The gardens at Great Dixter

About eight miles down the road from Sissinghurst lies another significant English garden.  Designed in the early 20th Century around a Tudor mansion, this garden, too, has been a repeat player in the gardening books I’ve been reading.  So after prying myself out of the Sissinghurst rose garden, I set out to find Great Dixter.

Because I had only read about the gardens, I hadn’t realized the house might be worth visiting.  I still don’t know for sure (since I didn’t pay to go inside), but it looked cool from the outside: a properly off-kilter Tudor pile with lovely timbers and giant windows with tiny leaded panes.

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But it was the gardens I came for, and the gardens I saw!  I think the sunken garden was my favorite.  A pool of water lilies at the bottom of a sunken rectangle full of lush planting.  I could have spent hours there.

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Then past the solar garden with its giant arc of multi-colored flowers basking in the sun.

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Through a vine-covered doorway past masses of pots.

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Into the towering jungle of the “exotic” garden.

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To a spot overlooking a dry moat now full of long grasses and topiary.

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I particularly liked the dry-stone steps the led away from the house.  The delicate little self-seeding flowers softened the stones and added romance, while the strong lines of the stones still preserved a sense of order and structure.

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The great border is famous and I was happy to finally see it in person.  It’s not nearly as long as the borders at Kew, but it had a homely, lived-in sort of feeling that Kew didn’t have.  It faces a meadow, and I would have liked to see the meadow a few weeks ago before the hot sun started drying it out.

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Behind the great border were a series of walled gardens that, interestingly — and in contrast to Sissinghurst — I enjoy better in photos than in person.  The photos give a sense of the tremendous profusion of texture and color.  In person those things are there to enjoy, for sure, but they’re also competing with the almost overwhelming scale of the plantings.  The plants were never less than waist-high; often shoulder high or higher.  They were the most exuberant gardens, and by the end I found myself wishing for something more minimalist.

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