Arne's journal

The Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden

Since the turn of the New Year, the design studio has been energised with a renewed sense of expectation - and a certain amount of trepidation! With the Chelsea Flower Show on-site build only 16 weeks away we are ensuring we have all the materials, plants and support we need. I thought therefore that it was about time I share the design on the website - and we will be writing more regularly over the coming weeks about our preparations.


The Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden is a timeless, ornamental 'gardener's garden'. All elements of the garden will be carefully handcrafted, complemented by a soft planting scheme to provide elegant structure. The design was inspired by Laurent-Perrier's 200-year heritage of time-honoured methods and reputation for creating pioneering champagnes. It showcases exacting attention to detail, combining traditional and contemporary elements through both the planting and landscaping.


The planting itself creates the structure of the garden. I have used architectural pleached copper beech trees to give height and a sense of enclosure, which will turn golden through winter months. Topiary arrangements have been formed to add character and shape to the planting and an antique pear tree provides a key focal point at the front corner. Flowing water will outline the garden adding movement and a cool elegance.


This garden is not intended to baffle visitors to the show - instead it has been designed as a 'real' garden, which will appeal to any visitor with a love of plants and a keen eye for plant combinations. It is relaxed enough to be able to gather a bunch of flowers for the house, or to entertain friends on the central terrace. I will be available throughout the week to answer questions about the plants and I hope that visitors will be inspired to try a few of the combinations in their own borders at home.

The Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary GardenThe Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary GardenThe Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden

Autumn colours

I love the rich colours of this time of year.  The beech topiary at Allt-y-bela is looking stunning at the moment.  Following the unusually mild October, autumn colours have arrived late and suddenly, looking all the more spectacular against the green foliage of the woodland that is just turning yellow.

It was lovely to be able to enjoy the autumn glow this weekend and with my spring bulbs safely in the ground our attentions focused on chopping logs, raking leaves and making crab apple and medlar jelly and sloe gin.   We now have a log shed ready full of logs to stoke the fires inside the house throughout the winter.

I also got on with raking leaves for leaf mulch, which is one of my favourite jobs at this time of year -such a wonderful smell.  I emptied out my compost from last year onto the step-over apples in the kitchen garden and now there is plenty of space for the leaves.

Just before darkness and the frost arrived I gathered the last big armful of Dahlias from the cutting garden, which look so vibrant in the house.   Having collected those blooms I now feel like the garden can enter its winter sleep.

Pleached crab apples provide a frame around the herb garden to the front of the kitchen at Allt-y-belaAutumn colours of the topiary at Allt-y-belaAutumn colours of the topiary at Allt-y-belaPleached crab apples at Allt-y-belaclose up of the crab apples

November produce

William spent Sunday afternoon busy by the Aga cooking up batches of crab apple jelly and making sloe gin. Crab apple jelly is easy to make and absolutely worth it. It's a delicious alternative to chutney with cheese and cooked meats and I also love having a good stock to give away to friends.

At the same time as the jelly and the gin William prepared the most delicious fresh pasta dish for us and our houseguests.  This is how he did it.

William's Wild Mushroom Tagliatelle Recipe

Prepare the fresh pasta in a Kitchen Aid or Magimix by throwing in curly kale ripped off the stalk, with fresh Bantam eggs and strong flour. 

Keep adding the flour until it's ready to roll and then thread through a pasta maker until in strips of the desired size.

For the sauce simply roughly chop garlic, red chillis and wild mushrooms, toss through the pasta with extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan.

Jars lined up on the kichen table at Allt-y-belaMedlars - before the potWilliam pouring in the sugar before sealing the jarsAllt-y-bela chillies used in chutney and pastaWilliam's homemade pasta

Blue palms in Miami

On a recent trip to Miami I found some amazing palm trees (Bismarckia regia) for an ongoing project in Kuwait. They have the most beautiful blue leaves with ebony seeds providing an arresting contrast to the blue. I never thought I could get excited about palms but I am discovering a completely new palette and really enjoying the challenge of working in a completely different climate with such exotics. We will plant Aeonium schwarzkopf beneath the palms, the foliage of the succulent leaves picking out the dark seed pods of the trees. I have a specimen thriving in a terracotta pot on my terrace table at home.

Bismarckia regia view from base of the trunkBismarckia regia stem detailBlack seeds of Bismarckia regiaChoosing the right tree

Minnesota wild prairie planting

I always love to discover where the plants I use so often in planting schemes in Britain thrive in the wild. A recent visit to Minnesota showed favourite herbaceous border plants growing wild in prairie planting there. Baptisia and Echinacea were thriving and I saw Amsonia tabernaemontana growing four feet tall! All were found at the beautiful and surprising Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, situated about 10 miles outside Minneapolis. In addition to the native prairie and wildflower gardens, a series of wetland gardens connected by streams reveals a collection of the State flower of Minnesota, the lady's slipper orchid. The garden is both beautiful and exciting and the visit provided real stimulation with plenty of ideas to use in projects I have in progress.


Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Lady's slipper orchid, the state flower of Minnesota