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…
…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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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