Great Dixter was the family home of gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd – it was the focus of his energy and enthusiasm and fuelled over 40 years of books and articles. Now under the stewardship of Fergus Garrett and the Great Dixter Charitable Trust, Great Dixter is a historic house, a garden, a centre of education, and a place of pilgrimage for horticulturists from across the world.
Open from April to the end of October, the nursery is open all year round.
Entrance, Peacock Garden and High Garden
The gardens surround the house and buildings so if you make a circuit of the gardens you will have made a circuit of the house. Each garden has a view of others. I made my way anti-clockwise from the entrance, passing through the meadow garden, which was over in July, and on to the lawn in front of the lovely 15th or 16th century timber-framed house. To the left of the porch as you face the house Edwin Lutyens combined a 16th century yeoman’s house moved from Benenden in 1910 with the original building to create what is now Great Dixter. Climbing up the steps into the Peacock Topiary and High Garden you are immediately struck by the mass of planting threatening to hide the paths that lead you through the garden. The paths form a cross and central area where you can take in the roofline of the house and its imposing chimneys.
The Long Border
The Long Border is divided from the meadow and orchard by a flagstone path and a narrow mowed strip of lawn. Plants are crammed in so that no patches of bare earth can be seen and flowers sprawl over the path softening the edges. It is a border designed for mid-June to mid-August with a simple Lutyens seat at one end. Tall plants are allowed at the front of the border as long as an open texture allows you to see behind, the tall Verbascum are valued for their tall narrow stature.
The Exotic Garden
From the Long Border walk down the circular Lutyens steps, partially shaded by a huge mulberry tree and covered in Erigeron karvinskianus and across to the Exotic Garden. Once a cattle-yard, then a rose garden it is now filled with fairly hardy foliage plants for a tropical effect. Dahlias and cannas add spectacular colour.
The Blue Garden, the Walled Garden and the Sunken Garden
The Blue Garden is a small space between the topiary lawn and the Walled Garden. Lutyens steps lead through to the walled garden which is paved with a mosaic of two dachshunds, Dahlia and Canna that belonged to Christopher Lloyd. Continue through this colourful space – with many terracotta pots – into the Barn Garden which borders the Sunk Garden.
The Solar Garden
The largest single area of bedding, is in the Solar garden, next to the old bay tree and facing the front of the house. Behind you can see the barn and the Oast house.
We’ve come full circle now, though I haven’t shown you everything that this garden has to offer. I think it may take more than one visit to absorb everything that Great Dixter contains, and I never even went inside that beautiful house.