The most inspirational garden I’ve visited has to be Great Dixter in East Sussex.
This exquisite garden was created by the famous planstman and writer Christopher Lloyd who is sadly no longer with us.
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to visit Great Dixter with my husband Mark (Sparky).
It was one of the wettest days of the year but it only made the garden more beautiful in some respects.
Before our visit Sparky wasn’t exactly keen to be taken to yet another garden but amazingly, after our visit, he confessed: “I loved it.”
So what is it that makes Great Dixter so special? One of the things Christoper Lloyd was famous for was his use of colour.
The gardens sing with colour.
Every border, every pot and every nook and cranny is home to an unusual or colourful plant.
Even in the pouring rain the vibrant colour schemes were mesmerising. We admired and took photographs of plant after plant. A charitable trust has carried on Christoper’s work and the garden is still awash with colour.
Another remarkable thing about Christopher’s planting style was his use of exotics. Cannas, banana palms and other exotics added to the celebration of colour and gave the garden a lush feel.
Originally created by Christopher’s formidable mother, Daisy, his distant father and the architect Edwin Lutyens, the gardens wrap around the house and are split into distinct areas – the famous long border, mixed borders, meadow areas, wall garden, exotic garden (formerly a rose garden), sunk garden, barn garden, topiary lawn, high garden and so forth.
As it was raining we roamed alone in the gardens and were spellbound by what we saw. Although it was late in the season there was a huge amount to see. A feast for the senses.
On a recent visit to the gardens at St John’s Hospice in Lancaster I remarked to their gardener Simon Jones that the planting, and use of colour in particular, bore a similarity to that of Great Dixter.
A delighted Simon told me that many years ago he’d visited Great Dixter and had met Christoper Lloyd in the garden.
Christoper asked Simon if he’d seen one of the other gardeners (Fergus Garret). They also spoke briefly about some of the planting.
What a privilege to have met the great man himself!
Christoper’s home – the imposing timber manor house at Great Dixter - was built around the end of the Middle Ages, but it is deceptive as it is made up of three properties joined together.
Christoper’s father Nathaniel Lloyd and Lutyens sympathetically restored and conserved the buildings’ original features and made Great Dixter what it is today – a stunning and somewhat quirky country house.
More than anything, it feels like a home and that is where its true charm lies. The whole place is on a human scale and it is completely unpretentious. Perfect to my mind.
After a cup of coffee and a nose around the delightful plant nursery and shop we reluctantly headed home.
My favourite part of the garden had to be the exotic garden as it set my imagination on fire. Walking through the garden was like entering another world.
There is nowhere else like Great Dixter. If you visit it you will see why.
Great Dixter reopens to the public on March 27, 2014. It is open Tuesdays to Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays until October 27. For information go to www.greatdixter.co.uk.