Garden diary

Pruning the roses


Last week passed by in a blur of rose pruning, this week has begun a little differently; the incessant rain has forced me inside to plan my kitchen garden campaign, a task that is long overdue. That's not to say that the rose pruning is finished, those two weeks off I had at the beginning of the year saw to that!

I have had a relationship with roses ever since I've been a gardener and like most relationships it hasn't always been an easy one. Pruning and training tend to lead to blood being spilled and expletives exclaimed; these days I'm rather more calm. Roses are the scent of summer and at Allt-y-bela they are particularly venerated. The work of teasing and bending sometimes brittle rose stems to our every whim can feel like a labour of love in January, yet come June the work is forgotten and the flowers enjoyed.

Last week we rebuilt the rose domes, a job which sounds pretty quick but seems to take an eternity, before we then pruned the shrub roses.  Our task for this week is to prune the rose on the front of the studio (Rosa 'Souvenir de la Malmaison') and to rebuild the frame on the back of the house and retrain the spectacular (and prickly) Rosa 'Astra Desmond'.

The latter is no small task. The frame was built the year before I arrived at Allt-y-bela and three years on it was very rotten in parts. When it was built the roses barely reached six feet up it, now they are getting stuck behind the guttering! The frame is not attached to the wall at all but rather held on large uprights which stretch from the ground to the guttering, while the other pieces hang off them. The reason for this slightly strange method is that the lime render which covers the house is soft and would flake off if anything were to be attached to it.

The climbing roses are being trained in a method similar to that used at Sissinghurst where stems are trained into loops. The roses seem to flower just as effectively as if they were trained in a more traditional horizontal way but look rather more decorative.

The rain is slowing finally and so I'd better get back to it. Rose pruning is one of those tasks that mark the year for me, I love getting the roses trained and pruned and ready for their big moment a few short months away and have learned not to fight those pesky prickles quite so much!

Words: Steve Lannin

Photographs: Britt Willoughby Dyer

© Arne Maynard Garden Design 2017 - reproduction of content and / or photographs only by request.


An October walkabout


There is no disguising the fact that autumn is upon us. I know it's a cliché but I really can't believe how fast the season has gone. I've hugely enjoyed this summer too. Whereas last summer I was scrapping around trying to find my feet, I've been able to enjoy this one far more. Autumn has started to touch the tops of the trees and the warm weather of last week was tempered by biting cold mornings.

Because Allt-y-bela is tucked into the bottom of its own little valley, the sun in the autumn casts long shadows and the light falls in shafts through the trees illuminating individual plants as if a spotlight has been shone on them. On the drive the beech and hawthorn topiary shine out, their tight clipped forms stark against the approaching dusk.

Around the garden there are plenty of plants in flower. The roses in particular are making a fantastic late show this year, and the light is so much kinder after the harsh light of June. The colours and forms, often with morning dew, now seem even more sumptuous and special partly due to the light but also because they have much less competing with them for our attention. Rosa 'Sir Paul Smith' which tumbles over the wall of the cottage garden is spilling a few choice late blooms tantalizingly at nose height from the drive edge, whilst the 'Generous Gardener' continues to live up to its name sending up cluster after cluster of delicate pink flowers.

Autumn is also a great moment for Japanese anemones and we have a couple of particularly beautiful varieties in the garden at Allt-y-bela. Anemone hybrida 'Wild Swan' is a lovely white flower with a pink blush on the back while Anemone hybrida 'Andrea Atkinson' is pure white and planted down by the stream looks beautiful in the evening light.

Over the last year or so we have been adding to the asters in the garden creating some much need late season colour and a few of our new selections have really shone out this autumn. Aster novae-angliae 'Herbstschnee' meaning autumn snow has been a really fantastic addition to the developing border outside the courtyard. With its strong tight habit and profusion of flowers it has defined the look of the front of the house over the past month.

Aster ericoides 'Pink Cloud' has been a lovely light addition to the cottage garden; its habit and colour provide delicate interest in a part of the garden that is dominated now by seed heads and bronzing foliage. Aster novi-belgii 'Fellowship' on the other hand is bright and vibrant purple and lifts the beds outside of the kitchen garden, currently dominated by dahlias.

I am a huge fan of autumn, partly perhaps because the garden is slowing down and I get more time to appreciate it. But mainly I think because the flowers at this time of year seem all the more special. As gardeners we know it won't be long before winter clears away most of the colour again until spring.

Words: Steve Lannin, Head Gardener at Allt-y-bela

Photographs: Britt Willoughby Dyer


A good year for the roses

Roses are such an integral part of the English garden that it is very difficult to find an angle on which to write about them that hasn't been covered countless times before. Such is our love affair with the rose that it is almost inconceivable there can be a garden in Britain of any real size which is not home to at least a few examples.

Here at Allt-y-bela the roses are a big part of the summer display, furnishing the garden with their colour and filling the hot borders and shady nooks with their wonderful delicate scents. For me, while autumn smells of bonfires and winter of cinnamon and spices, summer smells of roses and there is nothing quite so wonderful as a summer's garden filled with the clean floral scent of the rose.

The trees that tower over the drive at Allt-y-bela are spilling over with Rosa 'Mannington Mauve', R. 'Frances E Lester' and R. 'Kiftsgate', to name but a few. These roses, planted three years ago now, are this year really beginning to take off up into the canopy. In a few years' time the branches will be heavy with the weight of the rose blooms and the petals will cover the drive in a layer of fragrant confetti.

The trees along the stream edge are also overflowing with roses including the glorious Rosa 'Wedding Day', by the steps at the stream crossing, whose blooms open deep primrose yellow before quickly paling to white. It is a simple single flowered rambler which is vigorous enough to climb into the higher reaches of the alder trees by which it has been planted.

In the courtyard by the house the hazel rose domes are adorned with Rosa 'Cardinal de Richelieu', a deep crimson Gallica rose, complimented by the unusual R. 'Louis XIV', with its strong calyx like matt dark purple flowers. Over by the steps to the studio another unusual rose, Rosa chinensis viridiflora, flowers continuously all summer long, its green flowers grabbing your attention just as you really should be concentrating on the steps!

Behind the house the north-facing back wall is quickly being covered by Rosa 'Astra Desmond'; a remarkably strong and healthy rose for a shady wall, little known yet perfect for lighting up a dark corner. Its flowers are an antique off-white and are profuse and long lasting.

Up in the herbaceous beds the rose domes we constructed back in the spring are now invisible, swallowed up by rose blooms. Rosa 'Queen of Denmark', a large blush pink rose with a beautiful heavy soapy scent, benefits hugely from the rose dome structures. The large flowers can pull the stems down causing the over-sized buds to rot in the damp before ever opening. Here they are held upright and the flowers can be seen and appreciated to their potential. Rosa 'Tuscany Superb' is another beneficiary of the domes, as is R. 'William Lobb', a beautiful moss rose and probably the healthiest of its kind, its unusual buds and stems alone make this cultivar worth growing.

The stream, which runs alongside the kitchen garden, drops over a small waterfall at the edge of the herbaceous beds and here, arching over the running water, we find Rosa 'Cecil Brunner', a lovely shell pink rose with a natural arching habit. And completing the picture of a natural rural idyll is the wonderful Rosa 'Paul Smith', magenta pink and hugely floriforous, tumbling in great waves over the herbaceous garden walls onto the driveway.

The roses at Allt-y-bela may have all been chosen and placed with great care, but the effect is a garden that feels very natural.

There are so many beautiful roses here at Allt-y-bela and I really have only named a very few that stand out in my mind when I came to write. It seems that this year is a particularly good one for roses and now is a very good time to enjoy them, especially while we still have this lovely heat!


Words: Steve Lannin, Head Gardener at Allt-y-bela

Photographs: Britt Willoughby-Dyer