14 July 2014
A new beginning
I thought it might be best to start this new garden diary with a few introductions; to introduce the gardens at Allt-y-bela, my initial impressions of them as I hurtle towards the end of my first month here, and lastly to set down my plans for this blog and what I hope to achieve with it.
The first thing to say is that being very new here I have very little insight into the development of the gardens over the last eight years but it is my intention to share the story with you as I learn about it myself, that way we will all be on a journey of discovery together.
I should also probably start by saying a little about me and how I came to be the gardener at Allt-y-bela. Luckily there is not too much to tell; I started my gardening career at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire and became the Head Gardener there a few years later, after a few more years had passed I was offered the opportunity to lead the garden restoration at Lowther Castle in Cumbria, after the first phase was completed I returned to Sudeley Castle primarily to help to prepare for the new season and to keep myself busy while I looked for a new challenge. But I thoroughly enjoyed being back at Sudeley and so it took rather longer to move on than I had originally planned! Lowther was a vast garden, long abandoned and neglected with the bones of a renaissance gem hidden just beneath the surface. The challenge there was to reveal the structure of the gardens, provide access and to restore the vast south lawns. Sudeley Castle is a beautiful, romantic Tudor castle, restored with an unusually gentle hand by a pair of Victorian glove manufacturers whose descendants still call the castle home today. Sudeley is famed for its roses and its topiary and I have become a little obsessive about both - at Sudeley the hedge cutting and topiary took up nearly 5 months of the year!
But when I was offered the chance to work with Arne at Allt-y-bela I jumped at it. The garden is relatively modest in scale and although I had been used to working with a team of gardeners I knew I would be on my own here but the opportunity to work with an internationally recognised garden designer, in his own garden, was an opportunity not to be missed. It goes without saying that the standards expected are incredibly high and that the planting is diverse and unusual. Allt-y-bela is a proving ground, a show garden and an ever evolving work of art, it may well become a national treasure of the future and whilst I may not have been here from the very start, I intend to enjoy every minute of being here and seeing it grow, mature and evolve and I very much look forward to sharing it with you.
Words: Steve Lannin, Gardener at Allt-y-bela
Portrait: Britt Willoughby Dyer