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Topiary, low boxwood hedges, lavender, sage, oxeye daisies. Line of pleached crabapples, right. Photo courtesy ArneMaynard.com

NATURE’S TURN: Gardens that welcome the wild

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By Monday, Feb 11, 2019 Farm and Table

February 11 – 24, 2019

Mount Washington — On the first Saturday in February, nearly 400 garden enthusiasts gathered in Stockbridge for Berkshire Botanical Garden’s annual extravaganza to ring in the gardening season. This year’s program, “Winter Lecture with Arne Maynard: The Planted Garden,” was a stunningly illustrated talk by the world-renowned British landscape designer. Among Arne Maynard’s current projects are landscapes in the United Kingdom, Italy and East Hampton, Long Island. He is a prominent lecturer from coast to coast in the States and conducts workshops and courses at his home garden, Allt-y-bela, in Monmouthshire, Wales.

Pear trees trained over hazel arches in the kitchen garden. Photo: Tom Mannion, courtesy gardendesign.com

Arne’s signature landscapes include bold topiaries – sheared shrubs in groups or unique, statuesque specimens or undulating hedges interplanted with masses of soft flowers or flowers growing into grass. His landscape aesthetic is characterized by architectural and horticultural features that convey strength and perseverance juxtaposed with elements that express delicacy and yielding. In his talk, Arne emphasized, “Delicate, not too heavy … A successful garden is one of simplicity, with the repetition of a restrained pallet of plants … Strip the pallet down but take the inspiration from the wild landscape … Restraint gives the garden confidence … Groups, big blocks of plants repeated.”

Arne revealed that he begins each project by looking to the natural environment for grounding and inspiration. He observes the wild plants and insects, listens to the birds and seeks out signs of other wildlife in order to become aware of the place that will be the setting for his garden design. Arne gave us profound insights, affirming and enhancing our awareness of how we proceed when shaping our own and client gardens. Members of the audience nodded in recognition.

Foreground: Salvia, blue sage; left and right: Phlox paniculata, pink phlox; background climber: pink rose. Photo courtesy ArneMaynard.com

Arne’s website concisely describes his approach:

Central to Arne Maynard’s work as a garden designer is his ability to identify and draw out the essence of a place, something that gives his gardens a particular quality of harmony and belonging. He has a holistic approach to design and believes that to succeed, a garden must relate and respond to its surrounding landscape, its history and to the buildings within and around its confines, as well as to the needs of its owners.*

When a native wild plant or bird is detected establishing itself in a garden we have created, Arne says, “Nature is putting its hand back into the garden.” And, said another way, “Nature working with us in the garden, not working with nature.” After discovering a native common spotted orchid (Dachtylorhiza fuchsii) growing in his personal landscape, he could say, “I feel really confident now that I’ve created a garden that sits within the landscape.”

Common spotted orchid Dachtylorhiza fuchsii. Photo: Britt Willoughby Dyer, courtesy ArneMaynard.com

Arne’s garden has welcomed the wild orchid and it appears that the landscape has welcomed his gardens. He has contributed to the life of the pastureland surrounding his personal landscape by increasing its biodiversity. On the other hand, here in the Berkshires, many of us are gardening at the edge of intact native forest, land that is still supporting intact understory, wildflower, wildlife and soil communities. To leave these surroundings undisturbed is to invest in the future of the Earth.

Arne Maynard’s landscapes, as beautiful and serene as they are, in some instances, raise the question of scale. Cultivation, however beautiful, may intrude upon native ecosystems that should be studied and supported by their owners rather than altered. Is it ecologically sound to develop large expanses of land as ornament? There might be a paradox here, but if we listened closely to Arne Maynard, we will make the right decisions.

As I was leaving the event, my friend and former colleague, Dorthe Hviid, director of horticulture at Berkshire Botanical Garden, brightly inquired, “Did you enjoy it?!” “Yes,” I responded, “but Arne’s context is so different.” Smiling, she replied, “It is good to be inspired.”

Foreground: Lavendula angustifolia – lavender; behind: rustic willow cupola trellises support climbing roses; background: yew topiary.
Photo courtesy ArneMaynard.com


Arne Maynard on film – https://vimeo.com/75014297
Arne Maynard portfolio – http://arnemaynard.com/portfolio/gardens/#.XFhm8tmpiRt
Pear tree arches photograph – https://www.gardendesign.com/pictures/arne-maynard-s-rustic-home-in-wales-photo-gallery_56/#8243

Opportunities to participate

Farmers’ market – https://berkshiregrown.org/winter-farmers-market-february-17/

Berkshire Botanical Garden events – https://www.berkshirebotanical.org/events

Free gardening/landscaping workshops https://wardsnursery.com/spring-classes/

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