Topiary and Corten steel in a small north London garden by Arne Maynard
Designer Arne Maynard has employed a mix of Corten steel and his trademark topiary to transform a small north London garden. Words Jodie Jones, photographs Richard Bloom
Exquisitely clipped topiary pieces, espaliered fruit trees and well-judged, ornamental planting are vintage Arne Maynard. Yet at the heart of his design for Michael and Susan’s north London garden are a series of raised beds for biodynamic vegetables.
Susan is a half Japanese homoeopath with a passion for kitchen gardening and Michael is a native north Londoner. The brief the couple gave to Arne was a short film of the American children’s author and illustrator Tasha Tudor in her Vermont cottage garden. It is hard to imagine a more potent mix of cultural influences, and it has resulted in an exceptional garden. The overall impression is of a crisply
contemporary city space that complements a radical interior redesign.
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In 2015 the couple moved from central London to an Arts and Crafts-style house at the northerly end of the London Underground network, in a quiet street close to the one where Michael grew up. “We wanted a family home for our daughter,” says Michael. “I was comfortable managing the construction side of the job, but I didn’t know where to start with the garden. In fact, we didn’t realise just how important the view of the garden would be until we removed the back of the house and replaced it with a glass-sided extension.” By the time Arne first visited the house, the interior had been scooped out and finished in a minimalist style that made the garden the main decorative element of the family living space. “I could immediately see its potential,” he says. “Every garden I create is a reflection of the place, the house and the people, and this was no different.
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“Because of the large rear windows, this is an inside-outside garden. The house has black brick fireplaces, so we used the same brick out on the terrace. We needed raised beds for vegetables, but oak would have been too rustic so we made them from Corten steel, although they are lined in oak according to biodynamic principles, so the soil doesn’t come into contact with metal. Overall, the garden needed enough structure to hold its own throughout the year, while the softer planted elements ebb and flow to mark the passing of the seasons.”
The water feature is made of Corten steel, with a design based on an agricultural water trough, that echoes the raised vegetable beds. Water falls from a lead spout within an oak pillar, producing a gentle splashing sound that contributes to the tranquillity of the garden, while the solidity of the tank acts as a visual foil to the tulips in front of it.
Ornamental planting is layered up seasonally, with a carefully orchestrated tapestry of tulips and other bulbs in spring
Cloud-pruned yew hedges near the house provide a link between the informal hornbeam hedges at the rear of the garden, and the more formal topiary pieces throughout. The golden colour of the beech topiaries has a similar tone to the Corten steel beds and creates a warm colour palette for the seasonal planting.
Skilled gardeners maintain the garden. The espaliered Pyrus communis ‘Doyenné du Comice’ stilt hedges, individual topiary pieces and cloud-pruned hedge all require knowledgeable maintenance to keep them
looking this good. “I design gardens that are intended to be gardened,” says Arne.
Although the garden is only 33m long, Arne has created several distinctive areas, including an informal meadow at the far end, and the asymmetrically placed raised beds, surrounding beds of soft planting, create several winding paths through the garden, lengthening the journey and making the garden seem larger than it is. Symmetrical rows of formally trained pleached ’Doyenné du Comice’ pears add some vertical structure and much needed privacy, while also adding a sense of enclosure – similar to the feeling of a walled garden.
Top tulips from the garden
Tulipa ‘Mount Tacoma’
An old cultivar with long-lasting, peony-like, creamy white flowers that open from pink and green buds. May. 45cm.
Tulipa ‘Foxy Foxtrot’
A tulip that starts off lemon yellow before darkening to shades of marmalade orange and peach. April. 40cm.
Each rich yellow petal of this cultivar is edged with the finest line of vivid red and flecked with green. The name is Japanese and translates, fittingly, as daybreak. April to May. 50cm.
Tulipa ‘Apricot Beauty’
The blooms are a soft salmon pink flushed, as the name suggests, with a touch of warm apricot. Has a light but attractive scent. April. 45cm.
Tulipa ‘Spring Green’
An attractive, soft white and green, cottage-garden favourite. It is reliably perennial. April to May. 45cm. AGM*. RHS H6, USDA 3a-8b.
Tulipa ‘Ice Age’
A frilly, flouncy, double cultivar in rich cream with a touch of green on the outer petals. April to May. 50cm.
Another white cultivar that stands out for its flashes of fresh green, but the pointed petals of lily-flowered ‘Greenstar’ arch elegantly out from the centre. April to May. 45cm. RHS H6, USDA 3a-8b.
Tulipa ‘Apricot Foxx’
Soft pink-flushed apricot tulip that will intensify in colour following periods of cold weather. April. 45cm.
An elegant and sculptured fluted tulip with raspberry-pink stripes along its orange petals that are yellow inside. April to May. 50cm.
Tulipa ‘Golden Artist’
An attractive cultivar with golden orange petals feathered with green. This is a sport of the 1959 cultivar ‘Artist’. May. 45cm.
Tulipa ‘Paul Scherer’
As dark and rich as ‘Queen of Night’, but with a more cuboid flowerhead held atop a taller stem. April. 50cm. AGM. RHS H6, USDA 3a-8b.
Tulipa ‘Silk Road’
The large, double flowers appear in a soft palette of colours from fresh cream, through raspberry ripple to rich pink. April. 45cm.
Tulipa ‘Brown Sugar’
Similar in appearance to ‘Apricot Foxx’, but taller and slightly darker with a delicious sweet scent that is reflected in its name. May. 55cm.
Tulipa ‘China Town’
The sugary pink petals of this Viridiflora tulip are flecked with green and apricot, making a nice contrast with the cream-edged variegated foliage. April to May. 30cm. AGM. RHS H6, USDA 3a-8b.
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