I spent three days in June on a ‘Planning the Complete Garden’ course run by Arne Maynard at his home, Allt y Bela near Usk in Monmouthshire.
Arne is one of the most talented garden designers in this country, so a real privilege to be able to spend time learning from one of the best at his home, a truly stunning location, it was like being on a film set.
Day one was at Allt y Bela, learning about the development of the garden. Formal and informal elements working together and harmonising with the surrounding landscape. Different areas creating different feels but working in harmony with each other.
We walked around the garden, starting with the hazel walkway and woodland out into cut grass and meadow just above a newly created earth sculpture which acts as an amphitheatre. The lovely weather enabled us to make good use of this space, eating and having discussions, one of many abiding memories of the three days.
Walking down towards the house more formal elements appeared, with groupings of beech and yew topiary. Moving around the house we walked through a copper beech maze set on a small earth mound. This lead us to the back garden, which included a criss cross box garden, grass bank and meadow, kitchen garden, planting borders and a walk through a meadow and over a stream.
At the end of day one Arne took us on a walk up to the top of one of the surrounding hills which provided excellent views especially of the house and its setting.
Day two was spent visiting two gardens, the historic Cothay Manor near Wellington in Somerset and a nearby private garden designed by Arne.
Cothay Manor has a wonderful garden, being beautifully restored and looked after by the Robb family. A romantic garden with different rooms, lots of focal points and great plant combinations. Following a walk around the garden a tour of the house was arranged with lunch, a magical experience.
Next was a trip to a private garden designed by Arne near Honiton in Devon. A contemporary garden in a rural location. Packed with Arne’s trade mark of anchoring formal elements in informal settings. I particularly liked the contemporary orchard, with beech squares surrounding the plum trees. Beautiful planting combinations demonstrated why less is more when it comes to selecting a colour palette.
The quality in both planting and hard landscaping was clearly evident, along with attention to detail as demonstrated with the planting by the water tap in the kitchen garden.
The final day was back at Allt y Bela, and an opportunity to hear about previous projects that Arne has worked on as well as future developments at Allt y Bela. Proving that gardens are organic, ever evolving and providing ample opportunities to try new things.
A very inspirational and motivational three days. Lots of ideas to take forward!