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Posts Tagged ‘Great Dixter in Spring’

Crocuses, 26 March 2013,  at Great Dixter

Every time I go to the heavenly gardens at Great Dixter, I learn something new. And I gain even more appreciation about what this fantastic garden and the ethos of its gardeners have to offer.

Siew Lee Vorley explaining palnting in the Long Border at Great Dixter March 2013

This visit I spent a day volunteering and a day in the company of fellow bloggers being shown around the gardens by the very welcoming Great Dixter team. Above is deputy head gardener Siew Lee Vorley, explaining how mulch is added to the long border using a tickling fork. The soil and mulch are mixed together with the long-handled fork, so that self-seeded seeds don’t get buried under the mulch and are encouraged to germinate. Just one of the practices that Great Dixter employ that make this garden so appealing.

Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter March 2013

Head gardener Fergus Garrett’s gave a great talk about successional planting in the gardens,

Purple Hellebore planted with Cardimine quinquefolia

where layer upon layer of planting follows on in each area, providing a richness of changing plant combinations throughout the seasons.  (Above is a purple Hellebore planted with the delicate Cardimine quinquefolia and with Cynara cardunculus emerging behind.) Fergus’ desire and enthusiasm for experimentation is infectious and many ideas can be taken away or scaled down to use in smaller gardens too.

Snowdrops Feb 2011

Designing borders in petite London gardens that will provide year round interest can be challenging, but underplanting deciduous shrubs and trees with spring bulbs is a useful idea to take away as is choosing the right cultivar of perennials for longer flowering. If you’re planting blue Geraniums, choose ‘Russell Pritchard’ or ‘Mavis Simpson’ which will flower for 3 months rather than the gorgeous ‘Johnson’s Blue’ which will sadly only put on a show for 3 weeks.

Clematis at Great Dixter

Another idea I’ll be putting into action this year is growing late flowering, not-too vigorous clematises into shrubs to provide late summer interest. I have a client where there’s lots of spring and early summer interest in the garden, but come late summer, the garden is missing any joyous splash of colour. With not much room in the border to pop in an all singing all dancing Dahlia or two (or any other plants for that matter), viticella type Clematises growing into shrubs that have already flowered should add an extra layer of interest to the border, without smothering their host plants.

Clematis climbing up a tree

I can’t wait to see how these Clematises fare later this year, hopefully delighting both myself and the client! Michael in the Great Dixter nursery, also gave invaluable advice, letting me know that these less blousy Clematis do not need to be planted as deep as their more showy summer flowering relatives (although it won’t hurt them either) and are less susceptible to Clematis wilt too. It’s a good time to get planting Clematises and the nursery have a good range of cultivars (and offer mail order too) if you have a bare spot that needs some late summer colour. These Clematises also have an undemanding pruning regime, and can be cut back down to a foot or so (or left a bit taller if to grow into taller shrubs or trees) every spring.

Yew hedging defining the gardens, March 2013,  at Great Dixter

Back in the gardens, and Fergus explained that at this time of year, Great Dixter is looking at its tidiest with most winter stems cut down and beds mulched (and tickled), ready for the year ahead.

Peacock yew hedging , March 2013,  at Great Dixter

And it’s now that you can really see how the Yew hedges define and structure the gardens.

Yew hedging creating drama and defining differenet areas at Great Dixter

Fergus explained that they give a visual barrier to each garden, so that your eyes can focus on each distinct area and the planting is not diluted. And as the gardens wrap themselves around the house, so the hedging creates more intimate spaces where the planting experimentation continues.

I’m really looking forward to going back to Great Dixter at the end of April, when hopefully the next layer of planting will be coming through (although it is still snowing today here in London!).

Great Dixter Long Border 26th March 2013

But here’s a quick taste of how the long border in spring,

Long Border at Great Dixter Oct 2011

is transformed into glorious colours and textures in summer (via Tulips and many other plant combinations in between),

Enthusiastic visitor taking pics of the long border at Great Dixter August 2011

(and here just to give you the scale and depth of the planting),

Exotic Garden all wrapped up at Great Dixter

and how these sculptural pyramids in March,

The Exotic Garden at Great Dixter, August 2011

will develop into this exotic paradise come late summer. If you fancy learning more at the gardens, there are many courses running throughout the year including successional planting, meadow planting, monthly visits around the gardens and propagation days. The gardeners at Great Dixter are so generous about sharing their knowledge, you certainly won’t be disappointed!

If you want to see more high summer drama from Great Dixter, click here and here

And here’s some wonderful posts written by other enthusiastic bloggers from the day too:

An Inspiring Talk by Fergus Garrett of Great Dixter Gardens from Real Men Sow

Through the Garden Gate Great Dixter Part 1

Through the Garden Gate Great Dixter Part 2

Great Dixter – A Pause for Thought from Veg Plotting

Great Dixter:It was just a perfect day from Urban Veg Patch

Great Dixter from Alternative Eden

A great day at Great Dixter house and gardens from Dig the Outside

A great (Dixter) reason for repeat garden visits from Weeding the Web

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Spring has sprung at Great Dixter. I have just spent 4 glorious days volunteering at this heavenly garden in East Sussex. Heavenly, because no matter what time of year you visit, there are always plants to discover which will delight and knowledgable gardeners who will happily identify these wonderful plants for you. It’s slightly overwhelming to know where to start, but here are some of the plants and practices that I picked up on when I was there.

Great Dixter is gearing up for its first opening of the year and the gardens are putting on a great show. Hellebores ranging from pure whites to deep purples abound,

and Snowdrops (Galanthus), in many shapes and sizes, (and available from the Great Dixter Nursery!) are carpeting the ground in many of the borders.

Together, they make sumptuous combinations.

Tucked away in the shadows of a Fatsia japonica was a Pachyphragma macrophyllum (above) who’s purest white flowers shone out from the shade. This is certainly a plant I will seek out to plant in shadier gardens and is available from, amongst others, Beth Chatto’s nursery in Essex (who offer mail order) and Beeches Nursery in Suffolk.

Crocuses glowing in the sun, and seen en masse in the fields of Great Dixter, really seem to capture the spirit of the place.

Cardimine quinquefolia, above, and appearing in many areas of the gardens at this time of year, is altogether a much more delicate affair and a fantastic companion to a purple Hellbore or a dark-leaved Bergenia.

Add the vibrant green of the flower heads of a Euphobia foetidus, E.robbiae or E.wulfenii (above), and you can really create a very lively spring grouping indeed.

Mahonia japonica is not just a pretty face. It’s vibrant architectural form is also accompanied by the sweetest of scents, akin to that of Lily of the valley. If your Mahonia is looking rather top heavy and ‘leggy’ then wait for the flowers and berries to finish then cut right back down to a few buds above ground level, and it will grow back nice and bushy from where you pruned to.

James is thinning out a black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) so that the stems will become see-through and have more of an impact. Here’s a before pic.

And an after pic.

Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ still has an impact with its upright form throughout the coldest months.

And Yew hedging and topiary play an important role in the garden, giving structure and height to the borders in winter and providing a contrasting background to the perennial plants throughout the rest of the year.

(more…)

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