Nestled in the gentle English countryside of East Sussex is the most wonderful gem of a garden and yesterday we chose a perfect sunny, warm day to visit.
There are some amazing gardens in England and I've visited many - but for me none can compare with the wonderful,
Surrounded by wild flower meadows Dixter is not the classical English garden with sweeping manicured lawns.
Great Dixter in high summer is all about
dense planting and...
Great Dixter can be found in the pretty village of Northiam. The original house at Dixter, which dates from the mid 15th century, was acquired by a businessman named Nathaniel Lloyd in 1909. He had a 16th century house in a similar style moved from Kent and the two were combined with new work by the architect Edwin Lutyens to create a much larger house, which was rechristened Great Dixter.
Nathaniel Lloyd loved gardens, designed some of the garden himself, and imparted that love to his son Christopher who learned the skills required of a gardener from his mother Daisy, who did the actual gardening and who introduced him to Gertrude Jekyll. Christopher Lloyd, the writer and gardener, who died aged 84 in 2006, has been described as the supreme master of his profession. In 1979 he was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour, the highest horticultural accolade.
The gardens at Dixter 'break' a number of gardening rules - like planting tall plants at the front of the bed for example - and perhaps is best known for 'clashing' colours. At first glance the planting seems wild, unplanned, but as your eye tunes in to the dazzling colour a pattern begins to emerge. This is not an elegant garden for a gentle stroll - you gasp, wow, laugh, want to do a happy dance!
(Click on any photo for a larger version)
Let's leave the final for to Mr. Lloyd himself, written shortly before he died:
"Does a garden die with its owner? It's a question that is often asked. Don't worry, I'm not thinking of dying, and it's not necessarily a gloomy question at all.
A garden is bound to change when its creator is no longer there. If they are simply moving house, they may want to take plants with them, perhaps in the knowledge that their successor isn't in the least interested, anyway. Or maybe they want to make a new start.
I, of course, wonder what is likely to happen at Dixter. I want it to continue to be dynamic, and most certainly not to be set in aspic, as can all too easily happen. I want it to be, "That's the way he always liked to have it" - that sort of thing.
Fergus Garrett, my head gardener and closest friend, wants the same dynamism. All being well, he will remain here, and there will be no fossilisation with him around. He is a brilliant teacher, for one thing, and people long for the opportunity to learn from him. He knows how to get the best out of people, which is where I sometimes fail.
Between the two of us, we're a pretty dynamic couple. Gardening should be a partnership, and we are both interested in how to keep ours dynamic. Sometimes we like things to stay as they are, while at others change seems to beckon. I don't much care for the question, "What changes are you planning for this year?" because it pins me down, but changes there will be, you may be sure. Dynamism is in our bloodstream.
We want this spirit to carry on, and have set up a trust to work with our management team to run the place. The people who are involved are well aware of what Dixter represents and what its aims should be. The trust is appealing for financial help to secure its future. Its members understand what it's all about, so the future is bright - insofar as we can look into it at all. We have always been optimists."