March 22nd, 2015


At Great Dixter (in spirit)

Yesterday afternoon I arrived home exhausted and drunk. Exhausted by the energy exuding from Fergus Garrett and drunk on plants. I’d been to a ‘celebrity lecture’ organised by our Plant Heritage (NCCPG) group. A celebrity lecture is one where you pay £10.00 for your ticket and over 300 people had done so. I’ve never seen the hall at the community centre so packed. Fergus began by flattering his audience, saying that although he lectures all over the world, he loves coming to us in Dorset because we’re all ‘proper plants-people’. True.

Great Dixter is now run as a charitable trust to which Fergus donates all the money he gets from lecturing. He needs the cash to support the students who work there for a year or more. And boy, do they work. Up at half past four, out in all weathers; the work ethic is very strong. That’s because Fergus feels that labour intensive, plant-centred gardening should be preserved. All the students there go on to greater things, so it’s the best possible training, somewhere which retains the feel of a private garden, as Christopher Lloyd always intended.

The garden remains true to the Lloyd spirit but is always changing, as it did in his time. The theme of the lecture was garden planning and plant association. That’s where I started to become intoxicated by the plant names being fired at us and the rapidly changing scenes on the screen. Gardening Dixter-style means you must always be planning so that there’s never a dull moment or a gap in the borders. So seeds must be sown, cuttings taken, to ensure a constant supply of new plants. It’s a style of gardening which is at once rigorous and relaxed. Rigorous in the work involved; relaxed about self-seeders, about mistakes (because experiment is essential) and about neatness. You must also be aware of your surroundings. At Dixter, a country garden, the boundaries merge seamlessly into the fields around it.

It’s the second time I’ve heard Fergus Garrett speak and this talk was even better than the first. If ever you get the chance to hear him, do so. You will come away inspired.

More about Dixter here.


Picture from here