With no Chelsea Flower Show this year, we must content ourselves with cottage garden dreams. Dream with me as we walk through the wonderful gardens at Great Dixter.
‘I believe a really good way to understand a culture is by its gardens’Monty Don in the BBC series ‘Around the world in 80 gardens’
The traditional old English cottage garden is always a favourite at the Chelsea Flower Show. We dream of nostalgic loveliness in a dreamy setting amidst old buildings and cottages with roses, honeysuckle and clematis climbing over the walls. Catmint and scented lavender will be gracefully spreading over onto the paths. It will be an old-fashioned and romantic beauty frozen in time, Old England at its past best with the unmistakable influences of Gertrude Jekyll.
But all gardeners are dreamers, I certainly am – ‘it’s always going to be better this summer’. A garden to make you dream is my favourite, Christopher Lloyd’s Great Dixter where the cottage garden style has been developed into high octane theatre.
As you approach the front door (See the photo in the Dixter website) the sense of magic draws you in through a beautiful front meadow filled with flowers. The wonderful entrance porch of Edwin Lutyens’ gloriously restored and developed old Sussex barn meets you like a stage setting for a dramatised children’s fairy story. You come expecting something special and you’re not disappointed, a theatrical entrance if ever there was one. You almost expect to meet Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll chatting with Christopher Lloyd amidst that glorious display of pots at the front door. This is an enchanting place.
The beautiful old house is draped around with sumptuous gardens to excite and please anyone. At the back lies the famous Long Border (see top featured photo) – a spectacular masterpiece with a delightful profusion of colour, constantly changing through the seasons. Alongside is another of Dixter’s famous flower meadows dreamily set among orchard trees. It’s a romantic setting, like an ‘impressionist’ painting, with an ever-changing relaxed tapestry. Monet would have loved this place. To see more, I recommend Christopher Lloyd’s inspiring book ‘Meadows’.
But the apparent informality is deceptive. The garden is very high maintenance with constant fine-tuning required to keep up the display through the seasons, as Christopher explained in the book ‘Succession Planting for the Adventurous Gardener‘.
A Cottage Garden
The front entrance at Dixter with its pot displays has always been an inspiration. I have used this idea myself in our own small front garden, as well as other ideas from Christopher Lloyd’s great garden. A friend who often visits once generously (jokingly) calling our little garden ‘Little Dixter’, a hard act to follow with our own small space and limited resources.
I love plants that flop over onto the path as if to say ‘Welcome, thank you for visiting, relax and make yourself at home’.
This is early Pulsatilla vulgaris here.
The Joy of a Garden
“After all, what is a garden for? It is for ‘delight’, for ‘sweet solace’, for ‘the purest of all human pleasures, the greatest refreshment for the spirits of men’. It is to promote ‘jocundite of minde’, it is to ‘call home over-wearied spirits’. So say the oldest writers, and we cannot amend their words, which will stand as long as there are gardens on earth and people to love them.”Words of Gertrude Jekyll in her ‘A Gardener’s Testament’
What better than to call a place ‘my’ garden, somewhere I can dream and use my imagination to create my own paradise, a casual beauty always with a sense that there’s more to come. In such a place there is plenty of ‘delight’, ‘sweet solace’ and ‘refreshment to welcome home over- wearied spirits’. We need plenty of this at the present time.
Thank you for visiting, especially to friends from far countries. I wonder, did Monty’s superb BBC Series ‘Around the world in 80 gardens’ feature gardens in your country? You can watch the series again on Youtube.
Top featured photo by Peter Whitcombe – Geograph