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Christopher Lloyd''s Great Dixter garden: a lasting legacy

Дата публикации: 2018-05-27 16:44

To be asked what is my favourite this or that always throws me. Among my favourite replies is, "The plant I''m looking at." Otherwise why grow it? However, high on my list will be Melianthus major. It is a shrub but looks best grown as a herbaceous perennial. I should add that in New Zealand''s north island, to which it was introduced, it has run riot and is classed as a noxious weed. This is so often the way with introduced species.

Christopher Lloyd''s gardening year (Book, 2001) []

Misery memoirs are popular and the Anderton line seems to be that Christopher Lloyd was emotionally repressed as a result of his mother''s domination and that he never shook this off, that he could not set himself free physically.

Christopher Lloyd | Great Dixter

Pamela Milburn, Anne Wambach and Sonia Coode-Adams were all important friends who do not get a single sentence in his life

As a result of Christopher''s writing, Great Dixter is the most documented of gardens, its most celebrated feature being the immense mixed border, measuring 765ft x 65ft, planned for midsummer, but in reality extending from April to October. More recently, bored by his celebrated but diseased rose garden, he announced that roses were "miserable and unsatisfactory shrubs". Encouraged by his protege and head gardener Fergus Garrett - but to the alarm of the gardening cognoscenti - he created a tropical garden, proving that dahlias, the Japanese banana (musa basjoo), cannas and caster oil plants can extend the colourful gardening season through to the first frosts, provided they are well wrapped in winter.

Stephen Anderton was invited by Christopher Lloyd to be his biographer, having been his friend for 75 years and being himself a distinguished gardening writer. He did not know Daisy, but he was presented with the family archive, a huge untidy store of letters and documents, rolled up and stuffed into drawers, going back for nearly a century.

The author of a string of classic books and, until last October, 97 years'' worth of regular weekly articles in Country Life, he was, until his death, gardening correspondent of the Guardian. His garden at Great Dixter, in east Sussex, gave pleasure to thousands of visitors and provided a springboard for conveying ideas - successes and disappointments - to his readers in a relaxed and non-technical manner.

P revious deputies who have worked alongside Fergus Garrett have gone on to manage gardens of their own, disseminating the Dixter creed. At Malverleys, a private garden in Hampshire, Mat Reece is turning heads with a new 65-acre garden planted in colour-themed rooms – not a style Christopher Lloyd approved of – but the abundant layering of planting and floral ebullience ties this garden to its roots with Garrett and Lloyd.

Timidity is plain to see. The plants are all small, like aubrietia or pinks. None is bold or able to make a personal statement. It would have been better to make a simple feature with just one ingredient rather than with an uncoordinated hodgepodge.

Water makes a great setting for architectural plants, as you can see them twice over. Several times during a recent visit to California I was delighted by the sight of cannas planted in water instead of in the usual beds. I 8767 m experimenting with that idea. Calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) look wonderful this way, their lush spearlike leaves setting off the white artist 8767 s-palette spathes. These are fairly tender perennials (though I can grow them outside), but pickerel weed (Pontedaria cordata) is not. The blue spikes of one well-selected strain are an impressive sight in August.

Daisy was a matriarch in the Edwardian tradition, a perfect model for an E. M. Forster character who leaves the reader with a shudder. She was, she believed, descended from Oliver Cromwell, and his portrait hung over her bed.

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