Arne's journal

Gordon Castle Walled Garden

My very first gardening experiences were in a kitchen garden. I followed my grandfather as he tended to his vegetable beds and fruit frames, enjoying the feeling of being helpful. Kitchen gardens have always been an important feature in my garden designs. They link the house and the garden beautifully, giving the ornamental areas a productive, beating heart. Perhaps what I like most about kitchen gardens though is that they require skill and patience in equal measure and above all, they need to be actively gardened.

It was with some excitement then that I agreed to meet Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox back in 2010 to discuss their ambitious plans to restore the eight-acre walled garden at Gordon Castle in Moray, North East Scotland. The garden had once supplied all the fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers for the house and we immediately starting talking about ideas for how we could plan a garden to provide year-round fresh seasonal produce for an on-site restaurant, farm shop and a range of Gordon Castle products. First plans were drafted in 2011 and we signed off the masterplan five years ago in 2014.

As with all my clients, we worked collaboratively with Angus and Zara on the plans for the garden, incorporating their ideas and ensuring that each area worked individually and as part of the whole. The site was a blank canvas except for the incredible collection of original espaliered fruit trees lining the walls, and the original glass houses, potting sheds and boiler houses. All the fruit trees have been lovingly tended throughout the garden's life so these of course remain a key feature. The buildings were incorporated into the new design but everything else has been designed and built from scratch.

Rather than recreate the garden as it would have originally laid out, we wanted to bring it all up to date, using the space to draw people around, giving them ideas for their own gardens and providing lots of year-round interest and produce. We agreed that patternation was really important for bringing the different parts of the garden together and so we started with a list of essential elements, such as the cut flower borders and the lavender ribbons, and worked on repeating patterns throughout the design. The main thing we've done to bring this garden up to date and give it a much more contemporary feel is to move away from the traditional four bed scheme and create lots of smaller sections with specific roles within the whole design. We kept the border dimensions that run from Garden Cottage but have completely re-designed the rest of the space. The patterns give it a cohesive feel and bring it all together but each sub-garden works well in its own right.

This garden is the centrepiece of a long-term plan to breathe new life into Gordon Castle. Angus and Zara have worked incredibly hard to sympathetically restore the castle and were committed to doing the same for the garden from the outset. The masterplan was always intended to be a guide for Angus and Zara to use to build the garden gradually, naturally over time. They were keen to involve the local community in its restoration and local volunteers have always been key members of the garden team there. 

What I loved about this project was that the design was completely dependent on plants. Apart from the paths and the plant and tree supports, there is very little hard landscaping. Instead we have used fun planted structures, including a mown maze and raised wildflower pollinator ribbons, to draw people around the garden and ensure there is interest across the whole site.

What has been truly special about this project is that from the very beginning both Angus and Zara have been completely committed to it, physically involved in double digging, removing rubble and stones, planting, weeding, harvesting. They have been incredibly hands on, working hard to create a beautiful garden they can be very proud of. We're enjoying seeing our design slowly emerge and it's wonderful to be able to view it from above to see how the vision is becoming a reality.

Words: Arne Maynard

Photographs: Courtesy of Gordon Castle Walled Garden


Gordon Castle Walled Garden is open to visitors year-round. Find out more about the garden, its on-site restaurant and garden shop here.

For information about Gordon Castle's exclusive range of products, visit the Gordon Castle Scotland website here.



The Ever Evolving Garden

This year I feel very fortunate to have been asked to speak at several UK and USA based horticultural events and conferences. I thoroughly enjoy sharing my love of plants and my approach to garden design with new audiences and particularly like speaking to people after the talk about their own garden plans and love of gardens.

Recently, I spoke at the Perennial Plant Conference in Pennsylvania, USA, held in the wonderful surroundings of the Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College. My lecture, entitled The Ever Evolving Garden, was based on my garden Allt y bela. I wanted to show the process of the garden's evolution from scrubland to cultivated garden and share some of my dreams for Allt y bela in the future.

The talk explored how different parts of the garden have evolved to offer seasonal interest and year-round joy. The woodland, the bejewelled meadows, the enclosed garden that is my 'curiosity cabinet of plants', as well as the kitchen garden and cottage garden borders, are all continually honed and adapted to accommodate new passions and discoveries of plants that are new to me.

I find that speaking to audiences about my ideas and approaches to design helps me to organise my thoughts and appreciate the progress that we have made over time. I was thrilled to be able to show some of the early shots of the garden at Allt y bela in this lecture and realise how far we have come since taking the house on over 10 year ago.

The slide show I used in the talk is given here as a short film. Unfortunately there is no commentary with the slides, but the plants I mentioned are named throughout.


The Perennial Plant Conference is an annual event for both professionals and keen amateurs that takes place at the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College. It is organised by The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Longwood Gardens, The Hardy Plant Society (Mid-Atlantic Group), Chanticleer and The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College. 

COMING UP: Arne will be speaking at New York Botanical Garden in February 2018. Tickets are available now via NYBG website here.


Formality & Informality

Earlier this year I was asked by Peter Lyden, President of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA) in the USA to give a lecture for its members in New York. Peter wanted me to talk about how I go about designing gardens - the elements I choose and the reasons for their use in particular designs.

My garden designs are contradictions and play with the balance between formality and informality. I deliberately juxtapose the clipped and the unclipped, the tame and the untame to create gardens that have year-round interest and which my clients feel comfortable in. It is the combination of these two principles that yields gardens full of romantic, atmospheric and informal planting, and which have a longevity that comes from the enduring strength of a formal structure.

The lecture, which was co-hosted by Architectural Digest magazine, took place in the ICAA Library in central New York City in mid September.

For more information about the ICAA, visit the website here.

A book and a meadow


You can view a full gallery of images by clicking here.

When we finally decided on the cover for my new book, The Gardens of Arne Maynard, we chose an image of the meadow with beech topiary at Haddon Hall because it seemed to capture the essence of what I try to achieve in gardens. When it came to planning the launch of the book, I wanted there to be something of this atmosphere at the party as well, in fact a meadow of some sort and topiary too!  

So a 'meadow' was conjured to hang upside down in the glass roof of a London mews studio that we were so kindly loaned by my friend and client.  It was a meadow of grasses from Wales (19,000 individually hand cut grasses that is), peppered with angelica and meadowsweet from Allt-y-bela and wonderful dahlias, asters, Echinacea purpurea and fennel from Shropshire (with thanks to Tammy Hall from

We worked with the remarkable artist Rebecca Louise Law, whose brilliant floral installation I had seen at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. She interpreted my vision for this event in a way that surprised and delighted me and the effect was of a hanging meadow, dipping and soaring in drifts around the roof space and then swooping dramatically down at one end nearly touching the floor. The flowers flowed through the grasses in groups of colour and type that merged or were held apart, (like the asters at the centre), adding a sense of rhythm and surprise as you walked beneath, gazing upwards, seeing the full head of the flowers as we rarely can in a border. 

Whilst Rebecca calmly hung one bunch or flower stalk at a time, her team and mine curled copper wire around the thousands of grasses and flowers, and positioned topiary in vast geometric oak planters made by the craftsmen on the Haddon Hall estate. By the time Lottie Muir arrived to set up her bar, serving 'botanical cocktails', and friends and colleagues arrived to celebrate, the atmosphere was a very good one indeed.

This book evolved over three years, and to finally see it in print has been a real thrill. It is now two months since its publication by Hugh Merrell in the UK and I have been overwhelmed by the reception it has received. Wonderful reviews have appeared and I have been humbled by the comments I have had from clients and from those who have bought and enjoyed it.

Since the UK launch I have given talks in LA and San Francisco to help introduce the book to readers in the States and have further lectures planned at the beautiful Marders Nursery in East Hampton over the Thanksgiving weekend this month.

I am so delighted that readers are enjoying the book and want to thank everyone for their continued support. I hope you enjoy these photographs taken at our UK book launch in September, and as the nights draw in, dream a little and remember the delight of a real meadow, or one created for one special night in the city. 

To view a full gallery of images from this event, please click here.

Words: Arne Maynard

Photographs: Britt Willoughby Dyer

To order a signed copy of Arne's book, gift-wrapped with a limited edition bookmark, visit our book page here.

It is also available via a number of independent and online bookshops including:

Potterton Books, Chelsea (where Arne will be signing books on 1 December from 6.30pm)

John Sandoe Books, Chelsea

Heywood Hill bookshop, Mayfair

Daunt Books, London

Hatchards, Picadilly

Topping and Company Books, Bath, Ely and St. Andrews

Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, Bath

The Art Shop, Abergavenny

Hauser & Wirth, Somerset

RHS Wisley shop, Surrey

RHS Harlow Carr shop, Harrogate

Waterstones, nationwide

W H Smith, nationwide

Blackwell's, nationwide

Wordery, online

The Book People, online

The Book Depository, online


And it can be purchased via Amazon in the UK and USA.







Inspired by Allt-y-bela


In July, earlier this year, award-winning writer Helena Attlee and Emma Beynon led their second 'writing workshop' here in the garden at Allt-y-bela. With playful exercises that stretched our minds, and 'free writing' to overcome inhibitions, they encouraged the group to write closely observed, precise responses to the garden and its surrounding landscape.

We are so pleased they are offering a second workshop, on 26th September and it seems apt in the week that Arne's new book is published to be encouraging bookings.

If you write, or want to write, in a personal or professional way, it is a great treat to spend a day with two such inspiring and stimulating writers, who both have such a true gift for teaching.

Below are a couple of short pieces written at the last writing workshop. The first is a response I wrote to the courtyard at Allt-y-bela, an area of the garden I know very well. It was a joy to sit amongst the topiary and coolness of the courtyard, focused on articulating my feelings towards the space and the collection of plants it is home to.

Thanks very much to Ardyn Griffin for the second, which followed a discussion about an extract from A Shepherds Life by James Rebanks. It is specifically an exploration of the notion of 'heft', a word that describes a special attachment or belonging to a particular piece of land. It is used in the north of England to describe a pasture to which a flock of sheep specifically belongs. It's a moving idea to explore; the place, the land, the earth to which you feel hefted.

For more details about the course and to book a place:

Words: Kristy Ramage

Photographs: Emma Benyon and Kristy Ramage


In The Courtyard at Allt-y-bela

Tamed, trammeled, fruit rich limbs hold in, protect and tip touch the pumpkin crust.

Banding plinth of zip tongued stone flows over earth, past pounded by iron arch and hoof.

Rounded boxy children cluster, playful, up and down, infiltrated by foxy cinnamon spires, a slight unease, relieved by the Turk's Cap lily, adorned with golden gems.

Pure brilliance, centre stage.

Kristy Ramage



The top of the garden is warm, sheltered from the wind, quiet.

The welcome, the relief.

The grubby disarray. With the plants I am absorbed,  'This has germinated, this has wilted, this needs another pot, is this a weed?'

The dog grumps for she is against gardening, she will flop and sleep.

This is her home, the smells, places to lie, she has absorbed into her life's patterns.

Now the chickens have found us, they circle, they chatter, they demand.

They alarm the dog.

The peacock arrives, he finds a flower, he eats it. He is not really a garden friend.

Ardyn Griffin