Britt and William.

Madoo in Manhattan

11 February 2014, 6pm

Madoo in Manhattan: Arne Maynard, one of Britain's most sought-after garden designers, gives the inaugural Robert Dash Garden Discourse lecture to raise funds for The Madoo Conservancy in New York. A cocktail reception will follow the lecture.

The Carlton Hobbs Gallery, 60 East 93rd Street, New York City. NY

Tickets: Madoo Members $125  |  Non-members $150

Celebrated British garden designer Arne Maynard will give the inaugural Robert Dash Garden Discourse lecture, 'A Sense of Place', for The Madoo Conservancy on 11th February at the Carlton Hobbs Gallery in New York City. The lecture is the first of what is hoped will be an annual discourse on garden design organised by The Madoo Conservancy, a beautiful 2 acre garden in Sagaponack, New York, designed by the late artist, writer and gardener Robert Dash.

The evening talk will focus on Arne's design philosophy, of creating gardens which seem to naturally sit within their landscape or environment: his ability to draw out a unique 'Sense of Place'. Using gardens designed and built in Europe and the USA, Arne will show guests, talking through a series of beautiful photographs and design plans, the importance of understanding a garden's particular situation, its historical reference points, and the plants that already form the vernacular of the landscape in which it sits. Arne says,


"New clients often ask me how it is that the gardens I design seem to fit so naturally with the house they surround. They wonder how this will be achieved for their own garden and indeed whether it will be possible. The answer lies with them - I ask so many questions at those first client meetings about the house, their style choices, the plants that currently thrive within the existing garden or landscape and importantly how they intend to use the garden. All these details, together with a dedicated commitment to using only the best craftsmanship in building a garden, allow us to achieve finished gardens that suit their owners, and their landscape, perfectly."


Alejandro Saralegui, Director of The Madoo Conservancy and organiser of the lecture, says,


"We wanted to find a way to celebrate the life of Bob Dash, who established Madoo in 1967 and who dedicated his life to the garden, bringing horticultural knowledge and inspiration to visitors young and old. The annual Garden Discourse lecture series will allow us a rare chance to discuss garden design, what it means to those who create gardens and indeed enjoy them. We are thrilled that Arne Maynard is giving the first lecture and look forward to welcoming him to New York in February."


For more information and to book tickets visit the Madoo website.