Garden Inspiration: Arne Maynard

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RENOWNED BRITISH GARDEN DESIGNER ARNE MAYNARD started his 2-hour talk Saturday morning at Marder’s Nursery in Bridgehampton, which I attended in hopes of picking up a few tips for my own Long Island half-acre, by saying that gardens must have a sense of place — that “a garden needs to belong to its setting, environment, architecture, history.” That’s accomplished primarily by using elements of the natural landscape, in order that a garden not look “like it could be anywhere.”

Top: Haddon Hall in Darbyshire

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Of course, Maynard’s sense of history is a lot longer than mine. His favorite period is the 1400s-1700s; his favorite architectural style is Elizabethan. His work often surrounds 500-year-old manor houses owned either by the National Trust or celebrities like James Dyson of vacuum cleaner fame and Tricia Guild, the interior and textile designer (that’s her Oxfordshire home, Appleton Manor, built in 1174 with additions as recently as the 1920s in the four photos above). So it was surprising that, in fact, I did come away from the lecture with — if not ‘tips’ — a great deal of inspiration, and even some consolation.

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Maynard is charming and down-to-earth, describing one property in its ‘before’ stage, with a bright green lawn and red roses, as looking like “a biscuit tin,” and admitting that when he first saw a modern sculpture he was expected to incorporate into his design, his reaction was “What on earth am I going to do with that?” (It turned out to be a beautiful addition to a lavender-filled gravel courtyard, third photo from top.)

Arne Maynard Series - The Mill House (15th June 2010)

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Maynard loves “shadows of the past on the landscape,” leaving in place such things as agricultural furrows that have been worn into the earth. He creates walkways by “watching where people walk” and isn’t above the quick fix, like planting lavender in places where existing concrete is broken, instead of repairing the concrete. He’s a proponent of the undulating yew or box hedge, sculpted with chainsaws (they look like hell at first, he says), and believes that even architectural mismatches like the ornate iron gates installed by the previous owner of an old stone water mill “are part of its history now.” (That made me feel better about the French doors on my modernist house.)

Arne Maynard Series - The Mill House (15th June 2010)

He “spent two years taking out the wrong things” at one job site before planting anything at all, and admits he “created a monster” of high-maintenance borders and knot gardens at his own first home in Lincolnshire. His current residence, in Wales, below, is much simpler, though he did plant a few narcissi (60,000) and snowdrops (40,000) to make the garden “feel it’s been there forever.”

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Toward the end of Maynard’s presentation, he showed renderings for the project that brought him here: a brand new oceanfront mansion, currently under construction. It couldn’t be more different from his steeped-in-history UK projects, and made me wonder if it was the novelty or the payday that drew him to the East End of Long Island (which he’d never visited before and which he was pleasantly surprised to discover was “not all delicatessens”). The house is humongous and ersatz, and I hope Maynard’s plantings of beech, boxwood cloud hedging, fruit trees, cultivated native grasses, bayberries and sea lavender will be dense, and that they, along with the creeping thyme in the crushed-shell paths, provide a much-needed, though artificially imposed, sense of place.

Photos: arnemaynard.com

Fall Planting to Foil the Deer

IMG_4194THERE’S A GROUP OF FOUR — two does and two yearlings — that lives here, too. And they seem to feel my garden is their pantry. When I was kneeling out there today, putting in some of the supposedly deer-resistant perennials I just bought, I looked up to see a lithe brown creature eyeing me as if to say, “Planting something tasty? I’ll check it out later.”

These Hamptons deer, pressed as they are for grazing space, have been having a picnic here these last few weeks, chowing down on begonia, astilbe, caladium, cranesbill geranium, Japanese anemone and other things generally considered deer-resistant, reducing them to sticks. I haven’t been quick enough on the trigger — the pump on my bottle of “Deer Out,” that is. Anyway, it’s not very effective.

Yes, yes, I’ll get a deer fence in due course. Meanwhile, it’s fall, the nursery sales are on, and I’m determined to outwit the deer by planting only things they find absolutely inedible. There are a few.

I’ve been to three area nurseries: chic Marder’s in Bridgehampton, pedestrian Agway, and old-school Hren in East Hampton. At discounts from 30% to 75%, I bought the following, which my experience over the past year tells me should be OK (along with careful reading of labels and asking questions, though I’ve learned not to wholly trust the labels or the answers). The reason there’s only one or two of some things in the list below is because that’s all they had left — I would gladly have bought more at these prices.

I’m working the variations on things I’ve already got that have survived, with emphasis on colored and variegated foliage.

  • 3 Salvia ‘May Night’ – deer-proof stalwarts, easier to grow than lavender
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  • 2 Buxus sempervirens ‘Auero-Variegata’ – boxwoods edged in yellow – tiny now, 8′ at maturity
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  • 1 Berberis thunbergii – ‘Rose Glow’ Japanese barberry
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  • 2 Lonicera nitida ‘Lemon Beauty’ – never heard of these before – another variegated shrub that will eventually be 3-6′ tall
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  • 2 Pleioblastus viridistriat – dwarf bamboo – more yellow
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  • 1 feather reed grass
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  • 1 Ligularia dentata ‘Othello’ – my 4th type of ligularia – the slugs go for them, but the deer don’t
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  • 1 Stachys ‘Silver Carpet’ – lamb’s ear – a narrow-leafed variety I don’t have
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  • 1 Brunnera macrophylla – chartreuse heart-shaped leaves
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  • 1 Euphorbia ‘Glacier Blue’ spurge – blue-gray and Mediterranean-looking
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  • 1 Itea virginica ‘Sprich’ aka Sweetspire ‘Little Henry’
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  • 2 Bergenia cordifolia  – edging plant with glossy, red-rimmed leaves in fall
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I spent this first day of the Jewish new year in the garden instead of the synagogue. I worked from morning ’til night putting new plants in, moving others around, weeding as I went along, and finally spreading five bags of compost and mulch (no – finally taking Advil). More than once, I thought of something I read long ago in a gardening magazine. An elderly woman was asked the secret of her beautiful garden. She replied: “Work like mad in spring and fall, and you’ve got it made.”

I Dig

I ALWAYS THOUGHT B&B stood for bed and breakfast. Now I know it means balled and burlapped.

Plants sold in plastic containers are a cinch to plant – you dig a hole and pop them in. Bigger trees and shrubs are B&B’d, like the two hefty mountain laurels I planted this afternoon. They’re heavy mothers.

Oh, my aching back.

Yesterday I went to Marder’s in Bridgehampton, an old-fashioned, full-service nursery where they really help you, to see what they had on sale. I was shopping on the principle that you should choose plants to suit your conditions, not frustrate yourself trying to grow what isn’t natural (and get 60% off if possible).

I went armed with a list of deer-resistant, shade-tolerant, acid-soil-loving shrubs to begin creating a ‘mixed hedge’ along the road (as opposed to the solid, all-one-kind, evergreen wall that is synonymous with the Hamptons). There’s an area about 20’x60′ along the road that is now cleared, thanks to my daughter Zoë, of most saplings and undergrowth (there’s still plenty of wisteria vine, pulled up out of the ground and coiled for later removal and ‘treatment’ — that is, poisoning [heh heh]

On my wish list was:

  • skimmia
  • clethera
  • kerria japonica
  • mountain laurel
  • mahonia
  • American holly

Not the most exciting stuff, but better to have un-showy flowers, I figure, than no flowers at all, because they don’t get enough sun or the deer have eaten them.

Marder’s was out of most things on my list, but I ended up buying eight plants:

  • 1 pee gee hydrangea
  • 2 osmanthus (purple false holly)
  • 3 sarcococca (sweet box)
  • 2 mountain laurels

They were delivered this afternoon. I had the delivery guy set the mountain laurels — only about 3 feet high but the root ball makes them monstrously heavy — near where I wanted to plant them. Once they were out there, right by the road, I realized I needed to plant them right away or risk their being stolen. (Call me paranoid, but this happened in Brooklyn once with two brand-new Alberta spruce; they lasted about 20 minutes on the front stoop.)

I had decided not to spring for planting services like last week, when I had a doublefile viburnum planted by the nursery and felt like a princess. Having watched the technique, I wanted to give it a try and save the bucks (planting often costs as much as the plant). It would have been easier with another person, but my daughter had gone off to the Yankee game.

Each of the two shrubs took an hour to plant: digging the hole with two different shovels; wrestling the plant into the hole, then out again and digging deeper, then in again; cutting the rope and burlap away and pulling it out from underneath; re-filling the hole with dirt (by now I was on my knees and using my gloved hands to push the dirt back in; I’d had it with the shovel); making a moat around it to hold water, much like building a sand castle at the beach, but muddier; and finally watering by hand.

I know I should have made the holes twice as wide as the plant (there’s that garden guilt again), but 1-1/2 times was the best I could manage.