Sissinghurst and Great Dixter


In mid-June Dan visited Sissinghurst and Great Dixter over the same weekend. Both gardens were very influential on him as a plant-obsessed boy and student.

The visit to Sissinghurst was for Dan to meet with members of the National Trust Gardens Advisory Committee, as he has recently been appointed an Honorary Garden Advisor to Sissinghurst. He will be working closely with Troy Scott-Smith, Head Gardener, to revitalise the garden, by referring closely to Vita Sackville-West's original planting plans and writings about the garden.

The day of Dan's meeting was hot and muggy and, come the late afternoon, dark storm clouds threatended thunder and heavy rain.   We were privileged to have been given the cottage in the Cottage Garden to stay overnight and, as we unloaded the car of luggage, the heavens opened. The torrential rain fell for a good twenty minutes, soaking everything and, as the storm passed, the garden began to steam, sending up plumes of vapour and mist. We wandered the garden in a dreamlike state. It was the most romantic vision of one of the country's most romantic gardens, seen as you imagine Vita must have seen it, wreathed in mist and smelling of roses and wisteria.

The next day we drove to Great Dixter, where Dan was giving the Christopher Lloyd Lecture that evening in support of the Great Dixter Charitable Trust student and trainee programme.

Fergus Garrett, Head Gardener, and the whole team at Dixter, always make you feel incredibly welcome. It has a real family feeling and everyone you meet is full of energy and positivity and love for plants. Since Christopher Lloyd died in 2006 Fergus has worked incredibly hard to ensure that the garden at Dixter continues in the spirit in which Christo started it. There is a fantastic traineeship scheme, which attracts the best horticultural students from the UK and overseas, exchange programmes with Chanticleer and Longwood Gardens in the USA, regular symposia, talks and residential courses, and the now twice yearly Dixter Plant Fair, which takes place in April and October.  

The garden at Great Dixter has always been exuberant and lushly planted, and Fergus has taken things onto another level in recent years. I have read reports that some visitors find the planting a little overwhelming, which it is, but it is the only garden in Britain to be gardened like this, and I enjoy the way it makes you feel like a child again, lost in a giant's magical garden. There is also plenty of space at Dixter to balance the lavish plantings, with wildflower meadows, and hedged enclosures of lawn providing breathing spaces before you throw yourself back into the flowering surf like divers.