The Italian-born, UK-based garden master Arabella Lennox-Boyd is celebrated for her romantic planting and alluring garden design. For over half a century, she has blessed over 700 exterior spaces across all corners of the globe – from Moscow to London – where she has won gold at the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Shows.
See: Garden ideas – inspiration and ideas for outdoor spaces
Arabella has already shaped some of the most recognized gardens worldwide, but now, her tips will enrich your exteriors, too. In an interview with Sarah Wilson for H&G, Arabella revealed her favorite plants, inspirations, and her sought-after design secrets.
What are your design tips and tricks for a small garden?
Design is important even in a small garden. One trick is to divide up your space and make each area as interesting and full of character as possible. A good technique is to reveal surprises as you go, rather than the whole plan immediately.
How can we introduce your style into our gardens?
Look at your garden and think about what you want to achieve – your own input is vital. Design has to be organic and sympathetic to the location and surroundings. It should flow so you feel at ease with what you're seeing. You need to factor in the seasons, too, for year-round interest.
Which garden design techniques do you use?
Design needs to make sense. It's important to think about how you're going to live in a garden. I ask my clients to describe their life, tell me if they want to have breakfast in the garden or whatever else they want to use the space for. A garden has to relate to what people like to do in it. I like entrances to be tidy and architectural, then let people walk into a garden that's full of beautiful things.
See: Flower bed ideas – beautiful ways to create floral displays in your garden
Which plants do you always include in your garden?
I have favorite seasons, not plants. I like masses of snowdrops and hellebores to herald spring. Then in May, things move on with tree peonies and old-fashioned roses, as well as herbaceous plants. In autumn, it's all about the grasses, while in winter, I like fragrant daphnes, sarcococca, and winter honeysuckle.
Can you tell us what your own garden is like?
The opposite of where I lived as a child, which was on a hill. I'm in a valley with no open views. It's a very northern landscape. Nature is overpowering here, and the winters are long. I have designed seasonal surprises every month, such as the little bit of color in the Chinese red on the bridge to cheer a dreary day.
Which gardens do you visit for inspiration?
I like classical Italian gardens like the Garden of Ninfa (opens in new tab) near Rome (above), which is a paradise on earth. It's an informal landscape designed around Byzantine ruins with roses growing over the stone walls and a river running through it. It's where I found the inspiration that has shaped most of my work.
See: Vertical garden ideas – plant upwards with tall flowers and create beautiful living walls
What are you working on at the moment?
Lots of remote working with projects on Zoom. I've been busy despite the lockdown.
My new book Gardens in my Life (opens in new tab) is out this month and focuses on a few of the many gardens I've made over the years. I also try to explain what inspired me to devise a particular design or plant combination. A garden is a living organism that needs regular and constant improvement to keep it developing properly. The results are, of course, worth it.
Discover more about Arabella Lennox-Boyd (opens in new tab)'s work on her website.