Arne's journal

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.

An exciting opportunity...

We are looking for a freelance assistant photographer to work with William Collinson on an exciting new book The Gardens of Arne Maynard. William will need you to be able to catalogue and optimise digital files using Aperture, and to assist with image manipulation and enhancement in Photoshop. A knowledge of photography library systems would be a great advantage.

You will need to liaise with gardeners and garden owners to confirm shoots and check that all preparation has been done, check weather conditions and equipment before shoots, and assist on location to ensure the smooth running of the day and to check that lists of requested shots are completed. 

The major amount of the work will be based in Monmouthshire, South Wales, 45 minutes from Bristol and Cardiff, but the work will also involve travelling to locations around the UK. The work will be paid at a rate based on experience.

Although this is a freelance position, and the initial assistance on shoots will be one-off days, there is a potential for regular work over the next year during the preparation of this book, and possibly beyond.

An interest in garden and landscape photography and the work of Arne Maynard would be a great advantage. 

If you are interested in finding our more or coming to meet us for an interview, please email Kristy on

The house and granary at Allt-y-bela

Up the apples and pears to Yorkshire


The West Country wassails of 2013 (and a fortuitous combination of a cold winter and long, dry summer) must be congratulated for producing a bumper crop of apples and pears this year. The trees at Allt-y-bela are laden with both and the apple storage chest is already full in the granary with plenty more fruit yet to be harvested.

This time of year is a particular favourite of mine. As the light fades and the warm early autumnal evenings give way to darker colder ones, the first frosts biting the air, the harvesting of fruit and vegetables and the clearing of the summer borders and beds, is a reminder that the change of season always brings renewal in the garden, and should be celebrated accordingly.

What better way to celebrate this change than with a trip to a favourite nursery to immerse ourselves in apples for the annual Apple Day festivities. Initiated by Common Ground back in 1990 Apple Day is now an annual celebration of apples in all their guises, with events across the UK organised by nurseries, community orchards and gardening clubs at the end of October. The apple is hailed as a symbol of our particular climatic conditions, an ancient fruit which has sustained us through winter months for centuries, and which comes in a dazzling array of shapes, colours, flavours and textures.

We travelled to R V Roger, a specialist fruit nursery in Pickering, North Yorkshire, last weekend to enjoy a wonderful day with friends and nursery visitors, tasting and sampling a number of varieties, old and new. Ian Roger is hugely knowledgeable and so it was a rare treat to spend the day with him chatting about our favourites, new introductions, pruning techniques and a couple of design projects we are working on together.

A few apple varieties caught our eye including Malus domestica 'Gipsy King', a small dessert apple, with a distinct mottled appearance and a wonderful, rich aroma. It is not widely available but is suitable for growing as step-overs, trained or free-growing trees. However, our passion is really pears - we have them arched over the entrances to the kitchen garden at Allt-y-bela and grow varieties suitable for perry-making (in our view a far superior sparkling tipple than its earthy cousin cider!) as well as dessert and cooking pears. We noticed a few unusual varieties at the nursery including the Nashi (Asian) pear 'Koshui', a small bronze-coloured dessert pear which was crying out to be munched (we resisted) and the perry pear 'Gin', again a small fruit with a wonderful rose pink tinge to the skin and an enticing name to boot.

Needless to say that our car left the nursery rather more full (and twiggy) than when it arrived. We will have to find a bit more room in the orchard again this year.

Malus 'Cats Head'