Saturday, July 3, 2010

down to Dixter

I must admit that two gardens in one day is a bit much and after the frustrations and disappointments of Sissinghurst I had high hopes for Great Dixter home of the late Christopher Lloyd with unconventional and supposedly spectacular gardens.

It was easier to find and MUCH less hectic than Sissinghurst and if the gardens are the comparison point there is no earthly reason why. Dixter is by far the more impressive place. The mock tudor Lutyens house sits within its surroundings perfectly, conjuring up images of the rural idyll that it may or may not have been in it's origins.

From Great Dixter

The sunk garden was by far my favorite spot and my first port of call it is striking all at once. The colours. The level changes. the buildings surrounding it. The views through it. The planting. The colour. I will admit to be a bit taken aback by the chaotic-ness of it all plants seemingly jumbled in together in ones, twos and maybe mores, colours clashing and offsetting and fabulous contrast of form and shape. I was making photographs and this makes me look more carefully, but there is a point where I simply had to stop shooting and just revel in the gloriousness of the plantings - I am a plantaholic, no apologies there - I walked around it three times in different directions, sat in the barn-ish building to one side and breathed it in. I suspect this is not the plan for this upper pathway as it is narrowish and one needs to navigate flopping plants with one's footsteps but nevertheless it was enthralling.

From Great Dixter

Stepping through the walled gateway into a courtyard of rather garish pots was a contrast and not necessarily welcome yet the paving here was intricate and to be marvelled at - and photographed of course. Down on into the back gardens and more contrast and rule breaking to be seen. The last 3rd was right up against the 2nd and 1st thirds (if you are a designer you will know this rule of thirds, if not...well you only have to ask!)

From Great Dixter

I should have followed a map but wandering took me through a tropical garden sheeted in shade cloth to protect the plants from the scorching heat into more meadows and across a brick path back up to the long borders. FIlled with colour and vibrant flowerings the wide borders show off the Great Dixter style in a truly unforgettable way they lead up to a bench which was occupied on both my meanderings so I didn't get to sit and just admire but I did stand a stare for a long time, camera in hand.

Walking up through yew hedges (Taxus baccata) on impossibly decorative and yet functional steps into the orchard continues the magical feel of the place, tiny pathways - yay plants rule! - leading behind borders and around borders and through borders.

From Great Dixter

Swathes of floriferous herbaceous and shrubby perennials making their sumptuous summer statement.

From Great Dixter

The high garden was too chaotic for me, undoubtedly plantings of note but chaotic and rather hysterical, if planting can be hysterical. There seems no rhythm here, structure but a bit more of a conglomeration without the story. perhaps I needed longer to understand it.

My second favorite part is the bench facing the topiary garden between house and nursery. An Alice in Wonderland-esque spot with towering topiary yews and meadows scrambling at their feet. The cat and I, for they have a cat or two here, sat and watched the world go by. Cat was watching for ice cream laden punters, to sweet talk into a mouthful or two of creaminess I was hiding from the heat of the day and reading the Dixter booklet.

From Great Dixter

This was my favourite garden of the day though even here not one plant tempted me.

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