K's Garden

Building a large garden on a budget

Great Dixter Sunday 27 November 2011

We visited Great Dixter (Website), the home of the late Christopher “Christo” Lloyd, and now managed by his then Head Gardener Fergus Garrett which was an important pilgrimage for me. It has the mass plantings that I am not a fan of, although I can admire them, but there was lots to love, enjoy and marvel at.

I have read a lot of Chritso Lloyd’s writings. He wrote a column for Country Life (probably before I was born!) and there are collections of those writings in book-form – cheap-as-chips to buy second-hand copies on Amazon Marketplace, I think I paid no more than £1 for each volume, although there is carriage to add.

I learnt lots from his book “The Well Tempered Gardener”. For example, don’t leave a planting hole “open” for a tree, once you’ve prepared it, in Autumn; the cold will cool the soil at the bottom of the hole. Fill it back in and re-excavate it when the tree is ready for planting. Makes abundant sense now I think about it!

And so we arrived at Great Dixter. We were keen to see the Exotic Garden which Christo had so irreverently planted where his family’s formal Rose Garden, designed by Lutens, had been for generations; at the time that he created it cognoscenti were appalled – we were enthralled!

Great Dixter - Exotic Garden Entrance

Those Yew hedges have been there for a while!

Great Dixter - Exotic Garden

The narrow paths from the original rose garden made jungle-like routes through the overhanging plants, mostly with huge leaves, but try not to go on a wet day, like we did, or you will get soaked by the leaves weighted down with water!


Great Dixter - T-Rex

The huge leaves of T-Rex

I loved the completely bonkers topiary – many of them clustered tightly in a herbaceous border such that it was hard to get the perspective of the plot

Great Dixter - Topiary

Great Dixter - Topiary Lawn

And more bonkers topiary scattered around a rough lawn, and slightly wonky open Bothies which were ideal to pause under, or shelter from the rain; I could do with a number of them scattered down our long, and narrow, garden so as not to have to run all the way back to the house when the heavens open.

Great Dixter - Yew Hedge

The hedges, too, had a wonky-ness that added huge character to them compared to the more commonly seen straight-as-a-die hedges that are cut, presumably, with a laser and GPS.

Image gallery (click a thumbnail for larger image / slide show)

Great Dixter is very near Sissinghurst (Garden Visit), and well worth planning on visiting both on the same day

Site tour: Will Giles Exotic Garden


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