Arne Maynard’s gardens are those which garden magazine editors dream about and, indeed, they are gardens we could all dream about with the greatest of enjoyment. They are those gardens which adorn the romantic and historic houses of old England, the quintessentially English gardens of good frameworks, excellent workmanship, rich planting and conscientious maintenance.
That his gardens are such comes as no surprise when one reads of his gardening heroes, those who have inspired him in his likes, passions and style as a very successful garden designer: William Kent, Harold Peto, Lady Salisbury and Lady Arabella Lennox Boyd. Lady Salisbury’s garden, Cranborne Manor, and Rousham House (designed by William Kent) are where he returns again and again for grounding and inspiration.
His introductory chapter to his recently published book, “The Gardens of Arne Maynard”, provides one of the most concise and insightful views into the mind of a garden designer I have read and it is sprinkled with gems of distilled wisdom and experience which could be carved in stone and prominently displayed in horticultural colleges worldwide or inscribed in the notebooks of all enthusiastic gardeners.
Among the gems I especially liked the following: “The structure of the garden has to hold hands with the environment, respecting the architecture of the house and the setting, the climate and the culture” and “The visible love for the art of gardening is what sets really great gardens apart. For a garden to thrive, it requires consistent, dedicated maintenance” and, finally, the concise summary of his approach to his work, “I design gardens that are intended to be gardened”.
Despite this last comment we can also recall that his two gardens designed for the Chelsea Flower Show, with Piet Oudolf in 2000 and his 2012 Laurent Perrier Garden were both awarded Gold Medals and all the gardens shown in this book are of that standard, delights of excellent design, wonderful traditional workmanship and, above all, beauty.
The book presents twelve gardens, two of which are the authors former and present gardens, interspersed with six chapters, entitled “Essentials” on gardening topics: Roses, Kitchen Gardens, Borders, Topiary, Craftsmanship and Pleached, Pollarded and Trained.
The gardens will be unfamiliar to the general reader as they are private gardens so listing them by name would be of no benefit. It is easier and simpler to say that they are each an example of marvellous design, inspired planting and purely a joy to see. And, seeing them is a joy as they are shown so fabulously well to us in this book with photography that is quite extraordinarily good and lavishly presented, often in full page shots but also double page spreads and even two three page (foldout) panoramic views. It really is a wonderfully produced book with illustration and text of the highest standard. All is left to the reader is to enjoy and dream and what dreams these gardens make!
One amusing tale from the book: Rousham House was one of the author’s major influences and inspirations and he recalls being in that garden on many occasions, a garden of strength and simplicity, and realising how magnificently well it was designed. To illustrate he informs the reader that there are no directional signs in the garden, nothing to tell you go this way or that, yet he has watched in admiration and amazement at how the many thousands who visit the garden invariably wander the garden in the same sequence – because it was designed to lead the visitor around in that particular sequence. It truly was a work of genius – read the book to be entertained, inspired and awed by the beauty of Arne Maynard’s gardens, a garden design genius of today.
[The Gardens of Arne Maynard, Arne Maynard with photographs from William Collinson, Merrell Publishers, London, 2015, Hardback, 304 pages, 30.5 X 25cm, 250 colour illustrations, £45, ISBN: 978-1-8589-4626-9]