Frosty for the Friends


Friends of Great Dixter, the philanthropic arm of the Trust, are invited to two events each year, one in midsummer and the other in midwinter, and Wednesday December 7 was yet another striking, sunny winter’s day.

The recent freezing cold nights had made the birds hungry and the bountiful bunches of red berries on the crataegus persimilis ‘Prunifolia’ by the little entrance gate were being demolished and strewn upon the ground as the Friends arrived and bowls of home-grown, homemade pumpkin soup with home-baked bread were doled out in the servants’ waiting hall in the Lutyens part of the house.

An introductory talk was given in the great hall about the work being done at the moment in the garden including fascinating facts such as covering the ground with hessian on frosty nights in order to make it workable the next morning.

The annual clipping of the mile or so of yew hedging is finishing within the next two weeks and bulb planting continues, for example crocus tomassinianus hybrids in the grass by the Long Border supplementing the tulip bulbs in the borders.

The meadows are being cut very short for the last time so the early bulbs emerging in the spring are more visible and the grasses are tied up rather than cut back so they can be worked around and released after the work is complete enabling their skeletons to be enjoyed in the winter.

Not much is cut back because many plants make good visual frameworks and protect the soil structure by forming a canopy over it; ferns either stay good over the winter, for example Polystichum pulcherrimum Bevis, Hart’s Tongue and the Blechnums, or collapse in an untidy heap. The latter is useful because tidied up one can then get a good view of the early bulbs such as snowdrops.

Orchard garden work in the stock beds includes splitting, potting up, experimenting with asters taking just one growing point in a module, and then potting on. If successful it will mean less stock plant being necessary and room for new ones so that the plant choice in the stockbeds is expanded.

Mat Reese, who worked in the garden with Christopher Lloyd, after having been a student at Wisley and Kew, gave an illustrated talk about the work he has been creating in a Berkshire garden. It was a little like listening and seeing a mini-Versailles being built.

The Friends of Great Dixter have been invited to visit the garden sometime in 2017. To become a Friend of Great Dixter go to

Photo: Carol Casselden

Image Credits: Great Dixter .

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