Friends of Great Dixter gathered for an evening visit on Wednesday June 5. They joined one or other of several tours along familiar paths into the gardens, the nursery and looking for bumblebees, each walk led by a Great Dixter student gardener or member of staff.
Then seated on bales of hay arranged in a quarter-circle, they listened as Fergus Garrett described in his inimitable way the practicalities of physical work and the gardening philosophy that guides the genius of the place we know as Great Dixter.
Using a flip chart, Fergus demonstrated all the different types of activity taking place, to maintain the flow of colour, shape and form through the unfolding season. He was the artist and the gardens his painting.
We were given the example of the Exotic Garden as a canvas for his ideas, displaying his energy, his sense of fun and drama. That garden, lovingly planned by Christopher Lloyd, has banana trees as their strong structural anchor and these would be complemented this year with new designs for rich underlay of floral textures and foliage.
The gardens are constantly evolving during the season, an artistic endeavour in which all the gardening staff pool ideas and share out the work.
Great Dixter’s method of gardening depends on its own production of seed and plants. There is a strategy of staggering the various activities such as seed sowing and planting-out to ensure that each space can be occupied and have its voice. “Some dahlias are in the cellar to hold back, waiting to fill up opened spaces in the garden. The curved ball is the weather,” he told us, “you’ve got to get your timing right.”
Concluding his talk, he told his audience: ”None of this could happen without you, our friends and supporters.”
Unlike my wife, I am no gardener, but I always love the fantastic setting, and experiencing the sheer variety of colour and visual stimulation of the senses.
Image Credits: Kenneth Bird.