U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8b. 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).
Part 2: Great Dixter. Part 2- Nursery, Exotic garden

***Copyright 2016. TatyanaS


  1. Those paths are incredible! Especially the ones lined with orange tulips and purple and blue companion plants. Just dreamy...

  2. The gloss from the rain just added to the atmosphere. Lovely photos of a lovely garden!

    1. Mark and Gaz, thank you! Yes, and raindrops, too!

  3. It's all beautiful, even in the rain, maybe even more beautiful that in sunshine.

    Thank you for sharing ~ FlowerLady

    1. Thank you Lorraine! You are right, bright light could make everything to look washed out.

  4. Beautiful, just beautiful. Both the photos and your words. I'm so glad you got to experience this place and thank you for sharing!

    1. Loree, thank you! That garden brings out the best in people!

  5. Lucky in a way that it was raining, you had the place to yourself. Fabulous photos. I don't mind skinny paths. I have both in my garden. Getting up close and personal with the plants is what it is all about. Gardening friends don't mind either.

    1. Thank you, Lisa! I also think that rain caused some people to postpone a visit to the Garden.

  6. Great Dixter was featured in one of my very first garden books. The photos had a great impact on my ambitions as a gardener. Your images are just as wonderful! I recently visited a fabulous garden, but the bright sun, and the fact that I was hurried by the tour guide, limited the quality of the photos. So your rain was a blessing in disguise.

    1. Thank you Deb! I got very lucky since they let me in an hour before the opening time; I was sure it opens at 10, but actually it's 11 a.m.

  7. I loved this tour through your amateur eyes - I doubt a professional could have summed up a picture tour quite so beautifully Tatyana. The rain really added to the effect. I love how different a garden can look during or after rain.

    1. Angie, thank you! It's been a week since we came back from Europe, and I still thinking about Great Dixter and how fortunate I was to visit it!

  8. You always make a garden look amazing....and this one was looks so incredible....and i can't wait to see it for myself one day....I am sure my mouth will be open the whole time.

    1. Donna, thanks! I would gladly go there again! Every time I promise myself to take less pictures, and every time I fail. Now, I'm so glad I took tons of them!

  9. I've never been to Dixter but would love to go. Allowing your self absolute openness is the best way to experience anything, I think. You just go where your emotions take you. I love the casual wildness of many of the plantings.

    1. Tammy, thanks! Wildness - yes, it can be one more definition of this garden or at least of some parts of it!

  10. What can one express... I will return to your post again to try and soak up all of what you have shared in these amazing phtos of one of the greatest of all gardens... Thank you, Larry

    1. Hi Larry and thank you for stopping by! The Garden is absolutely mind-blowing!

  11. Gorgeous, stunning...there aren't enough adjectives to describe this beautiful garden! Your photos are incredible, too, Tatyana. I can only imagine how you felt walking through this--it looks like Paradise! I like your "naive" approach to visiting a garden--I think your own first impressions are most important, not what someone else thinks you should see. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Thank you Rose for your kind words! I'm SO glad you liked the pictures! The Garden is still holding me, if I can say so. What a place, what a talent!

  12. Greatest blog post ever!!!!!!

    1. Hi Hoover Boo! I am very glad that these pictures make people happy!

  13. I've seen many images of this famous garden but yours are some of the best. You have an artist's eye and are able to capture the feeling of a place with your camera. Thank you for sharing your intimate view and emotions in this post. I found myself feeling a bit emotional as well looking at the misty, wet beauty.

    1. Thank you Peter! I wish all these amazing English gardens were closer to us!

  14. Last time I was at Sissinghurst it was pouring rain - the silver lining was that there were very few people in the garden, because the time before that when I was there it was a gorgeous day and the garden was so busy it almost ruined the experience. I've had great luck at Great Dixter - the sun has always shone for me when I've been there.


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