Cottage garden on a grand scale

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The entrance to Great Dixter at this time of year is through a meadow of flowering plants and grasses, dwarf broom, yellow rattle, common orchids and dog daisies.

We were there on Monday evening, June 29 for a talk to be given by head gardener Fergus Garrett to the Friends of Great Dixter. A glass of home-made rhubarb and ananas cordial was ready to hand. You don’t have to be a keen gardener to enjoy listening to Fergus. His knowledge and enthusiasm are pure entertainment, coming across like an unfolding drama with dazzling effect, complete with hand gestures.

He is full of gardener’s philosophy, revelling in experimentation, master-minding a continual succession of planting through the season, trying out new arrangements and phlegmatic, almost joyful, when they fail to mature or to please. “Now is the time” he tells us “to fill the gaps, strengthen the show with annuals and hold the line for two weeks until the next plantings scheme matures. We try to achieve a seamless transition. Also we create an understory of different plants to form a tapestry of continuing ground-cover. To that you add your bulbs, but it may take five years to see if it will work; it’s all about a challenge,” he says.

A colourful corner

Great Dixter is a garden of surprises, nothing formal or pretentious, but riotous in shape and colour like a cottage garden, divided into compartments, each area different but all possessing a feeling of immediate intimacy.

We meet old friends there. We chat and tour the garden and then look inside into the Great Hall, where Richard Adams paintings are displayed for sale, on themes of Great Dixter that he has given to help raise funds.

We met Melvin Smith, chairman of the Iden and District Natural History Society. He will be giving his talk next weekend on ‘Yesterday’s Gardener’ with a display of the antique tools and gardening implements which he has collected over the years. Come and hear him in the Great Barn, Great Dixter, Northiam, TN31 6PH on Saturday, July 3 at 11:45am and Sunday, July 4 at 2:30pm. Entrance is free. All welcome.

Image Credits: Kenneth Bird .

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