Thursday, 11 August 2011

Great Dixter placement

Last week, I completed a placement at the magnificent Great Dixter in Northiam, East Susex. This is my last placement of the summer, and what a week to end on! The garden at Dixter seems to hum with glory, it is quite frankly splendid and a great joy to explore! A massive array of outstanding specimens are on display, planted in the most delightfully wild and carefree manner. It seems as if nature has taken over and run amok! Of course, it hasn’t; the entire place is meticulously managed, weeded and staked, but the complexity of the combinations evoke more a native meadow than herbaceous border. Common wildflowers mingle with exotic, tender cultivars, height and form is muddled, and the Jeykll colour wheel suddenly seems to be an irrelevant contrivance.
When a plant self-seeds itself and is allowed to grow, so often it somehow seems to just ‘look right’. This seems to explain how the planting works at Dixter, where they have become experts at utilising plants in a natural way. This naturalism influences the whole garden; the borders are planted up right to the path, so as the plants grow they froth onto the pathway, forcing the visitor to brush past and disturb countless bees & butterflies along the way. Elsewhere all the roses and dahlias are single-flowered, the less-cultivated forms harmonising with the overall wild feel. Very little bare earth is on show, with borders packed so tight it’s a wonder anything can actually grow!
Great Dixter and Sissinghurst are within 20 minutes drive of each other, please, by Jove, you must head south and make a day of it!

Manor entrance with pot displays. Students are rallied at 5am by head gardener Fergus to piece these together every two weeks

View of manor from the Sunken Garden, which ended up quite literally sunken after incessant downpours on Thursday

Long Border view, the herb Dill can be seen in the foreground and throughout the garden. Plants with ‘see-through’ foliage are often used, lending themselves to the crammed planting

Some high notes at the top of the Long Border

Stock bed (any plant here liable to be dug up and used elsewhere to plug a gap) littered with the imposing Verbascum olympicum which self-seeds about the place like billy-o

High Garden, formal topiary smeared with informal planting

Harmony with bold colours in the High Garden

The Meadow, complete with ye olde topiary

Nanook, known locally as ‘the entrance cat’ due to his cheerful dominance of this slab seat at the garden gate. A genuine good egg

Meadow panorama, fascinating combination of styles

As an aside, the hour-long Hidcote BBC4 documentary is available once more on the iPlayer after a second broadcast last weekend. Once again it appears unavailable outside of the UK (what are these asses playing at).


Wife, Mother, Gardener said...

I think the key at Dixter is as you say: grooming/pruning/restraint of growth in some areas and loose-handedness in others. I have been working on this technique in my own garden this year, with less drama to show for it of course!

Love the orange lilies with the pink Echinacea; must use that.

Love it! Thank you for sharing all your pictures.

Janet said...

I'm pea green. It's a place an Orkney friend visited (trained at the Botanics in Edinburgh, now residing in Perthshire)and had an audience with Christopher Lloyd. I only heard snippets about his visit. I hope we are going to get chapter and verse on your blog, Bertie. The great photos are a start...I've always felt that Dixter is probably a more exciting and inspiring garden than Sissinghurst....
Do you have a starring role in the Hidcote film?

Gardener in the Distance said...

Very stimulating, Bertie, for you and for this reader.

Mrs Bok - The Bok Flock said...

Bertie, you are so lucky to live and work in such glorious surrounds! I LOVE your photos. Here it is freezing so your pics are a reminder of the warmer days to come.

Diane said...

First of all, our thoughts are with England and we hope that the craziness is coming to an end. I hope the police are able to charge many of the people involved and that people will feel safe again.

What a wonderful group of overall shots, Bertie. They really give us the 'feel' of what Great Dixter is like. Those long borders and gardens through pathways really appeal to me.

Great Dixter is added to my list of places to visit next time I'm in England!

Boo, hiss to the BBC4 - too bad their podcasts are only for the UK.

You mentioned liking liatris on my blog. My purple one is short and I just adore it. It was one of the few things left by the previous owners of our home and I cnsidered it a treasure. I did plant a white one last's very tall, at least four to five feet. It's very gangly and I'm not sure that I love it at all - have you any experience with the tall ones? Will it fill in?


Janet said...

For anyone that reads Bertie's blog and has the chance to see the BBC4 film about Hidcote, Bertie (not his won name as they say) is the star with the garden. He even gets to chat to Chris Beardshaw.....
Can I have your autograph, please?

Anonymous said...

Hi Dont compare Sissinghurst to Great Dixter, however Sissinghurst has some comparison with Hidcote.
Like all three gardens
Down under Kiwi in the middle of winter.

Michael said...

Bertie! How does one send a document to you? I want to send you an interesting gardener's questionnaire for your perusal. Let me know. Was going to try WhatHoBertie!!

Bertie Bainbridge said...

Thanks Diane, it all seems to be coming to an end now which is a relief. Huge amount of people being charged and sent to prison! Their behaviour has been pathetic in the extreme. We’re growing the pink form of Liatris now but not alba. I read that the white form is not as reliable so perhaps persevere but be ready to hoik it out if things don’t improve!

Janet glad you got to see the programme!

Michael send it over, my email is bertiebainbo at That address is open to any friends of this blog!


Anonymous said...

What a dream - can just imagine walking down those borders. ANd nNnook is a first class greeter!

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