Posts Tagged ‘Fergus Garrett’

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.

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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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Brunnera Jack Frost & Pulmonaria 'Blue Ensign'

Really trying to get to grips with the shadier areas in my garden at the moment. I love the way that the blue flowers of the Pumonaria ‘Blue Ensign’ pick up on blue of the forget-me-not-like flowers of these Brunnera. The highly, almost white, variegated leaves of Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ seem to glow in a dark spot and contrast wonderfully with the surrounding green foliage.

Pulmonaria 'Sissinghurst white' with Pachyphragma macrophyllum

I can’t get enough of Pulmonarias and bought some ‘Sissinghurst whites’ to plant by my Pachyphragma macrophyllum on the right of the photo (big name for such a smallish plant, I know!). Looks like lots of bare earth, but the plants will hopefully spread to form a luxuriant green and white carpet of loveliness in this area soonish.

Euphorbia robbiae with Hyancinth 'Blue Jacket'

This is from a client’s garden at the edge of a small woodland area. Both plants have such vibrantly coloured flowers that they really dazzle when planted next to each other. Might even try planting more Hyacinths within the Euphorbia next time round.

Leucojum aestivum or Summer Snowflake

Despite its name, Leucojum aestivum usually flowers in April or May. It’s like a giant snowdrop, about 18 inches to 2 ft tall and does well in semi-shady parts of my garden. My parents always had these in their garden and these are some of the first plants I planted when we moved to our house about 10 years ago as they really remind me of my childhood and gardening with my parents.

Pittosporum tennuifolium flowers

These teeny-weeny flowers look so insignificant, but have the sweetest scent in a semi-shaded area of my garden. My Pittosporum is a large shrub, but will become a small tree if I don’t do something about it pronto. As soon as the flowers have finished, will get my secateurs out!

Spirea with Tulipa Ballade

Onto sunnier areas in the garden. This Spirea looked pretty naked last spring, flowering in what seemed like its own vacuum, so in autumn I planted these Tulips to enliven the area. Still not sure if I want to keep the Spirea (which came with the house), but the Tulips do improve the spot.

Tulipa Ballade with Euphorbia cyparissias 'Fens Ruby'

However, I planted a few of the Tulips next to this lovely Euphorbia ‘Fens Ruby’ which I do think works. I’ve put a note in my diary for September to order loads more pink tulips (but not Ballade as I want pure pink without the white) for this bed come autumn.

Bare patch in border

And finally, the problem spot! Read a great blog today from Helen at The Patient Gardener. She’d been to hear Fergus Garrett from Great Dixter talk about successional planting and one of the most important lessons she learnt was to always take notes in your own garden! I know I have Crocosmia and some Echinacea coming up in this area later on in the year, but what should I plant here now? (Any ideas gratefully received). Glad I’ve finally taken a pic of this bed in April as I think I may want to plant some more Tulips here and it will be good to know exactly where to place them later in the year. Another note in my diary to buy Tulips for this bed too.

Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter

Helen also mentioned how inspiring she found the talk by Fergus Garrett and I felt the same when I went on a Successional planting day last January.  Great Dixter holds study days throughout the year in East Sussex with Fergus Garrett leading many of the courses. Have a look at my blog about the Successional planting day. I hugely recommend going on a course. You’ll come away having had a very enjoyable day and your head will be full of great new planting ideas.Book now!!

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