The First Garden on my Trug List: Great Dixter

One of the upsides (if there are any) of being diagnosed with cancer is not only does it makes you very aware of your own mortality, you realise all those places you want to visit and things you want to do should not be put off. I have every intention of beating this beast, that I have named ‘Eric’, and I am going to get on with my life and no longer be dilatory in just thinking about places to see, but put plans into action.

Great Dixter near Rye in East Sussex, is a famous garden about an 1 hour 30 minute drive, and the home of gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd (1921-2006). Although I have lived in West Sussex for 12 years this is a garden I have always meant to visit but never got around to it. So imagine my emotions when my blogger friend Charlotte “The Galloping Gardener” took me out yesterday for a surprise day out, and we arrived at Great Dixter.

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We were not only blessed with a beautiful warm and sunny day, the garden was not packed with people so we had plenty of time to wander around and take photos at our leisure.

Although only a week off the month of May, everything has been behind this year due to the cold winter weather being very slow to shift. This last week or two has shown a great improvement and plants are beginning to get a wriggle on, and it was interesting to see the growth in parts of the garden that are clearly bathed in sunshine for a longer period than other parts.

As I entered the garden, there is an area of Meadow, which is full of daffodils and snakeshead Fritillaria in burgundy, white and mixture of both. I planted some of these in my lawn but sadly none have appeared this year.

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The Sunk Garden, which apparently in the Summer is packed full of plants, had little to show at the moment so I didn’t take a photos of this part of the garden, but walking through into the Walled Garden we were met with an abundance of coloured Spring bulbs in pots. The warmth of the sun brought out the perfume of the hyacinths which was quite heady as it hit you on entering. The orange tulips in the photo below were in the High Garden but I added them to this montage to make a Spring bulb photo.

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There were some wonderfully coloured Spring plants, and the deep wine coloured Hellebores caught my eye. So often you see them in pale tones so to find them so dark inspired me to try to look for that colour to put in my garden for next Spring.

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Walking through the Walled Garden, we headed towards the Long Border. To the right of the path is The Long Moat, and again was full of Fritillaria with a beautiful little Magnolia Stellata, the first of many magnolias in the garden which are looking magnificent, more of them later.

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The Long Border was packed with tulips and other Spring bulbs. It was interesting to see that there were a lot of tulips not yet open, but several varieties are almost over, to get a show of tulips all open at the same time is clearly not easy. In the Summer this border is packed with herbaceous plants, the guide book tells me that this border is usually at its best from mid-June to mid-August. I seem to have the same gardening ethos as did Christopher Lloyd who believed that there should be no gaps in a flowerbed so that bare earth can be seen, I felt in good company!

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Whilst the very large magnolia at the top of the steps in the photo above was disappointingly still in bud.

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It was on entering the Orchard we were met with the most spectacular sight of Magnolia trees.

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There was also a very delicate, pretty pink Camellia, which has been untouched by the cold so not marred with damaged and brown petals.

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The paths around Great Dixter take you on a circuit of the garden so that nothing can be missed, there are parts of the garden I have not included in this post. The Exotic Garden, for instance, was still wrapped up and one to see on my next visit, but I can’t leave this garden without mentioning the Yew topiary in several parts of the garden.

DSC_0614 (1024x683)Having decided that a Bucket List has connotations of “Things to do before you die”, Charlotte and I are compiling a Trug List of gardens to visit over the next few years and Great Dixter is at the top of the list to return to this Summer. These are just a few on our ever increasing list:

Sissinghurst – I have been there on several occasions but not for many a year.

Hidcote Manor and Kiftsgate Court Gardens – this will be an away-break trip.

The Beth Chatto Gardens – another garden I have never been to.

So lots of places to be visited, written about and photographed in the years to come.

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  1. Wonderful!!! I went to great dixter just before it opened this year and i LOVED it! It’s so nice to revisit it again through your blog. The magnolia’s are incredible and wow, that long border has grown! Great post Ronnie! Hope all is good with you and you’re enjoying this wonderful bank holiday weather! xx


  2. Glad to read that you made it to Great Dixter Ronnie. It’s funny how often that we do not get round to visiting what’s on our doorstep. I visited Great Dixter in September 2011 for the first time and was absolutely spellbound. From your photos it looks just as beautiful in the spring. Look forward to reading about your future garden gadding abouts.


  3. Hi Ronnie – I too could get to Kiftsgate @ Hidcote fairly easily – a tweet up would be great 🙂 love the idea of a trug list, so much more elegant than a bucket. Sending you my very best wishes as ever. Alison xx


  4. As I retire I am putting together a similar list here in the States, but I also plant to visit the beautiful gardens there so i will be following you wonderful list. I love the look of the burgundy/dark hellebores which is why I planted so many around the garden.


  5. Came over from Galloping gardener. Love Dixter and have fond memories of chatting with Christopher Lloyd on my visits there before he died. Do not miss Beth Chatto’s and make it the Summer. Glorious and enchanting. Will browse some more of your site being an avid gardener, garden visitor and photographer myself. Your cancer journey inspiring.


  6. I went to Dixter around 15 years ago, Christopher Lloyd was stillaround then. I loved it and I bought the most beautiful fragrant clematis, with small purple and white flowers. Sadly it got left behind in a different garden and I’ve never been able to find it again 😦


  7. That is a garden I never got to when we lived in your beautiful country. I love the concept of a ‘Trug List” – it made me look fondly at the trug I bought when I lived in the UK!


  8. Oh how wonderful. Great Dixter is on the list for me and is Gresgarth but both will involve overnight stays. If you do come to Hidcote/Kiftsgate let me know as I would love to join you and its only 30/40 mins from me. Oh and I would love to visit Beth Chattos but again another overnight trip is needed.


    • There is no “if”, I will be coming to visit Hidcote and definitely let you know beforehand and for us to visit together would make a great time away. We will also let you know when Beth Chatto is on the cards.


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