Allt y bela

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'In 2007 we moved from our home in the Lincolnshire fens to Allt y bela, a house with absolutely no straight lines. Originally a medieval cruck-frame farmhouse, it has evolved over time becoming rather grander when the extraordinary tower was added in the early 17th century. When we moved in, essential restoration work had been done to the house, but the garden was an utterly blank canvas. As I began to design, I knew I must be disciplined and distil the vast number of things I love, so I began with a list of my favourites: topiary, roses, fruit trees, wildflowers and kitchen gardens.

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I wanted the house to breathe and its garden to feel part of the landscape so we made the boundary fences as agricultural and transparent as possible, and strengthened the link to the surrounding land by echoing its character in the garden.
I took the drove way that cuts across the hill as the inspiration for new earthworks behind the house, and I used the language of a pastry lattice in plaits of box hedging on both sides of the house, repeating the criss-crossing in cobbled paths through the fruit and flowers in the area I call the cottage garden.

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The most important foundation block of the garden, however, is topiary. I have used it in place of walls, to create circulation within the garden and to make divisions in a transparent way. The scale and strength of the topiary helps to anchor the house and to reduce the apparent height of the tower. Close to the house are more formal yews and beech, which hold on to their golden leaves in winter. As the garden dissolves into the landscape I have clipped native hawthorn into the topiary, and also hedges, which are cut in an undulating manner to reflect the tree-line on the brow of the hills beyond.

At Allt y bela, the garden is full of roses. Not in the form of a formal rose garden, but in the meadows, and tumbling out of trees and hedges. In the borders I have trained them over 'rose domes' or pinned them down to cascade over the edges of walls. On a north wall at Allt y bela, I've used Rosa 'Astra Desmond' which does well in shade and it more than compensates for the lack of scent by the leaves, which are an incredible fresh green and by the small, shapely flowers that last for almost a month. At the front of the house, the long flowering Rosa Sir Paul Smith ('Beaupaul') tumbles over the wall, bringing glamour to an otherwise country palette.'

Words by Arne Maynard


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