Great Dixter – A Garden of Wonderous Excess

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Where is Great Dixter?

Great Dixter is located  in Northiam near Rye, East Sussex, England.  It was the home of Christopher Lloyd the gardener and writer.  The garden is now under the care of the Great Dixter Charitable Trust and is open to the public.

First Impressions of the Great Dixter Garden?

I have to say that I was completely blown away by this garden, it has areas absolutely crammed so full of plants as to transport you away to a different world. The plants are big and with great height, I felt a little like the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings in a field of maize. If I had to describe Great Dixter in 3 words it would be ‘ just stunningly beautiful’.

You’d be crazy not to visit this garden

England is crammed full of fantastic gardens and Great Dixter has to be up there with the best of them.  It’s a mixed garden that has everything from a sunken garden to lushly planted herbaceous borders, wonderful vegetable gardens and wilder areas with tall grass.  My favourites were definitely the herbaceous borders but then I’m an old-fashioned gardener with a love for the classic.  The bottom line with this garden is that it has great charisma.

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The Great Dixter Sunken Garden

Pictured above is the sunken garden which is one of the first areas that you come to when viewing the garden and is right in front of the house.

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Sweet peas in the Great Dixter Cutting Garden

Sweet peas from the cutting garden.

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Area like this in a garden are extremely beautiful but they are also so essential for wildlife.  This bed alone offers a smorgersboard for bees and pollinating insects.  Flower beds like this are not, however, for those of a controlling nature, with this kind of planting scheme you have to accept that the wildness of form is part of what makes it work.  We all have different gardening styles, I’m a big fan of English Cottage Gardens, I love the unruly nature of them.  I once had a neighbour who had a fairly large garden that many people admired but it was very strictly controlled with plants exactly the same distance apart like little soldiers on parade.  It wasn’t my style of gardening at all but I could appreciate it for what it was.  For me, the secret of great gardening is creating a stunning garden that when it is finished looks like it happened by naturally.

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I adore gardens like this, the photograph above shows a yew hedge arch with a meandering path that leads to who knows where and makes the visitor wonder what treat is hidden around the next corner.  The idea of enticing the visitor onwards is what keeps this garden alive and also when the garden is full of people can maintain the illusion of solitude.

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The house is also open, you can choose between purchasing a ticket for the house and the garden or just the garden, I opted for just the garden and there was enough of interest to keep me occupied (and happy) for hours.

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The use of evergreens for hedging and for focal points is very well done at Great Dixter, the combination of neatly clipped box next to yew works very well and more so because of the different shapes.  It is possible to create a feeling of vastness is quite a small garden space and this is achieved here by the use of the much taller hedges in the distance.

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Gunnera planting creating a lush and jungle like feel around the pond.

The Great Dixter Plant Centre

Great Dixter also has a very well stocked plant centre and the staff are very knowledgable, plants are very clearly labelled and the price indicated.  The plant centre, for me, had the feeling of a head gardeners potting shed  from the Victorian period and was a real treat.  They do have a plant catalogue but I think that it is worth taking a notepad with you and making a note of all of the must have plants that you see before you forget what they are called.

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This Crocosmia is a fantastic lava red colour.  I was very tempted but sadly had to agree that the start of a 10 day holiday was not the time to be buying plants.

The Great Dixter Cafe

Great Dixter does have a cafe and although it is OK I felt that it let the garden down a little.  They do a nice selection of sandwiches, cakes, drinks and ice cream but the area that the cafe is in was messy with overflowing bins which had attracted wasps.  I think with a little TLC it could be great.  There is also a souvenir shop next to the cafe for those who like to take something home to remind them of their visit.

If you are a fan of visiting a couple of gardens in a day without too much travelling in between then you could visit Sissinghurst Castle (National Trust) and Great Dixter on the same day.  I came away from Great Dixter with my gardening Mojo fully revitalised as well as my soul.  I strongly recommend this garden that is crammed full of interesting garden rooms and ingenious ideas. For me 10 out of 10.  I visited lots of gardens in 10 days and this one was in the top three.

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