Inspirational UK Gardens : Allt-y-bela Gardens

Allt-y-Bela garden, Wales
Detail from Allt-y-Bela Garden, Monmouthshire Wales

 

Meandering up the long narrow lane, the first hint that something very special lies ahead are slender exotic tulips that begin to pepper the grassy verges among the wild flowers. Next, topiary sentinels seem to appear out of nowhere…

Allt-y-Bela Garden, Wales
Exotic tulips & topiary sentinels greet new arrivals at Allt-y-Bela Gardens

 

…And then you see it – standing alone and encompassed only by nature – the bold beauty of the ochre-coloured, 16th century farmhouse complete with Renaissance tower and bell (still in use) and matching outbuildings – this is Allt-y-Bela!  Inspirational gardens and grounds surround Allt-y-Bela.  As one strays further from the house, the gardens blend magically into the rural Welsh landscape of streams, woodlands and green undulating hills. Idyllic indeed – no surprise then that Allt-y-bela is the home of garden designer Arne Maynard and his partner William Collinson. A passionate gardener himself, Arne has designed and landscaped these splendid grounds around the beautifully and faithfully restored medieval tower house.

The first glimpse of Allt-y-Bela showing the Renaissance Tower
The first glimpse of Allt-y-Bela from the lane-way showing the Renaissance Tower

 

Approaching the entrance and front of the house, a splendid vista awaits – glorious lilac wisteria in full bloom and a fine sweep of espaliered fruit trees (espaliered on hazel). They frame a beautiful walled garden full of spring flowering bulbs and topiary. This being late April, the fruit trees are a mass of white blossom and alive with the drone of buzzing bees and other pollinators. On the other side of the espaliered frame, topiary box globes are planted with tulips & Pasque flowers, creating a myriad of greens interspersed with splashes of colour.

Espaliered Fruit Trees frame the front garden at Allt-y-Bela
Espaliered Fruit Trees frame the front garden
Allt-y-Bela Gardens
Sensitive colour choices have a dramatically pleasing effect and are much in evidence throughout the gardens
Lilac Wisteria in full bloom
Lilac wisteria drapes gracefully, wonderfully enhanced with pots of flowering spring bulbs
topiary box globes and tulips
Inside the front garden looking out – many shades & shapes of green with added colour from tulips and Pasque flowers

 

As you move further away from the house, the gardens become less formal and embrace the natural contours of the wider rural landscape. Crossing the stream, we see sweeping curves of the front lawns, which have been terraced to mirror the meandering of the river to dramatic effect. The scene is punctuated with the occasional dark green of yew topiary while the pair of mature trees on the hilltop provide an imposing but natural vertical dimension.

The terraced front lawns at Allt-y-bela
The terraced front lawns at Allt-y-bela

 

Similarly, the serpentine steps leading from the river crossing, guide the eye with the help of a strategically placed topiary globe to the boundary gate beyond.  And so, into the surrounding rural landscape and its endless possibilities.

A topiary yew globe adds a hint of formal punctuation while training the eye to the gateway beyond.
A yew globe adds a hint of formal punctuation while training the eye to the elusive gateway beyond.

 

Moving on to the back of the house, the lawn appears to mirror the contours of the landscape. The vertical dimension is provided by extensive topiary planting. In the sunlight, the contrast of the greens (lawns, yews and buxus) against the ochre limewash of the house is breathtaking. The structured nature of this lawned and topiaried garden set against the informal backdrop of the woodland trees in the distance achieves a soothing balance of nature versus structure.

The lawned gardens to the rear of Allt-y-Bela
The lawned gardens to the rear of Allt-y-Bela with the woodlands beyond

 

The edges of the manicured lawns give way to wild meadow plantings, interspersed with snake’s head fritillaries and tulips. Look carefully as you stroll and you will discover lovely surprises along the way to delight and enchant.

Tulips in the wild meadow gardens - a common sight at Allt-y-Bel
Tulips in the wild meadow gardens – a delightful sight at Allt-y-Bela

 

We move on to the kitchen gardens, bordered with hazel hurdles. Within, raised wooden beds are full of tulips and vegetables. Espaliered fruit trees are trained low to provide a unique living frame – as well as honouring their day job of producing fruit. The tulips provide a constant supply of fresh cut flowers for the house and the organic vegetables & fruit are harvested for the kitchen. Willow acts as a natural frame for an assortment of climbers.  And beautiful touches of detail enhance the scene – such as a pot brimming with exquisite tulips here or a bank to sit down on there.

Kitchen Garden at Allt-y-Bela
Kitchen Garden at Allt-y-Bela – hazel hurdles, the first asparagus and an abundance of tulips
Low growing espaliered fruit trees form a living frame
Functional Elegance – Low growing, espaliered fruit trees form a living frame for the enclosed vegetables as well as producing fruit

 

Throughout the gardens, there are many charming seating areas. Places to reflect on the stunning scenery, listen to the sounds of the birds and the bees or watch the butterflies. Occasionally, the sound of the bell in the tower chimes.

Allt-y-Bela Gardens
Seating area at the front of the house, gets the afternoon sun
Allt-y-Bela Gardens
Simple bench against a hurdle fence facing a pair of pear trees trained to form a living arch
Allt-y-Bela Gardens
In the company of tulips & violas, sheltered by a topiary globe, a garden bench invites you to sit & enjoy the evening sun

 

There are so many remarkable aspects of the gardens at Allt-y-bela. One particular stand-out feature is the use of topiary, especially the large topiary domes. These are mainly yew but there are also several deciduous examples using beech. These stately shapes are grouped together or stand alone, punctuating a particular view or accentuating a garden highlight.

Yew Topiary Obelisks in the gardnes of Allt-y-Bela
Stately Yew Topiary Domes in the gardens of Allt-y-bela
Topiary Yew Obelisks
Topiary planting adds a soft yet structured extension to a beautiful outbuilding

 

On first seeing these gardens, one is immediately captivated by the big picture panoramic. Look more closely and you discover all the smaller scale scenarios, each one carefully orchestrated with incredible attention to detail.

 

Allt-y-bela: new and exquisite details constantly catch and delight the eye
Auriculas in simple terracotta pots adorn the ancient water trough.
The gardens at Allt-y-bela
Woven willow keeps the tulips, grape hyacinths and violas upright while an ornate stone urn requires no flowers to catch the eye

 

It is difficult to capture the essence of Allt-y-bela in words but we have tried to do it justice here. Not least, agonising over which pictures to show you as they are all stunning. While these are private gardens and not open to the public, it is possible to stay at Allt-y-Bela on a B&B basis. Arne and William have two beautiful rooms available for guests. Allt-y-bela is every bit as exquisite indoors as it is outdoors – but that story is perhaps for another time.

Full details can be found on the website:

For enquiries about garden design and / or garden workshops visit www.arnemaynard.com

A new variety of dark hyacinths with dark purple violas
A new variety of dark hyacinths paired beautifully with delicate, dark purple violas
Allt-y-bela
Allt-y-bela’s enchanting pathway from the kitchen garden back to the front of the house with the sweeping lawns in the distance