U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8a. Sunset climate zone 5

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Great Dixter Garden From Under My Umbrella

It was raining. The same as when I visited  Sissinghurst in May 2014.
In Sissinghurst, rain would stop for a moment, the sun would show up briefly and then, the rain would start again, but at least I had some breaks. In Great Dixter, there were no breaks, and only several pictures were not taken from under my umbrella.

Most of the pictures are not altered in any way. Brightness, sharp contrast - it is exactly how the garden looked on the morning of May 10th, 2016. (We are lucky to see these vibrant, crystal clear colors in our own gardens here in the U.S. Pacific Northwest due to high humidity).

How many pictures are not too many? I probably will  make one or two additional posts.

I am an amateur gardener. I mean  v e r y   amateur. And my approach to visiting famous gardens is also very amateur. I don't prepare my visits properly by studying garden maps, looking at garden pictures, etc. I refresh my memory about the history of a garden, and that's it.
I do this to avoid any influence of other people's opinion on me. Egoistically, I want my first feelings about the garden to be purely mine. I want to be as naive as naive could be.
I even don't look at the garden leaflet received at the gate until I finish my initial self-tour.
After I take the pictures and make a first round, I usually sit on a bench and study a map.

Here is a dry one!

After that, the second walk-around is done.
 I followed this strategy in Sissinghurst,  Hidcote Manor Garden, Giverny and others (they all are listed in this blog's page 'Gardens of the World That I Visited').

Sissinghurst Garden was my first from the famous English gardens. It shocked me in a good sense of this word. Hidcote Manor Garden which I visited  the following year, was beautiful, but I couldn't stop catching myself thinking 'I saw something similar at Sissinghurst', 'they used the same concept', and so on.
Great Dixter Garden, of course, also has something in common with these other two great gardens, but somehow, it didn't make me think about common features which it shares with them.
It grasped me from the first second I entered it and held my heart tight until the second I stepped beyond its gate.

The first view of the Christopher Lloyd's house

View back toward the Garden entrance

What other words other than beautiful and gorgeous can I use to describe Great Dixter Garden? Remember, I am not a garden designer...
Unexpected, lush, bold and brilliant, sometimes surrealistic, flamboyant and playful with its gargantuan feathery ferula (giant fennel) towering above other plants; in some places seemingly unruled, beautifully disheveled, proclaiming freedom and even revolt.

Ferula communis

 I loved the Garden's paths.  More than once, I read a critique toward narrow paths in gardens.
Some people insist that a proper garden path should be wide enough to allow two people to walk side by side and share a conversation.
Well, this Garden's paths certainly are not that type! But, isn't it easy - to stop, turn toward a friend and to admire together and discuss a plant or other garden feature?

Walking along Great Dixter Garden's narrow, sometimes very narrow paths, allowed me to feel myself as a child in a fairy-tale garden. I found this experience very intimate, very personal.
I could almost touch the plants trimming the walkways and  looked at the garden not from aside but being among the plants, surrounded by them.
In other words, I was within the garden as a part versus as a side observer.

What struck me in this Garden, as well as in Sissinghurst and Hidcote Manor Garden, was that such a great effect is reached partially by using commonly found, well known, ordinary plants. Of course, there are some unusual and less known plants, but the majority of them are just it - tulips, forget- me- not, daffodils, bluebells, eutrochium, wallflower, achillea, columbine, penstemon, brunnera, primula, peony, crocosmia, poppy, fritillaria, etc.

What did I feel walking through  the Garden?
Excitement, as I've already said,  from the first step into the Garden to the last one;

The sense of expectation of something magical behind each corner that never let me down;

Joy of seeing mature knotty trees;

Childish feeling of satisfaction when I saw something similar, if I dare to say so, to my own garden. For example, using tall plants in front of the borders or having a huge head of grass sticking out in the middle of a plant bed;

Growing appreciation of the usual, traditional I-see-you-every-day plants.

And this is the place where I started to cry. Well, not cry-cry, but where I shed a couple of tears.

Here, when I saw this magnolia tree. The fact that I was actually alone in this intimate, special place dawned on me.

 Simultaneously, there were two opposite feelings - of cozy confinement due to the wall on the left and the presence of a close openness due to the view ahead and behind the arch in the wall.

What I love in this picture, above, is a play of the layers, the view of all these steps, vertical and horizontal lines and, with that geometrical background, soft rounded magnolia's petals, touching and romantic.

 The tree's branches and flowers seemed to be suspended  and floating in the air.
I allowed myself to shed a tear and said several words of gratefulness for the happiness to have had such a special moment.
Garden's beautiful arches allowed us to see alluring clouds of color pulling you toward them like a magnet.

Poppies. Oh, those poppies! Thrown seemingly here and there in a random fashion, they add excitement and joy to a scene. They are like little fairies hiding their lovely faces from the rain and ready to giggle the moment it stops.

Below - What is it if not magic? It makes my heart squeeze. There is an expectation here. 
There is romance in the air, don't you feel it?

It wouldn't be the same garden without a background of the buildings, window arches, weathered grey wood, brick and stone. This contrast of soft ephemeral blooms, tender foliage and permanent, seemingly immortal hard structures, was almost poignant.

"The borders are mixed, not herbaceous. I see no point in segregating plants of differing habit or habits. They can all help one another. 
So, you'll see shrubs, climbers, hardy and tender perennials, annuals and biennials, all growing together and contributing to the overall tapestry." Christopher Lloyd

In the Garden's nursery, I spotted several types of Camassia: C. cuisickii, C. leichtnilii, C. quamash

"I have no segregated colour schemes. In fact, I take it as a challenge to combine every sort of colour effectively. I have a constant awareness of colour and of what I am doing, but if I think a yellow candelabrum of mullein will look good rising from the middle of a quilt of pink phlox, I'll put it there - or let it put itself there. Many plants in this garden are self-sown and they often provide me with excellent ideas. But I do also have some of my own!" Christopher Lloyd

 What's green and succulent today will be brown and dry tomorrow. This is the way of life and death, and this is one of the things our gardens teach us.

Attention! Gunnera in a pot!

"The garden is managed in the same way as in Christopher Lloyd's time.
We go for high-impact visual displays but also intimacy in our combinations.
All of this is within a strong infrastructure of buildings, garden hedges and landscaped trees.
Wildflower meadows continue to flow into the garden and are cut twice a year after the seeds are set."  Head Gardener, Fergus Garrett

 Above - Do you see that single light red tulip? Would the scene be the same without it? I don't think so.

To be continued (maybe with no words, but with many pictures).

***Copyright 2016. TatyanaS

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