Any Other Topics: Great Dixter Garden & Autumn Plant Sale
Started by: Tim Ingram
Some musings on a rather enjoyable day - but few alpines for sale!Go to latest contribution by Margaret Young, 04 October 2011, 20:16. Go to bottom of this page.
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Gardeners are seldom categorised in the same way as musicians and artists. And yet when you analyse the sensibilities and skills underlying gardening it seems hard not to put many in the same class. Beth Chatto, Christopher Lloyd, Helen Dillon, Brian Cross, have all made gardens that made me gasp, and especially because of the very wide variety of plants they grow - true plantsmen or women, but also artists in their own right. It is much more common to identify artists who became gardeners, like Gertrude Jekyll or Monet.
Great Dixter is a garden I have visited for many years, always slightly ramshackle, as was Christopher Lloyd himself, but charmingly human because of this - old fruit trees left as we might in our own gardens; a provocative use of colour, which for most of us comes about by accident rather than design! But underlying the whole garden a strong intelligence which is so evident in Christopher Lloyd's writing.
Dixter tends to raise the hackles of some visitors and one gets the feeling that this is no accident! But it grips you none-the-less for its sheer vitality and is full of theatre. In an age of quite prescriptive gardening it heads in its own direction as all great art does. I find it quite hard not to think of Christopher Lloyd as equivalent to many of the great artists of recent times, but the transience and down to earth nature of a garden would hardly lead most others to agree with me. If Christopher Lloyd was a great artist then he has passed on his vision to Fergus Garrett who has captured the spirit of the place and added greatly to it.
Combine a great garden like Dixter with a whole collection of specialist nurseries, as happened last weekend, and a pretty good time is guaranteed! The nurseries had their best day on Saturday, but as Derry Watkins (Special Plants) said to me, Sunday gave everyone the chance to meet up and exchange plants. Small nurseries, and also larger ones that grow their own plants, invariably are based on a fascination and love of gardening and propagating. Some may be more successful than others, but that sharing of enthusiasm is probably the most important thing of all. The very fact that we do exchange plants ensures that many unusual and rare species and varieties are kept in cultivation, just as gardeners themselves have always passed on plants and shared their ups and downs in growing.
What Great Dixter and this event show is that our love of plants and gardens is very individual in nature and that small can be beautiful even if not greatly profitable. It is those connections between fellow gardeners and growers that bring as much enjoyment as the plants themselves. That sense of intimacy can only happen on the small scale and amongst gardeners that really know their plants.
The very last picture is actually in our garden; virginia creeper colouring in a birch tree. What I like about this and all of the images from Dixter is the sense of plants being used together in a 'community'. This also works wonderfully well with woodland perennials in the spring where there can be a great succession of flowers from winter through to early summer. Alpines really are more in a class of their own because climate and geography so strongly influence their distribution and the result is such an entirely distinct type of gardening. I still view it though as just as dramatic and exciting in its way as what goes on at Dixter, even if rather less appreciated by most gardeners!