Sunday, 30 December 2007

Great Dixter and Cannas

Great Dixter is a house in Northiam, East Sussex close to the South Coast of England. It has a famous garden which is regarded as the epitome of English plantsmanship.

The original house at Dixter, which dates from the mid 15th century, was acquired by a businessman named Nathaniel Lloyd in 1909. He had a 16th century house in a similar style moved from Kent and the two were combined with new work by the architect Edwin Lutyens to create a much larger house, which was rechristened Great Dixter. It is a romantic recreation of a medieval manor house, complete with great hall, parlour, solar and yeoman's hall.

Nathaniel Lloyd and Lutyens began the garden at Great Dixter, but it was Nathaniel's son Christopher Lloyd, a well known garden writer and television personality, who made it famous. The garden is in the arts and crafts style, and features topiary, a long border, an orchard and a wild flower meadow. The planting is profuse, yet structured, and has featured many bold experiments of form, colour and combination. One of the most famous innovations was the use of Cannas in the "exotic garden", that was previously the formal rose garden.

The exotic garden illustrated to the 'old school' that it was possible to have fun in the garden and to create dazzling colour from June until first frosts. For Christopher shapes were everything but colour was also important. But was what he was doing really that radical? Anna Pavord, in her forward to the last Lloyd book, Exotic Planting for Adventurous Gardeners, points out that when he planted tropical bananas, cannas and castor oil plants in the rose garden at Great Dixter, it was new and daring - "almost sacrilegious - even though exotic gardens were the height of fashion in the latter part of the 19th century."

The garden is currently managed by Fergus Garrett, who worked closely with Lloyd up until his death in 2006 as Head Gardener and introduced a number of innovations into the planting scheme.

The house and garden are open to the public on a regular basis and study tours are available. A charity called the Great Dixter Charitable Trust has been established to ensure that the property is preserved.

Visitors to the International Canna Trials in 2008 might well want to visit this very famous and special garden.

Great Dixter. (2007, October 31). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11:12, December 11, 2007

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