Thursday, 29 November 2018

A visit to Great Dixter in early May

I first read about Great Dixter, the famous garden of the late Christopher Lloyd in East Sussex,  a few years ago and was fascinated by the colourful and bold plant combinations and the naturalistic planting style. I vowed to myself that one day I will visit the garden and see for myself what so far I had only seen in pictures.

In early May this year the time had finally arrived, I was working close to the garden and had a few hours to spare, the sun was shining, so what better things are there to do than visiting a beautiful garden.

It was early May but the garden was already so lush and colourful, with tulips and alliums, poppies and forget-me-nots and many more spring-flowering plants vying for attention. I especially liked the lime-green flowers of Smyrnium perfoliatum which were dotted all over the garden, a biennial plant which self-seeds easily if it likes the conditions. Lime-green Euphorbia palustris was another showy plant which I have now planted on my allotment. Another pretty plant with tiny pink flowers was the poppy Papaver dubium ssp. lecoqii var. albiflorum (a rather long name for such a small plant) which I have not seen anywhere else so far. The emerging flowers of giant fennel (Ferula communis), a huge umbellifer from the Mediterranean, were an impressive sight and its feathery leaves provided a beautiful backdrop for many of the other plants.

Smyrnium perfoliatum and red tulips
Euphorbia palustris, a spectacular plant
The small pink poppy with Smyrnium perfoliatum

The large areas of wildflower meadows in different parts of the garden were beautiful and just starting to come into flower with wild orchids, buttercups and blue Camassia. I could see a lot of yellow rattle in the meadows which must have helped to weaken the grass. As the vegetation was generally on the short side I assume the fertility of the underlying soil must be quite low as well.

I was impressed by the diversity of plants in the meadows  and would have liked to do a vegetation survey to see how many species per m2 I could come up with. But I was there to enjoy myself, not to work :-). 

Green-winged orchids in the meadows
Beautiful wildflower meadows

Camassia is naturalised in some of the meadows, I am trying something similar on the allotment now

It was also interesting to see that some plants which others would regard as weeds were left to naturalise in some places such as cow parsley, but which worked really well as a light and airy backdrop for more showy plants (see picture below).

Alliums, poppies and forget-me-not with a background of cow parsley

I would be nice to be able to see Great Dixter at different times of the year as I am sure that every few weeks it will look different. The tropical garden was still in its winter sleep in early May and many of the later perennials were just starting to grow.

Below you can see some more pictures of the garden.

The Sunk Garden, there were actually newts in the pond in the middle of the garden
The pretty pink poppy again, here with the umbellifer Orlaya grandiflora
Alliums, tulips and columbine
Poppies, alliums and cow parsley
I am normally not a fan of topiary but here at Great Dixter it fit perfectly, containing the wilder plantings in the middle
Giant fennel (Ferula communis), one of the signature plants at Great Dixter
Allium 'Purple Rain', white honesty, giant fennel and columbine
The Peacock Garden with sweet cicely, Euphorbia and meadow rue
The High Garden with alliums, giant fennel, honesty and many perennials and grasses
Phyllostachys nigra, a very showy bamboo
Columbine and honesty, a pretty picture in pink

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