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Great Dixter 4 I often feel that I’m a tad gushing when I write about Great Dixter, but I just can’t help myself. If you’re ever feeling a bit jaded about gardening (or despair about Brexit), then a day spent soaking up the gorgeous borders will lift your spirits and help you to think anew about the planting in your own garden.

Lolloping plumes of Cortadeira richardii On this visit, the towering but delicately airy Thalictrum ‘Elin’ was one of the plants that really moved me (rubbing shoulders here with nodding plumes of Ampelodesmos mauritanica and Cortaderia richardii, giant fennels and teasels). (Should you be heading towards Normandy for your holidays, then Jardin Plume also has some very inspiring planting with Thalictrums).

Rachael Dodd is one of Fergus Garrett’s knowledgeable and enthusiastic team at Great Dixter, and illustrated on part of our garden tour how Thalictrum are carefully staked to (seemingly invisibly) support the plant in this windier part of the garden. Good to know how much careful planning and work is carried out to achieve such glorious planting schemes.

It also struck me that there are no half measures at Great Dixter. This is high-octane gardening (with lovely soft, dreamy edges), and the transformation of different areas from season to season is always experimental and innovative, packed with ever-changing colours and textures, and this is what makes the gardens so enticing and inspiring.

Long border with house as backdrop at Great Dixter June 2016The ‘all singing all dancing’ long border was glowing, as ever, with wonderful plant combinations,

Long border at Great Dixter June 2016looking lush from any angle. I think the pink flowers at the bottom of the frame are Viscaria oculata and to their left, parsnip flowers have been given the ‘Chelsea chop’ to avoid the need for staking. The purple above is Salvia nemerosa.

Great Dixter 2

Poppies were at the height of their flowering in many areas,

Papaver glaucum 2dotting their jewel like qualities throughout different borders. This variety (above) is Papaver glaucum (seeds available from Chiltern Seeds). A beautiful annual poppy, with further buds on side shoots that will supply continuous flowering for around 5 weeks.

Wildflower meadows at Great Dixter 2

And then the gardens flow into wildflower meadows,

Wildflower meadows surrounding the house Great Dixter 2

tying in the estate to the countryside,

Wildflower meadows at Great Dixter with orchids and Hay rattle and knapweed

with orchids and hay rattle and many other natives that will encourage and protect wildlife diversity.

Woodpile at Great Dixter

Further additions, such as these Andy Goldsworthy-esque woodpiles are being constructed around the estate to further increase wildlife habitats to invite in other insects and fauna.

Clerodendron bungeiAnd the nursery was as intriguing as ever, packed full of desirable plants so you can go home (as I always do) with another little bit of Great Dixter for your own garden. (Above are Clerodendron bungei cuttings growing for future sales).

Parsnip flower at Great DixterAt the end of the day, I dragged myself away from the voluptuous planting, but I can’t wait for my next visit to see how the gardens progress throughout the year.

Flashy Butter Oak LettuceLettuces started off in the greenhouse and planted out in my front garden about 5 weeks ago are just about ready to have leaves harvested. This is the gorgeous ‘Flashy Butter Oak’ (above) from The Real Seed Catalogue, looking a little tatty at the edges from slugs and snails, but as it’s survived so far (not all of them did), I’m hoping it will now flourish.Reins des Glaces LettuceAnother little beauty from The Real Seed Catalogue is ‘Reine des Glaces’, a cultivar that’s about 200 years old.  Lovely crunchy sweet leaves work really well with softer lettuces and its curly spikeyness is so darn decorative in the garden. I love it!

Forellenschluss Lettuce (soeckled like a trout)

Forellenschluss (meaning speckled like a trout apparently) has similar colourings to the above ‘Flashy Butter Oak’, but it’s an Austrian heirloom Cos lettuce, so will hopefully develop some nice crunchy upright leaves. (I do like a good crunch in my salads these days.) It also looks a lot like Freckles, another delightful Cos, but maybe a bit looser in shape. Seeds available from the ever entertaining Chiltern Seeds. I’ll keep on harvesting just the outer leaves of these lettuces, so they should last me a good couple of months, and I know that it’s time to sow another batch of lettuces right now, although if I get round to this is another matter…

Lettuce seeds waiting in the wings are: ‘Cocarde’ and ‘Red Sails’ (from Nicky’s Seeds) and ‘Crisp Mint’, ‘Really Red Deer Tongue’ and ‘Devil’s Tongue’, (all from The Real Seed Company).

Should I develop a glut of leaves, Nigel Slater has a great recipe for lettuce, pea and mint soup in ‘Tender: Volume 1’. Very tasty and utterly refreshing. I wish I’d discovered this years ago.

Golden Streaks Mustard leafMy mustard leaves sown at the same time are now going to seed (‘Golden Streaks’ above), and although the leaves are getting spicier by the day, still taste great when used sparingly in salads, as do the flowers.

Sweet CicelyAnd Sweet Cicely adds a lovely aniseed note to the mix too.
Front garden lettuce bed with alliums and mustard leavesIt’s so lovely to have dinner on my doorstep, with the odd bit of decoration too.  (Allium Globemaster just about to come into bloom there.)
Front garden veg bed with runner beans and tomatoesAnd bed no. 2 has runner beans, tomatoes, sweet peas and radishes for more front garden veg (and deliciously scented blooms) later in summer. (Mustard leaf ‘Red Giant’ at the front of the bed, also just about to go to seed.)

Inner Temple Garden
This weekend heralded the beginning of the marvellous Chelsea Fringe , where you can attend many a quirky horticultural happening, mostly in London, (although lots also happening around the UK, especially Bristol and Bath and further abroad) until June 12th-mostly for free.

Last Sunday, the Inner Temple Gardens were holding posy making workshops as part of the Fringe. Rarely being open to the public at weekends, this was a great opportunity to visit the gardens and they certainly didn’t disappoint.

This year, head hardener, Andrea Brunsendorf made the decision not to clothe the beds with tulips, but instead, concentrated on foxgloves and sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis). On entering the garden you couldn’t helped being wowed by this heavenly display. I also espied (top left) the rather tricky to grow Geranium maderense which is just about hardy in London and takes two to three years to flower. Mine never survived further than the first year of flowering-do they ever?

Inner Temple GArdensNot having the space to grow their own, five hundred ‘Camelot Lavender’ foxgloves were commercially grown for the gardens and this abundance of repeat planting created majestic swaying rhythms throughout the borders.

Hazel supports 2Gorgeously hand crafted hazel supports were in evidence for later flowering perennials, such as asters, and this only added to the sense of a thoroughly well-planned (and beautifully executed) garden.Peonies in potsHanging out in a Mulberry tree near the posy making were these delightful peony posies in jars. As I said, well thought out and executed to perfection.

If you can get to visit during the week, the Inner Temple gardens never disappoint and are open to the public between 12.30pm and 3pm. (Nearest tube Blackfriars.)

And I’m hoping to get to see loads more Chelsea Fringe events over the next couple of weeks. Tomorrow evening (Thursday 26th May) there’s the Guerilla Gardeners’ Walking Tour in Lambeth, Friday morning (27th May and other dates) you can get a sneaky look into one of Stefano Marinaz’s latest designs in a private garden in South Kensington.

The Olden Community Garden in North London (just opposite the Emirates Stadium) always has a great event an offer, and on Sunday 5th June they’ll be throwing a Music Party between 2pm and 7pm. You can expect an eclectic mix of sounds including English, Irish and American Folk, Tuodr Polyphony (sounds interesting), French Jazz and more, all set within the walls of this urban oasis.(Nearset tubes are Highbury and Islington and Holloway Road.)

Anmnarose's fernery in the toilet 3

Whenever I’ve been to a Chelsea Fringe event in the past, I’ve (nearly) always come away inspired. I loved Deb Nagan’s Garden of Disorientation back in 2012 and Anna Rose Hughes’ planted up toilet in Peckham (above) in 2013, so I’m off to peruse the website for more possible treasures.

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