Arne's journal

Cottesbrooke annuals

I am really very excited to have been asked to design the late annual borders at Cottesbrooke Hall. We have selected a really lovely mix of annuals with a lilac and pink colour scheme including those pictured here (hover cursor over image for names). I have designed the borders to flower from August through to the first frosts, giving this part of the gardens at Cottesbrooke a fabulous and colourful late flowering feature.


Although the borders have been designed and planted as a temporary fixture until the permanent design for this area is finalised, we are all so excited about their development that I suspect we could carry them on for a few years if we like the results.


We started by editing undesirable plants from the area and adding four blocks of copper beech into the corners of the Pool Garden. The cubes act as brackets, giving the scheme weight and structure. The cubes also give this garden a connection to the Sculpture Walk which sits just outside the boundary and also features beech cubes.


The feel of the annual scheme is casual and meadowy - I wanted the garden to be simplified to allow the plants some breathing room. In the autumn we will add roses to the walls and in time the area could become a rose garden.


We were up at the garden a couple of weeks ago to plant out and with the gloriously warm weather we have enjoyed since then, the plants should be establishing themselves quickly.


In addition to those plants pictures here, the Cottesbrooke Hall annual border includes a large number of dahlias for late colour and a softer mix of:


Ageratum houstonianum 'White Bouquet'

Persicaria orientale

Ceratotheca triloba

Atriplex hortensis var.rubra

Consolida ajacis 'Misty Lavender'

Nigella damascena 'Albion Black Pod'

Gilia capitata

Gomphrena 'Fireworks'

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Double Click Rose Bonbon'

Didiscus caeruleus

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Double Click Cranberries'

Nepeta nuda

Papaver somniferum 'Dark Plum'

Salvia leucantha 'Purple Velvet'

Catananche caeulea

Amberboa muricata 'Desert Star'

Dahlia 'Rocco'Dahlia 'Famoso'Dahlia 'Myama Fubuki'Acidenthera murielaeNIgella damascena 'Persian Rose'Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Beaujolais Bonnets'

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.