You'd be hard pressed to find a book as different from "Oudolf Hummelo" as "The Gardens of Arne Maynard." Given that I deeply appreciate the work of both men, I should have a much more chaotic garden than I do. I confine my Oudolf worship to trips to Lurie Garden in Chicago and my Arne adoration to drowning in the pages of his book while sipping tea and sitting by the fire. I bought both of these books the minute they were published, unable to wait to see if they appeared under my Christmas tree. But they would make perfect presents for the gardeners on your list.
Unlike "Oudolf Hummelo," this is a big book: 10" x 12" and an inch and a quarter thick. It's got glossy photos, double-page spreads and even tri-fold images. The photography is the work of Maynard's life partner, William Collinson, and captures the history of his work, especially at their two personal gardens. The book also has the most beautiful endpapers I've seen in years: elegant black and white drawings of Fritillaries by Jane Hyslop. The book covers twelve gardens in great depth with both text and images. Only two are outside the UK: one in East Hampton, Long Island in the U.S. and the other in Italy. I found them well-thought-out-and-designed but less interesting than Maynard's gardens in the UK.
With a big, coffee table style book like this one on Maynard's gardens, I often just revel in the images, read the cutlines and dip briefly into the text here and there. The minute I started reading this, I couldn't stop. Not only are there fascinating lessons about how Arne looks at existing landscapes and then discerns what to save and where to start afresh, it is a beautifully written book. Intelligent, evocative and highly personal — at least in terms of the subject at hand. The long pieces on specific gardens are divided with shorter sections that look at the things that Maynard considers "essential" to his gardens: Roses, Topiary, Kitchen Gardens (below) to name a few. These short pieces are about 6 pages long and heavy on examples.
I was very taken with most of Maynard's gardens for clients and his discussions with them about appropriate solutions. He also mentioned differences in working in the UK and the U.S., in particular, our lack of the kind of quality specialist nurseries that pepper England. Because many of the gardens he designs are for people with lots of land and money, he is able to hire skilled craftspeople to make furniture, gates, build walls and such. These aren't things that most of us can afford but we can learn from Maynard's approach about how to incorporate such items into the landscape and link them with our own house and history. I think of the Arborvitae tree trunks we saved when we took out a tree to put in the pond in 1997 and how many places we've used them in the garden. And of the few skilled artists we were able to hire, like Matt Wineke who did our recent driveway project.
But most of all I enjoyed reading about the gardens that Maynard created for his own houses. I remember when I saw this tree (above) at his first garden at Guanock House and marveled that someone had the sense to leave it right there in the middle of the path. I should have realized that this was the work of a very thoughtful gardener.
Listen to Maynard describe his current house and garden, Allt-y-bela in Wales (below): "The moment I saw the garden, I said the house was like an exotic pearl sitting on a cushion of green velvet, and now we're embroidering the cushion with native and species plants. The topiary is the Elizabethan stump work on the cushion, and my rarities are the occasional golden threads that give it another dimension. It is all very delicately crafted, all hand-stitched."
I fell in love with gardening while researching a piece of Elizabethan stump work, so his words caught at my heart. The last words — "delicately crafted, all hand-stitched — certainly speak to all of us whose gardens are the work of our own hands (and backs and knees).
Despite the size and complexity of many of the gardens shown in this book, my copy of "The Gardens of Arne Maynard" is chock full of scraps of paper marking pages with bulbs I want to order and combinations of flowering plants I want to try. Everywhere I looked and read I found something of value, like these incredible crab apple trees (below). No, I won't do an elegantly topiaried pair like this, but I am seriously thinking about growing this variety ('Red Sentinel') where we just lost an ancient Macintosh apple tree in our garden.
Editor's note: I purchased this book on my own and did not receive any remuneration for this post.