Posts Tagged ‘Christopher LLoyd’

This time last year I went on a study day at Great Dixter in E.Sussex. It was one of the most enjoyable things I did all year. The next course ‘Preparing Your Border for Spring and Summer-The Practicalities’ is on March 28th.

Head Gardener Fergus Garrett (above) leads the courses which usually run from 10 -4.30, with lunch included and a 10% discount is offered on plants bought in the nursery. On this particular course ‘Fergus will show you how to cut down, split and replant perennials, thin out self-sowers, pruning, composts and working in the rain without ruining the structure of your soil. Essential winter maintenance work will be covered on this very practical orientated day.’ Sounds wonderful and you will learn a lot.

In the meantime, the gardens are open for 2 weekends for a viewing on ‘winter structure and winter interest including snowdrops, crocuses, hellebores and much more’ on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th February 2011 and Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th March 2011

The course that I attended last year in January was on successional planting-how to have interest in your garden all year round. Here are the highlights of the day for me.

Great Dixter in January

Had a wonderful day at Great Dixter in January 2010. I attended (with friend Lucy, and 8 other gardeners) a day course run by Head Gardener Fergus Garrett on successional planting . The morning was spent  (by a toasty open log fire) listening to an indepth talk on the borders at Dixter, illustrated by 200 slides of wonderful plant combinations-for example; Blue Amiable tulips with Mellow Yellow aquilegias- a riot of colour or Petunia ‘Purple Wave’ and Colchicums in flower together-rich and luscious.

Choosing good plants was another area he talked about. For example, when choosing a blue Geranium, varieties which have a long flowering season (up to 3 months) such as; ‘Russell Pritchard, ‘Mavis Simpson’ and ‘Jolly Bee’ are a much better option than ‘Johnson’s Blue’ which only flowers for 3 weeks.

Lucy enjoying all the expertise that Fergus had to offer

Or making sure that Hellenium ‘Moorheim Beauty’ is deadheaded after it has flowered in July so that come September you will have a second wave of flowers. He stressed avoiding competing  combinations so that plants can live together. For example, a Mahonia looks great in winter, but in summer Clematis triternata rubra-marginata is used to cover it to add more colour to the border. A different clematis, such as ‘Bill Mackenzie’ might overwhelm the Mahonia being more vigorous and having a longer flowering season. Fergus Garrett is passionate about his plants, and all that Great Dixter stands for and the talk was enjoyable,  informative and truly inspiring. Always approachable, Fergus welcomed and answered all questions with enthusiasm before we proceeded to lunch.

Galanthus “S.Arnott” in front of Arum italicum “Pictum”

All work is carried out on boards so as not to compact the soil or to disturb plants

After a jovial group meal in the lovingly preserved house, we were then shown around the garden by Fergus. As we walked he showed us areas where another layer of planting could be added, and described the borders in terms of a series of compartments that all have their own planting combinations.

Cyclmen providing winter interest under a tree and spreading all the way to the back of the border

He showed us areas where Cyclamen were not only planted in waves under shrubs and trees, but also going right to the back of borders, using their leaves to maximum decorative effect now even though their flowers would be obscured by other planting later on in the year.

The long border, full of structure , still with plenty of winter interest.Grasses soon to cut down to make way for spring bulbs to be seen.
The long border still providing plenty of interest in winter
Gorgeous Daphniphyllum macropodum adding colour and texture to the garden. The pink was really arresting.
Effective yet unobstrusive means by which plants are staked at Great Dixter

We spent a couple of hours exploring the borders and absorbing much information, then the day was finished off with a welcome cup of tea/coffee and time to wander around the nursery and to buy some plants.

Lucy and I found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable day, going away with tons to think about and a heap of useful information inside our heads, in the notes we had taken throughout the day and in the form of a slide list in which all the plants Fergus had talked about were detailed.

Different course are held throughout the year and all the proceeds go to maintaining and developing the gardens in the experimental and joyous fashion of Christopher Lloyd and Fergus Garrett. Book now!!

Great Dixter, Northiam, Rye, E.Sussex TN31 6PH


tel 01797 252878

p.s. You can also read about my 4 days volunteering at Great Dixter earlier on this year (2011). A wonderful experience.

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As the thunder cracks and the rain is lashing at the windows, I thought I’d mention a few books that I like to curl up with on such an inhospitable afternoon.

Anna Pavord’s ‘Plant Partners’ is close to what I regard as plant porn. Sumptuous photographs  make you want to get planting and experimenting instantly and I often reach for this book when seeking inspiration for plant combinations as I plan specific areas of a border for a specific season in the year. Mostly listing perennials, bulbs and annuals with a nod to shrubs and ferns too, I’m still grateful to the friend who bought this gorgeous, informative book for me years (note coffee stains) ago.

Another gift from a friend when I started growing crops on my first allotment, Joy Larkcom is the queen of vegetables. None of the glossy images of the former book, but a wealth of down to earth (no pun intended) knowledge shared, about basics of soil, sowing, pest and diseases and cropping at the front of the book, followed by a very comprehensive alphabetical list of vegetables to grow, supplying information on best soil, when and how to sow, pests and diseases, harvesting times and a range of cultivars for each crop. I wouldn’t want to grow vegetables without it.

This catalogue of perennials, including Irises, ferns and grasses from the Suffolk nursery has been updated a number of times over the last few years and a new version is out in February which you can order now. One of the things I like about this catalogue/book, apart from just being a good read,  is that all perennials are listed in the sun loving or shade loving sections, making life a lot easier when searching for plants for different areas of the garden. Descriptions by Michael Loftus are detailed, witty, full of historical references and very descriptive. Woottens’ website has good images too. I find this catalogue very useful for finding the right variety of a plant for the right place in your garden.

Another veg growing book and a very welcome recent addition to my collection. Written by Mark Diacono from the River Cottage garden collection,  this is a very straightforward book, listing many vegetables alphabetically too, but with gorgeous images for most crops and a heading for each vegetable listing plant group, when to sow and plant out and when to harvest. Very easy to follow and therefore inspirational,  this book also includes somes recipes at the back too.

Finally, another inspirational book that can keep me awake half of the night. Although sadly no longer with us, Christopher Lloyd’s book still is able to convey his passion for gardening and his understanding of how to combine plants to create a stunning garden all year round. Photographs taken from his garden at Great Dixter (still very much alive and continuing to flourish under the guidance of Fergus Garrett) joyfully illustrate his choices of plants that give vibrant colours and playful textures throughout the seasons. If you’re ever stuck for ideas, reach for this book.

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