Monday, August 14, 2017

Happy memories - Great Dixter

Although now back under the blue skies and searing Californian sunshine, my memories of a lovely month spent back in the UK are still vivid. My husband Philip asked me what was the highlight and without hesitation, I had to say that my visit to Great Dixter Gardens was top of the list! Great Dixter was owned by the garden writer Christopher Lloyd, who died in 2006. The gardens and house are now maintained under a trust and open to the public. The Head Gardener, Fergus Garrett worked with Christopher Lloyd for some years before he died, so the ethos of the garden is still very much that of its creator. It has to be said that this must be one of the top UK gardens.

I met Christopher Lloyd a couple of times, once when visiting his garden many years ago and also when he came to visit my 'patch', when I was Superintendent of Grounds at Reading University. I was pleased to show him our beautiful landscape, lakes and many trees. Some days after his visit I received a hand-written postcard, thanking me but suggesting that it would be better if I spent more time outside with my pruners and less time behind my desk! Maybe he was right!


The garden at Great Dixter was his experimental ground and many of his plantings may originally have seemed ambitious or even outrageous but time has shown that his eye and imagination rarely failed. Some years ago he cleared his mother's historic rose garden and to cries of shock and horror, planted with a dazzling mix of exotic plants. It worked and this little tropical oasis is undoubtedly one of the best exotic gardens in the UK. The bones of the garden and the design of parts of the house are by  Lutyens but everywhere the garden is filled with wonderful plants.

I once asked Christopher how he planned his color schemes. He replied that he never did but put any old colors together. I think this was partly true in that he tried all sorts of color combinations but I am sure he repeated those that worked. His book 'Colour for Adventurous Gardeners' is a classic! I was also thrilled to find one of my own books on a shelf in Christopher Lloyd's library. Opening it, I found that I had signed it with a little message and sent to him personally. It was a 'thank you' for a purple banana he gave me!

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