Arne's journal

Chelsea Flower Show 2013

One year on and without the adrenalin and excitement of creating a show garden I was back at Chelsea this week to simply enjoy the show and see what exciting treasures I could discover. I love the celebration of horticulture that is Chelsea and always come away having spotted new plants I want to use in my gardens. This year was no exception. One such gem was the Lillium martagon 'Orange Marmalade' that Ulf Nordfjell used in the Laurent-Perrier garden.

I really loved the formality and structure of The Daily Telegraph garden, designed by Christopher Bradley Hole, particularly the oak columns, which looked stunning with the burnt wall behind them. They gave the garden a real sense of depth and calmness, accented perfectly by the charcoal used as mulch on the ground. I had the privilege of walking through the garden, the vignettes glimpsed through the oak columns were fabulous. Equally brilliant was the planting - splashes of colour amongst a palette of greens. Particular favourites of mine were used: Astrantia major 'Claret', Rosa 'Tuscany Superb' and Tulipa sprengeri used with a lush grass.

A real treat though was one of the Fresh gardens - 'After the Fire' by designer James Basson and his wife Helen. This garden really summed up what the Fresh Garden category is all about. The message was simple and so inspirational; nature prevails in the face of adversity. Out of natural disasters can spring hope, and growth does return even after the harshest of fires, storms, drought or flooding.

This garden smelled of the South of France. I loved the lush foliage that had been grown using seeds left in the region of France that suffered severe bush fires three years ago. Contrasting the greens were rills lined with glazed orange terracotta, which snaked into an orange pool. The seating within the garden also used this orange glaze - they were beautiful and incredibly comfortable, made by Yannick Fourbet of Le Chêne Vert. Subtly set amongst the charred branches were little copper fibre optic lights, clinging and winding around the stems like copper candles. It was a truly magical garden and one that I felt I wanted to return to again and again. I really hope to see this designer in the large Show Garden category in future years.

Laurent-Perrier gardenLillim martagon 'Orange Marmelade'Daily Telegraph gardenDaily Telegraph gardenDaily Telegraph gardenDaily Telegraph gardenAfter the FireAfter the FireAfter the FireAfter the Fire

New topiary arrives at Allt-y-bela

As the late frosty mornings depart and a new spring air seems finally to have settled over Allt-y-bela, we are spending more time in the garden here soaking up the few rays the sun has allowed us. This year, our main change to the garden is the addition of new topiary, which gives me great pleasure. Topiary is a passion of mine and I thoroughly enjoyed placing my new trees around the courtyard here last week.


The lane leading to the house is very narrow and unsuitable for lorries so we had to unload and transport the trees one by one. A neighbouring farmer allowed us the use of his front loader and helped us bring the trees down to the garden.


Since painting the house and buildings last year I have felt that the yew topiary needed accenting with a different colour and texture. The wonderful rusty brown leaves of copper beech in winter, followed by the sumptuous deep purple of the summer foliage against the vibrant lime wash of the house and palette of existing flowers, seemed the most perfect combination. My renewed love of copper beech is as a direct result of the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden I designed for the Chelsea Flower Show last year. I have brought in balls and a dome beech around the courtyard to make the whole area feel more intimate.


I have for a while being contemplating a change to the way we use this courtyard area between the main house and the granary where we hold our garden courses. Ultimately I would like to cobble an oval area here, planting it with verbascums, nepetas and other self-seeders and layering with topiary.  By enclosing the views and entrances I am allowing the courtyard to be the centre of the garden, no longer a drive through for cars. Perhaps eventually we could divert cars completely via the track at the top of the common, leaving the courtyard to be entirely part of the garden. But for now, I am happy with the new topiary and am enjoying the fresh vistas they allow.

the new topiary arrives by lorry and has to wait at the end of the laneone of the copper beech arrives first

A busy start to the year

As the unpredictable Spring weather continues, I am reminded of our very wet build up to the Chelsea Flower Show last year. The Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden was undoubtedly the highlight of our year and so it is with some nostalgia that I look back. Our filmmaker James is at the show for Laurent-Perrier again this year but to round up our time there he has put together a final edit of the footage we were fortunate enough to be able to shoot.

We wish all the team at Laurent-Perrier, Crocus and Ulf Nordfjell all the very best for their Chelsea 2013 garden, and hope the sun finally shines on SW3 as it did for us last year.

In celebration of the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show always seems to present gardeners, young and old, with a little slice of horticultural magic at a time of year when inspiration is required in the face of inclement weather. This year was no exception, and the rain we experienced during April and the first half of May was swept away to reveal stunning Spring skies and warm, tropical sunshine. 


Visitors to the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden were overwhelmingly supportive and complementary of the design. Everyone seemed to love the planting - in particular the number of roses we used in the garden, and the way in which they were trained. As I stood talking to visitors about the garden, and handing out planting leaflets, I found myself explaining the technique of weaving pliable hazel canes into domes again, and again. 


I was truly touched by all the comments we received. It was such an affirmation that the design I felt would evoke memories of childhood gardens, and romantic, hazy summer days, really did achieve the reaction I had hoped for. And I have made such lovely friends - in the brilliant team at Crocus and the fabulous family firm of Champagne Laurent-Perrier.


It felt rather melancholy to be saying goodbye to the garden on Saturday. Having spent the best part of a month building and enjoying it, the garden felt like one of my own. The plants were growing - particularly the roses - and I found myself pruning and maintaining the borders as I would at home. So to celebrate its success and popularity, enjoy the short film which James Aiken has put together for us in celebration of the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden.

An RHS Gold Medal

David Hesketh MW, the garden team and I waited patiently on Tuesday morning for the cavalry of BBC reporters, cameras and cables to make their way to our garden. It seemed their route around the showground was not at all planned as they weaved their way from one side to the next, but we were thrilled to receive our Gold Medal when it finally arrived.


The Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden, although constructed in 17 days, has been in the making for over 10 years! I started thinking about it not long after my first Chelsea appearance in 2000, and have been adding to and honing the design ever since. I first met David at the end of 2010 after which preparations for this garden really started to take shape. I feel we have built a really strong relationship over that time and I am sure it will continue to thrive long after the curtain is drawn on this fleeting garden event. 


So it is with great pride that David and I accepted our medal on Tuesday morning. The early morning chill soon lifted with temperatures soaring to 27 degrees by mid-afternoon. And what a reception the garden has received by visitors to the show. I have been so touched by the lovely comments about the garden's planting scheme, its colours and scents, and it is the reaction of visitors which has made the unveiling of this anniversary garden so special for me. 


Thank you to all who have been involved - you know who you are! And here's to the glorious weather continuing throughout the week. 


Champagne Laurent-Perrier


Arne Maynard and David Hesketh MW with the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden RHS Gold MedalBBC cameras capture the moment Arne is presented with his Gold Medal