British Landscape Designer Arne Maynard Sets His Sights on an Oceanfront Estate in East Hampton
What kinds of challenges does gardening Stateside pose to a European-based landscape designer?
Every garden, no matter where it is, presents different challenges and inspirations, whether they pertain to the environment, the client, or the topography. In my East Hampton project [his first in the United States, featured on these pages], the extremes in weather are difficult—from hot summers to deep winter freezes. Plants I would have liked to use here just don’t work, but the silver lining is doing research to find plants that will work. It’s a good kind of challenge. And even though there are more specialist nurseries in Britain than there are in the U.S., sometimes not being able to find more unusual perennials is not such a bad thing. Sometimes it’s good to simplify your palette.
How difficult can the weather extremes be here, compared with Britain’s more temperate climate?
In the Hamptons in the early spring, it seems like nothing is coming up forever, and then bang! Everything pops out all together. Whereas in Britain, spring unfurls gradually over many months.
Why should a U.S.-based client hire a British garden designer?
My first passion is plants, but I also have a strong sense of design. My gardens aren’t designed just to be looked at—they are created first and foremost to be gardens. A lot of people can design a great American landscape, but there’s no passion to it if it’s just “mow, blow, and go.” Garden design, to me, boils down simply to a love of gardening.
You’ve just released your third book. How has your business changed in the past 15 years?
Our projects have become larger and more complex. In the beginning, maybe we did a couple of sketches and then told the masons what to do. Now it’s much more involved, because we are often working quite remotely from the sites. But even though we are doing multiple projects at a time, I still do all the design work, meet the clients, and set all the major plants myself. It’s a very bespoke business.
What’s the constant in your work?
Creating a lifestyle that suits the site. Reminding the clients of one of our garden designs to go out into their orchard and have a picnic in the hollow we created just for that purpose. For a project in Italy, we designed a laundry garden, with soapwort everywhere. The clients can bleach their sheets in the sun over huge shrubs of rosemary.
What’s your favorite American landscape?
I’ve fallen in love with the beautiful live oaks in the hills outside of San Francisco. And the more cultivated Filoli gardens, on the San Francisco Peninsula, are wonderful.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I always start by driving around for a few days, familiarizing myself with the territory. It teaches me everything I need to know.
A version of this article appeared in the Holiday 2015 issue of New York Cottages & Gardens with the headline: Made by Maynard.