This blog is about what I can take from a visit to the world famous garden at Great Dixter near Rye in East Sussex. I had been twice before over the years but this trip was part of a group tour taking in eight famous gardens in Kent and East Sussex.
I won’t even begin to describe the whole garden here but, to give you an idea, the website lists 19 different areas to be seen ranging from a prairie, orchard, exotic garden, sunk garden and topiary lawn.
Let’s note here that my London cottage garden is 11 x 7 metres at the back and 11 x 6 metres at the front. So it’s just the one area at the back and one area at the front.
However, I’m interested to think what I can learn from Great Dixter and use in my own garden. Also to think about how I felt emotionally in that garden and how I want to feel in this one. Recalling that Dan Pearson talks about a “sense of place”, I am always drawn to notice how a garden makes me feel.
Their pots are famous and here they are
So grouping pots is a great idea – tall and short – colour and greenery – and look how all colours are mixed together. The abundance and informality is very cottage garden style. I think I can see here lupins, chives, poppies, antirrhinums, salvias, grasses, campanulas, cornflowers and heucheras. This must be hugely labour intensive but possible on a smaller scale and grouping them together creates much more impact than dotting pots here and there.
There were gorgeous self-seeded plants on the risers of steps. These plants will tuck themselves into cracks, and epitomise a cottage garden feel. There are ferns, Mexican fleabane daisies and the creeping mindyourownbusiness. This look is definitely something that I would like to reproduce.
I loved these combinations:-
alchemilla mollis and white hardy geranium
I admired the garden of course, and it is breathtakingly fabulous but I didn’t feel particularly comfortable in it. I felt rather overwhelmed by the profusion of planting and hemmed in with no space to sit or rest. The magnificent borders are huge and the planting head height as are many of the hedges giving the garden rooms an enclosed feel which I found rather oppressive.
We were very lucky to have been allowed in before the garden opened to the public so it was not crowded, but even so I didn’t feel a sense of peace or tranquility. That amount of succession planting involves a huge amount of labour and many people work hard to keep it as one of the greatest gardens in the country.
Do visit Great Dixter and other great gardens if you can but if you want a garden to potter in and sit and read a magazine in with a cup of tea then you’ll have to make do instead with a lot less perfection and several thousand fewer visitors, like mine.