Englishmen painting with plants

We’re proud to present our newest guest blogger, Ann Larås. She’s a Swedish journalist and author of the newly published book Engelska Trädgårdar (English Gardens). Here’s her first blog post on this very subject.

Great Dixter - Northiam, East Sussex

I´m driving on the left side, on narrow streets covered by ivy and branches of the treetops interlaces as a ceiling over me. It’s a dream to experience the landscapes of Kent and East Sussex. Here you can find many beautiful open gardens, many kept but National Trust or by private foundations. I will visit  Sissinghurst and Great Dixter. Two beautiful gardens and country estates south of London.

Great Dixter – Humour and Trimmed Birds
Location: Northiam, East Sussex
Designer: Edwin Lutyens, Christopher Lloyd
Style: Inspired by Arts & crafts – movement.

Time: From 1910 –

I am really taken by the first sight of Great Dixter. The vista of the paved aisle in a blooming meadow leading to the mediaval tudor house  is unreal, like something out a fairy tale.  The house was built already in the 15th century. On the grounds is also an oast house where hop was dried in the past for beermaking.  In the beginning of the 20th century Lloyd family moved in. And through the yongest son Christopher Lloyd, the garden at Great Dixter became famous. And still is.

Great Dixter garden

Christopher was a well-known gardener, he was a garden writer and tv-personality, until his death in 2006. He loved flowers and they are in abundance here; old-fashioned perennials like knight spurs, lupines, poppies and bluebells in an imaginative mix with vegetables as artichokes and fennel. Roses and clematis cover trellies and fences. The topiary are the focus of Christopher Lloyd’s garden. They come in the form of clipped yew in figures, like peacocks. Some of them resembles people. The garden has a well thought-out design but the architectural form is not visible on my first walk at the end of June because the flowers are so high. But the funny shaped yew hedges and are recognizable as an invisible frame and frame all shifts during the year.

It is easy to imagine how a child is experiencing Great Dixter, going around in the maze of garden rooms with high beautiful flowers and scents from all directions. Here and there is an opening in a hedge that leads to a new room on a different theme. Among the greenery, a hat or a head, belonging to one of the six garden workers or volunteers at Great Dixter pop up. If you want to help get an idea of the garden as a whole and, should you come here in early spring when the plants are not as high.

During the summer, in June-July, it’s a total experience of beauty, but hard to keep track. The garden is designed as a circle around the house, the hedges divide the surface of many large garden room. The Long Border, the long perennial beds is absolutely delicious with its height against the house behind. The perennials bloom from April to October and create a dense carpet of color.

The garden is very personal and changes constantly and develops, thanks to the head gardener Fergus Garrett who now manages the gardens at Great Dixter.

Stayed tuned for my next post wherein I’ll visit the gardens of Sissinghurst.

/Ann Larås (my blog, my book)


Filed under Attractions & Culture, England, Nature & Heritage

2 responses to “Englishmen painting with plants

  1. I visited Great Dixter last year and was very surprised by the strong structures of the garden.
    It’s a quite heavy and dark structure ( the yewhedges and topiaries) but it still felt very airy and light. This was in mid May, so there where a lot of spring flowers (lupines, tulips, foxgloves and more… and I loved it!! And what a qute little plantshop:-)

  2. Hi Hillevissan!
    Thanks for your reply. Yes, it´s a wonderful mixture of topiaries (especially yew hedges formed in funny shapes and some buxus) But the overall feeling, I felt on my visits in June (around June 20th), was playfulness and high perennial. I love the structures, without that the garden is only lovely for one season. I wish I could also visit, as you did in May with lower tulips and spring flowers.

    Also the plantshop is a sweet little house with lots of terracotta pots inside and – as I remember – garden tools and plants for sale inside.

    I´ll visit your blogg as well. Welcome back here, more gardens to come. Stay tuned .
    Ann (the garden tourist)

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