This blog is going to be mostly picture based as there was so much to see, that I took dozens of images (188 to be precise) added to which there are just too many incredible plants and plant combinations for me to start naming.
You enter the Great Dixter Gardens via the approach to the front of the house, which is captivating with its medieval wonkiness and massive collection of beautifully displayed pots. My interior sensibilities have always loved to group pots to full effect, outdoor vignettes so to speak, moving them to key focal points in the garden as the seasons change. I’d always felt this was slightly cheating as a gardener but not now, vindicated by Christo, ha!
Arts and Crafts Garden
Overall the Great Dixter plot is 6 acres, divided into smaller enclosures; the room like structure of the garden is created with walls, formal yew hedging and topiary – which was Nathaniel Lloyd’s passion (Christo’s Father) all connected by flagstone pathways. The hard landscaping is wonderful and shouldn’t go unmentioned. With an Arts and Crafts aesthetic, referencing simpler times, a little bit rough at the edges, with a handmade look complimenting the planting style which it no doubt influenced. Of course the house; part original medieval, part reclaimed medieval and part Lutyen’s genius plus the other farm buildings lend a romantic backdrop.
The further reaches of the garden are wild-flower meadows developed by Daisy Lloyd (Christo’s Mother); they were a real innovation at a time, when most gardens were very formal in style. I am left wondering if they also came out of the Arts and Crafts philosophy, also harking back to early times, as they were developed in an era when farming was becoming more intensive and mechanised, with larger fields and little fallow land.
Maximal Planting Style
As you can see from the images, Great Dixter has a maximal planting style, something I am very attracted towards. It appears as if seedlings are left to do their own haphazard thing, with the likes of Foeniculum and Dipsacus fullonum appearing at the front of borders as nature intended it. Although this maybe by design it still looks spontaneous, giving a dynamic quality to the planting.
The Long Border, I had read about, didn’t disappoint, it’s packed with the most vibrate combination of flowers, totally captivating. It so enthralled the visitors, that British Reserve was put aside, so strangers could marvel with each other; trying to figure out what plant was what, exclaiming at the colour combinations and size of everything. The plants positively bulge out of the bed and are taking over the pathway too. I have no idea what they use for feed but everything looks like it’s on extra proportions.
In general the gardens aren’t too manicured, there is undoubtedly a huge amount of work goes into taking out and adding plants at various places through-out the seasons, to create continuous interest for most of the year, but it’s not too fussy and in places feels quite wild.
The Exotic Garden is as you would expect exuberant, I always get greenhouse envy when I see such plants; papyrus, bananas, Ricinus communis. I did enjoy the addition of smaller leaved plants; muehlenbeckia complexa and pines, the tiny leaf shapes added to the visual interest making it very well considered.
We end up in the sunken pool garden, that’s not strictly true, we ended up in the coffee shop, the extravagantly planted pool area was our penultimate stop. It is so heavily planted on all sides that sitting at the bottom looking up, is like being in a theatre, it feels very intimate and sheltered, I dreamt of having it to myself to sit and read a book.
Do go to Great Dixter https://www.greatdixter.co.uk if it’s too far to do as a day trip, then plan a weekend as Hastings and Rye are close by and both lovely places to spend an evening. Too far to drive in a weekend? Then fly to Gatwick and hire a car, about 2 hours drive away max. Oh and gardening groupies, I did get to chat to Fergus but not about plants, but the Anthony Joshua v’s Klitschko fight. Yup bet that surprised you eh….