Let's Go: Great Dixter Part II

 This place haunts my dreams. Really. Honest to goodness unconscious dreams. I wake feeling happy. I don't think that has happened before, i.e., dreaming of gardens I have visited. What alchemy is at work, I wonder? Besides the unconscious kind, I have waking dreams when working in my own garden where flashes of Great Dixter arrive unexpectedly. I think it must be the generosity of spirit it exudes. This place does its own thing without being stuffy. It is welcoming and it changes every day. Literally. How exciting is that? No wonder, then.

It is a pleasure for me revisiting my many photographs and putting these posts together, ultimately dreaming of the chance to return someday. Last week we explored most of the garden areas at Great Dixter. This time, let us explore the nursery, a bit of the home's interior as well as the gardens on the north side of the home to conclude our visit to this historic, wonderful site.

 Starting off with an image of the Solar Garden in early October, the oast house and great barn in the background. These beds are changed regularly, sometimes several times in a growing season. The look of dark foliage with shades of red feels harmonious.

Great Dixter Nursery is open year-round for the lucky locals and visitors. It was started by Christopher in 1954, specializing in plants that get the seal of approval from the Great Dixter crew. Having worked at a few nurseries (currently at Cistus Nursery), I appreciated the simplicity, the charm and selection of plant material offered. It is not a large nursery but is packed with beautiful and healthy plants propagated from the gardens. The displays are eye candy and much care obviously goes into the growing of plants here.

Verbena bonariensis seeded in the gravel, an informal, charming touch.

Most offerings are on the ground and in cold frames, a practical approach, especially when weather turns and plants on tables need to be moved to the ground or covered. This is much simpler and I imagine very effective.

Masses of clematis down below, the selection is impressive. Maurice, my friend and former owner of Joy Creek Nursery, known for clematis, would be pleased.

One of several glass houses for growing. I was tempted to peek inside but I obeyed the signs and left it to staff only.

Great Dixter Nursery grows an impressive array of asters.

Just a pop of color.

The Great Dixter way of doing things. I love it.

Cannas and other tropical-looking foliage plants. Note the watering cans in the background, ready for action.

Here is that same path shown in last week's post that leads from the orchard, along the edge of the Lower Moat and into the nursery past the gate.

More cold frames, note the stack of windows in the background. I really like this approach.

A wider view of the frames holding plants for sale.

Such a pretty color. I would have bought this Salvia x jamensis
‘Nachtvlinder’ if we were local.

If I lived there, I would have purchased so many fabulous plants. I did enjoy window shopping.

Behind the nursery and cafe they were preparing for the Great Dixter Autumn Plant Fair which we missed by a few days. Each of these shelters was for a different nursery.

If only . . . what a gathering. We missed it by two days. Could you imagine? What fun we would have here.

Picnic shelters with eco roofs next to the Loggia Cafe. We did have lunch here, it was delicious, a massive salad for me and a ploughman's lunch for FM. 

A sweet begonia bouquet in the cafe.

As covered in my last post, the house began its life in the mid-15th century. The porch straight ahead and everything to the right is the original Dixter manor house while everything on the left is a addition by the architect Edwin Lutyens which was completed by 1912. In addition to the Lutyen's wing, an early 16th-century timber house from the nearby village of Beneden was dismantled and moved. That section of the house is on the back side and not seen in this photograph. It comprises the Yeoman's Hall as well as additional rooms. Lutyens unified the whole structure with sympathetic architecture appropriate for a medieval manor house and tied it all together with a great tiled roof.

At the right end of the house is The Solar (above) and The Parlor.

The left side or Lutyens wing.

One's admission to the garden includes access to the original manor house. Pictured is The Great Hall and its amazing fireplace and tapestry.

The Great Hall once more, the entrance to the staircase that leads to the Solar on the upper floor can be seen in the corner.


In the Solar upstairs, a peek at the Topiary Lawn through the windows.

Upstairs in the Solar, facing north or the front of the home. Note the needlework embroidery chair, an example of Daisy's talent. She also taught all of her six children the craft of embroidery.

Detail with volumes of Country Life, bound in blue, on the bottom shelf.

Facing south, the door to the staircase in the corner of the room.

The Parlour on the ground level behind the Great Hall. Note the pillow on the chair.

Some embroidery work by Christopher. My sentiment exactly.

Early 18th-century English walnut bureau with mirrored doors, part of the antique furniture collection of the Lloyds.

A peek into the library of the Parlor.

One of many dachshund images throughout the the home. Christopher had several in his lifetime, two of whom, Dahlia and Canna, were immortalized in a mosaic in the Wall Garden we looked at last time.

Christopher and Fergus. There were many warm touches of artwork and familiar, personal items from Christopher's lifetime (and indeed his family's) throughout that made it a home rather than a museum.

There are vast numbers of rooms not pictured here for they are not open to the public, generally speaking. We were honored when Ashley, the Facilities Manager for Great Dixter offered to show us a few more rooms including the kitchen, pantry, a couple bedrooms and a maze of staircases. It was a thrill, thank you again, Ashley! We honored the request to not take photographs, I will just have to use my memory. Let me just say the home's interior feels harmonious and well-loved.

Under the porch near the front door, a tray of tender plants.

Beautiful windows bring to mind fairy tales.

Finishing off our visit with areas of the garden we haven't covered yet. Leaving the Barn Garden, heading to the front of the home.

On the back of the brick wall looking west towards the oast house, Japanese anemones bloom.

Oast house in the background.

Towards the front of the house are the High Garden, the Peacock Topiary Garden and the Orchard Garden; the Orchard Garden is used for nursery stock. Dried astilbe flowers pictured here are interesting and add texture.

Warm reds of rose hips echo tones of the roof behind.

The borders here as with the Barn Garden are planted densely right up to the edge of the path. Amaranth, asters, persicaria and salvia extend the garden season right through autumn.

I loved this, I believe it is Hebe cupressoides, a plant I grow and love. Its pruning is something I wouldn't have thought of; however, it works. I wonder how old this particular specimen is?

Tagetes 'Cinnabar', a Great Dixter strain of marigolds, are sprinkled throughout. Not a huge marigold enthusiast (I like them but never considered adding them to my garden), I fell in love with these as they are especially tall, wiry and have the richest dark orange color with golden petal margins. I just ordered a few seed packets to try these in my own garden.

Grasses, evergreen plants, annuals and perennials against a rustic wooden structure.

The swale below is known as the Cat Garden. The autumn colors of what looks to be Parthenocissus quinquefolia drip down the bricks.

In the Peacock Topiary Garden looking towards the edge of the house.

A field of Symphyotrichum lateriflorum var. horizontalis. Fergus in the background.

Peacock topiary fronted by a Yucca gloriosa 'Variegata'.

Many clipped hedges all around the gardens.

A couple peacock topiaries having a conversation.

Ferula communis, giant fennel, stems and seeds standing tall above the borders.

Rustic, historic details. What I would do to have a gate such as this.

A chair at the end of the Long Border where Christopher often sat.

The pathway from the gate up to the front door, crocus in the meadow and a wheelbarrow at the ready for one of the many talented gardeners to do their work for the day.  

A parting photograph of the Long Border in full autumn glory. On reflection, here are some take aways I learned from Great Dixter: Every bit of garden counts. Make the most of what you have. I want to create more biodiversity in my own two-acre parcel of land including learning more about succession planting. It's ok to pick and choose what you love from any garden, there are no rules. Embrace change. 

I just don't want to leave. It has brought me much joy to revisit these images from Great Dixter, they float in my memory and take me from border to border in my own garden, telling some kind of story, a fairy tale of some kind constructed in childhood and forgotten until now. If only I had a year to spend at Great Dixter! I want to learn so much more about it, I feel connected to it in some uncanny way. A lot of the magic indeed comes from the home, especially for a Yankee who has no equivalent in her country. But it's the combination of the home, the gardens, the innovation and constant change (held in check by the permanent plantings and hedges), the wildlife, Fergus and the people under his generous guidance that make the whole. It is, in a word, heart.

Thank you to everyone at Great Dixter for making the last day of our U.K. trip so warm and memorable. I'll say it again, it's the people that make a place. 

That's a wrap for this time at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting, we do love hearing from you all! Happy gardening.


  1. Anonymous8:58 AM PST

    The best of this garden came home with you! In waking moments and in sleep it continues bringing you joy. I'd bet that if you were a local, you'd have not only bought that Salvia x jamensis ‘Nachtvlinder' but also worked in the nursery and volunteered in the garden.
    I love seeing the interior of the great hall and tried to imagine how it looked 400 years ago, probably a bit more sparse back then. The closeups of the old beams... SO lovely.
    It will be very exciting to grow Tagetes 'Cinnabar' from seed: to have a physical, tangible, continuing connection to that special garden.
    Oh, and FM can make you such a rustic gate, no? Maybe not by this Christmas, but surly for next :-D
    (Unsuccessful in keeping my comment short... again).

    1. It did come home with us, Chavli. I would totally have bought that salvia and worked there if they would have me and volunteered. All of it. The Great Hall wowed us - it is of historic significance, something like the oldest intact hall of its kind in the UK- I could have that wrong but it's something of the sort. I think it would have looked nearly the same (minus furnishings). The rustic gate? I'll plant a seed with FM ;)

      I love your long comments, Chavli! Keep 'em coming. cheers.

  2. Such a wonderful experience filled with lasting memories. One of the takeaways from Dixter is to not be afraid to change things up. This is what makes it such an incredible garden as it's never stagnant. As Fergus has said 'If you don't like it rip it out and change it'. Good advice for us all to follow. Thank you for this beautiful post. Hopefully someday will make it in person.

    1. Elaine, you are spot on. Not to be afraid to change things up. Never stagnant. Yes, if you don't like it, rip it out! We are so often stifled because of stylistic rules. Be free. I hope you do get to visit someday.

  3. I want a glass house just like the one you didn't enter! I saw lovely cold frames at Chanticleer, I wonder why you don't see them much out here in the West?

    Looking at the home's exterior I've always thought it looks to be on the verge of collapsing. Your photos of the interior look much more structurally sound.

    Finally, thank you for sharing all of your thoughts on this garden. Another blogging friend visited a while back and was not so charmed, It was wonderful to read someone caught up in the magic.

    1. I wonder too about cold frames....just not done much around here but man, it makes sense to me.

      Yes, the house does look crooked-ish but it is structurally sound (at least it feels that way) and in good shape. These several-hundred-year-old structures are kind of dizzying - for instance our hotel was of the same era and no surface was straight...keeps it interesting.

      I know not everyone is charmed by every garden and that's ok - but in all fairness I think a lot depends on what time of the day and year one visits. A crowd can kill it for any happy garden experience. Having said that, I think there is something for everyone to appreciate at Great Dixter unless of course you're expecting plastic unattainable perfection.

  4. I can understand why the garden haunts your dreams, Tamara. I adored the nursery but I'd happily get lost in any corner of that garden. FYI, the Salvia x jamensis
    ‘Nachtvlinder’ you admired is currently available through Annie's Annuals & Perennials via mail order - it's even on sale at the moment through the 26th. I know because I'm currently compiling my last order before they close down for the holidays ;)

    1. Ooh, thank you for that tip, Kris! Good to know! It was soooo pretty at the nursery. I hope you get lots of goodies at Annie's! Also, I'd love to get (and stay) lost at Dixter....sigh...

  5. It's also carried by Xera Plants! https://xeraplants.com/plants/salvia-x-jamensis-nachtvlinder/

    1. Oh boy, garden people are the best! Not one but two recommendations for where to buy that gorgeous salvia. Thank you Colleen!

  6. Love seeing the nursery and cold frames. Lots of old windows at the local Habitat for Humanity...

  7. Sounds like you've found one of your resonance points - one of those locations that stirs every sense and echoes through out every nerve and fiber. It's a rare thing. Use the memory of that to guide your way forward in life and in the garden.

    I've never read nor followed much from the great gardeners of England. I didn't feel connected. What they achieved seemed distant, irrelevant, and unattainable. I was wrong. It is magical. There are lessons there that are relevant, even in my rustic PNW garden. Thanks for connecting the dots and sharing your story. Sometimes all it takes is seeing something through someone else's eyes.

    1. Oh Jerry, your comment is about my favorite ever. I am so pleased that you found some substance in this garden and its magic. I'm thrilled it came through for you. It's like that sometimes - no interest in something until a veil is lifted and a personal connection is made. Cheers, and thank you.

  8. Thank you for so gracefully sharing this garden. It was fantastic to get the peek inside, I can't help but wonder what the kitchen was like. The borders are lovely, I especially like the packed border with the amaranth.

    1. Oh, I'm thrilled you enjoyed it - the border with the amaranth is lovely. The kitchen is very rustic, functional and very cool. No super modern conveniences but oh so pretty.

  9. I visited England in May of 2022. My daughter took me on the trip of a lifetime, one I never would have been able to afford. I didn't see Great Dixter although I have several Christopher Lloyd books, but saw several other gardens. The one I'll most remember is Trebah in Cornwall. A hillside of wonder sloping down to the sea.
    It would be so amazing to live in a country where gardening is such a focus. I will never forget it. Thanks for the wonderful post!

    1. How lovely, Barb that you had the chance to see a slice of England. It would be so wonderful to live in basically a giant garden island which is what so much of England is. I'll look up Trebah, I've not heard of it but there are so many great gardens there I'm not surprised. Cheers!


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