Arne's journal

An unseasonal blizzard in Derbyshire

Joel and I spent an enjoyable, if a little chilly, day at Haddon Hall in Derbyshire last week. We left relative balmy sunshine in London but as we reached Derbyshire we were hit with a blizzard. April weather taken to extremes!

We were visiting the Hall to plan for the next stage of planting in our design - after working with Lord Edward Manners on his private garden on the estate, we have now moved on to the public access terraced gardens around the main Hall. The photographs show the fountain terrace which was planted last year with topiary and an underplanting of a wild flower mead. The borders on the terrace are filled with tulips (just coming into flower), super poppies and roses, which of course Haddon is renowned for but which we have edited and added to to create a tighter colour palette. I am anxious to see the results in May and June.

The next area to plant will be the Bowling Green terrace, which is positioned above the Fountain Terrace. It will consist mainly of plants used for dying such as flag iris, dahlias, Alchemilla mollis and Sanguisorba. We are also hoping to replant the knot garden with a lattice of Santolina and Teucrium.

An Italian morning at Crocus

On Tuesday we went to visit the plants for the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden at Crocus and meet with Margherita Lombardi from Italian magazine Gardenia who will be covering the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in her May issue.

It was an early start, but well worth it as Clive Nichols took some fantastic photographs for the feature of the plants full of fresh growth and sparkling in the early morning sunlight. Of course you'll have to wait for Gardenia to see these - the shots here were taken by Britt, our own in-house photographer!

Many of the plants have now been moved outside but some remained in the tunnels to protect them from the impending snow! The weather is keeping everyone on their toes at the moment but all the plants seem to be doing well and Karen is confident that we will have some of all the plants we want flowering to perfection for the show - we now just have to keep our fingers crossed!

The 'Chelsea Pen' at Crocus where all the plants are being storedSome of the Chelsea plants sparkling in the early morning lightOne of the verbascums I am hoping to use in the gardenRachel is dwarfed by the ancient pearClive directing Arne for the Gardenia shootAn early morning chat at Crocus

Winter at Allt-y-bela

WINTER at Allt-y-bela - my home in Monmouthshire, South Wales.

I am really excited to be able to introduce the first in a planned series of four films to be made throughout 2012. James Aiken's films are beautifully shot, using light and sound to great effect giving them instant atmosphere. I hope the series we have planned captures a little of the essence of the garden I am creating at Allt-y-bela.

I hope you enjoy them.

Allt-y-bela captured starlit by James Aiken

A visit to see the trees

Last Wednesday Rachel and I had a day return trip to Holland and Belgium.  Our first stop was the tree nursery where I have selected a beautiful, ancient pear tree for the garden I have designed for Laurent-Perrier at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012.  The tree will be positioned in the corner of the garden to anchor the space to its surroundings and add balance to the large pieces of topiary and the Chelsea Hospital plane trees.


We wanted to see the pear tree again and crucially check that it will fit on a lorry that is the right width to fit through the Bull Ring gates at the Chelsea Hospital showground.  The nursery had been concerned that it would require a 3m wide lorry.  However, much to our relief, the magnificent specimen is going to require very little pruning to reach its destination in the show garden. 


With that resolved we went on to another specialist nursery across the border in Belgium.  Here we made our final selection of topiary for the garden.  Three majestic pieces of Buxus sempervirens 'Rotundifolia' have been clipped with care over the last 100 years to reach their statuesque sizes.   To go with these we choose some pieces of smaller Buxus on legs, which will be perfect along the planting bed to the side of the path.


Having achieved our aims for the day we came home excited about how they are going to look within the garden. To help with their precise positioning and to check the balance of the garden, we are having a scale model of the garden built complete with to-scale trees and plant elements.

the ancient pear we will be bringing to Chelseaone of the topiary we have selected for Chelsea

Minneapolis revisited

We are creating a wonderful garden in Minneapolis, which is taking Stefano and I to the United States on a regular basis. We spent a very exciting week there last week choosing the specimen plants we will include in the garden.


We had hoped to use Betula nigra- the river birch - but it will be too big and overpowering for the design. We had also hoped to use Acer griseum but the climate will be slightly too cold for it and we feel it is too much of a risk. Minneapolis is in hardiness zone 4.5 andAcer griseumneeds zone 5 - if the garden experienced a hard winter, this acer would not survive. We want to create a garden with longevity so it is really important we choose plants that are going to thrive.


Our trip last week turned up two trees which we think are going to be perfect for the design - a malus (crab apple) with a beautiful white flower and an alternative acer with gorgeous bright red seeds. Neither will be too big for the planting scheme but we have found some lovely mature specimens that with some careful pruning will make beautiful shapes. They will be placed amongst criss-crossing clouds of taxus with clipped domes of euonymous to link them. The rest of the planting scheme feels very contemporary using native American prairie plants within a matrix of Briza media (quaking grass).


In addition, we found an incredible native vine which we plan to train over trellis in the garden we are creating. It has the most wonderful orange berries and will be a fantastic addition to the scheme.


It was really very exciting seeing the trees at the nursery but the visit really brought it home to me how lucky we are to have nurseries in Europe selling such a diverse choice of plants, shrubs and trees. Our temperate climate allows us to grow such a huge variety of plants - we really can be spoiled for choice. In America however, the choice is limited - by climate and availability.


Luckily my planting schemes only ever rely on a small palette of plants, repeated to create striking plant combinations.  For this design we are using lots of native American prairie plants and whilst driving through the vast expanses of wild prairie meadows, frosted with winter ice crystals, we couldn't wait to return later in the season to see perennials we use in gardens in Europe flowering here in their natural habitat.

Betulus nigra specimen at the nurseryDetail of the bark of Betulus nigraMalus Spring Snow (winter)Malus Spring Snow (spring)Acer tataricum (winter seed heads)Arne with Acer tataricum Hot Wings specimen at the nurseryAcer tataricum Hot Wings (summer seed heads)Unusual native vine with striking orange berriesUnusual native vine with striking orange berries