Great Dixter – or how to break all those horticultural rules !

11 Jun

Just returned from a lovely weekend in Kent, spent stitching and garden visiting, so plenty to write about over the next few weeks !

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First stop was Great Dixter. Set on the edge of the Sussex Weald, the surrounding countryside couldn’t be more English – rolling hills, green fields, oak woods – a green and pleasant land!

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The house and surrounding buildings at Great Dixter are ancient timbered structures with soft painted plaster panels and tiny diamond paned windows. We didn’t actually venture into the house but I imagine its all oak floors and panelling and really rather dark. However every window would disclose a gem of a garden!

The house dates from the mid 15th century and had been in the Lloyd family since 1910. The garden structure, designed by Edward Lutyens in 1910, was established by Christopher Lloyd’s mother Daisy. Christopher began to be involved in the garden in the 1950s and was finally able to begin to make his unique mark.

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The traditional English garden is still there underneath – yew hedges, ancient roses, beautiful garden buildings but Christopher Lloyd has almost acted like a rebellious teenager and has tweaked everything as if to really annoy his mother!

The neatly manicured lawns have been turned into wildflower meadows, the rose garden has been replaced with tropical splendour, the herbaceous borders have startling colour combinations that would never have been allowed in Edwardian times and the pots would’ve given her a heart attack !

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There are no neat rows of bedding, no formal parterres, and no lawns clipped to within an inch of their lives. And somehow it’s really refreshing,

Ferguson Garrett , head gardener/designer/guru, has maintained Christopher
Lloyd’s vision since his death in 2006 and continues to play with different colours/shapes and forms.

I particularly liked, what I guess is actually a trial border at the back of the vegetable garden, planted up with only a dozen varieties of herbaceous perennial but so well chosen to give you a really long season of interest.

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Compared to a National Trust garden ( and more on that when I write about Sissinghurst) there is a wonderful sense of freedom here, where rules are made to be broken, and just because the RHS /NT don’t do it, doesn’t mean to say it won’t work.

We got completely lost amongst the 6ft high borders, along increasingly narrow paths – the box /yew hedges were in desperate need of a short back and sides! – and sat sipping tea whilst watching the swallows dive under beams to their nests in the wonderful old barns.

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The extensive nursery was hard to resist, the tea offer was rather disappointing – plastic cups, no cake – would’ve been lovely to find a great pop up cafe offering tasty organic delicacies. The shop was lovely with lots of unusual gardening inspired gifts.

You must visit if you’re ever that way – it is so refreshing to see such a mature garden moving forward.

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4 Responses to “Great Dixter – or how to break all those horticultural rules !”

  1. igardendaily June 14, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

    Love all of it! I must get there one day! Christopher Lloyd was awesome!

    • Emma Webber June 16, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

      It should definitely be on your ‘must visit’ list if you ever make it to the uk !!

  2. Michelle Wilson July 20, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    Thankyou for a beautifully descriptive blog. I would love to visit one day. Saw Sisinghurst but ran out of time to see Great Dixter.
    Most enjoyable read and I love the photos.

    • Emma Webber July 20, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

      Thanks for your kind words michelle ! Make sure you visit Great Dixter next time !!

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