I’ve always felt that in any one year, there is one perfect ice-cream. Usually near the start of summer, or even late spring, often the first really warm day. You find the ice-cream van at just the right time, and its Mr Whippy is just the right consistency, and the 99 flake is just the right temperature (not melty, not breaking your teeth) and the combination of whippy, flake and cone is just heaven on Earth.
Well today I had the garden equivalent. This was my perfect day.
Maybe someone slipped me a vial of Felix felicis, because even the roads looked beautiful on the way to Dixter. The horse chestnuts and sycamores have reached that state of greenness that makes me want to yell out ‘GREEN!’ It is lush.
You might recall that I only visited Dixter two weeks ago for the plant fair. I returned today on a bit of spontaneous impulse. I’d met a friend for coffee in Tenterden, and as I was paying, my new season ticket just sort of jumped out of my wallet. It being Felix felicis day, I chose to follow this impulse.
Let’s get straight to the first pot of tulips, shall we? Here is Tulipa ‘Louvre’. I don’t usually go for fringed tulips, but this one is delicious. The pink manages to combine both cool lilac and warm peach tones. The black-purple anthers just enhancing the whole effect.
But that reader, was nothing. There aren’t going to be loads of close-ups of tulips in this post, because it is all about the planting combinations. First in the Peacock Garden this sort of meadowy effect with pale pinks and whites with euphorbia and forget-me-nots:
Then someone turned the technicolour dial up a few notches with this:
As I wove my way around the lovely uneven earthen paths under the yew hedging, I came across purple Lunaria annua (Honesty) and Smyrnium perfoliatum (Alexanders):
There would be a sudden bold block of tulips, like this:
There was me and another man with a huge camera (I used my phone) circling around and gasping, and circling back to take more photos, and gasping a bit more. I noticed all the espaliered fruit trees dividing up the spaces, which I have never paid attention to before. What do you think, Stevie?
I found one woman bathing like a bumblebee, in a state of pure ecstasy. Then I saw why. Look:
If I had to name a perfect spring border, I think this would be it. I often take close-ups of tulips because they tend to be surrounded by bare earth at this time of year. Not at Dixter. The tulips are bathing- no, wallowing in forget-me-nots and poppy foliage.
Let’s go in deeper:
I adore this combination of colours: mid-green and burgundy foliage, amethyst, cherry, orange, cream and white-with-splashes-of-raspberry tulips, a spattering of sky blue forget-me-nots and purple honesty, and lime zing from euphorbia. A perfect border.
Just a little bit closer?
Sublime, isn’t it?
I bathed like a bumblebee too, for some time.
But let’s keep going. There were some formal nursery beds, but they still had this Dixterish air of informality and nonchalance, especially when viewed through an espalier screen:
Then let’s wind around here:
Under this lovely magnolia:
Look at the sky!
Then back up here: (yes, I know I’m going in circles, but wouldn’t you?)
Let’s just have a sneaky look down the back of the Long Border, and pretend we are the Dixter gardeners:
Back to where we’re supposed to be, now, front-of-border:
It is incredible to think that less than two weeks ago this had bare patches of earth, and you could see bamboo sticks showing the planting areas.
I haven’t grown Tulipa ‘Rococco’ for a few years, but now I want to again. Look at her in a bubble-bath of forget-me-nots:
There were great drifts of tulips of one variety, which then swirled into another:
Again, I marvel at the lushness of the planting. Let’s not forget to look up at the house, though:
I wandered along towards the mulberry tree, which my children colonised a few years ago, climbing up and emerging some time later, covered in juice, as if they had been involved in an accident with a chainsaw. Here it is on the right. I stood under it for quite some time, as Chloris, of The Blooming Garden fame, told me that the buds of mulberry open with an audible pop. They weren’t quite ready to pop today, so maybe the Felix felicis was wearing off?
But no, because I wasn’t meant to witness that wonder today. I was meant to witness this wonder:
Those are orange parrot tulips (possibly ‘Orange Favourite’) with…what, fellow garden bloggers?
Whatever they are, the combination was heart-poundingly beautiful. And I also loved that forget-me-nots and primroses had seeded themselves in the cracks of the steps:
They weren’t the only self-seeders. I think the Centranthus ruber has lifted the stone off the wall here!
It is this careless abandon that I love about Dixter. Plants are allowed to do their thing. Hang the consequences.
Another thing I love about Dixter is the way it blends in so naturally with the surrounding landscape.
I was musing on this when I noticed the bananas peeping over the hedge of the exotic garden (newly unwrapped: they were swaddled the last time I was here):
This juxtaposition of perfect English countryside and exotica gives Dixter an edginess. It’s a bit 6 Music.
Shall we just peep in at the Exotic Garden?
To be honest, it is a relief to see that something looks a little gaunt. Save us from total perfection (I know that next time it will be a jungle).
Shall we go up towards the Blue Garden?
Just gaze a moment on this.
And turn around to look at this:
Were you waiting for the pots? Go on, then.
The scent was heady. I staggered a bit up those steps.
I love this Geranium madarense:
Climbing (oddly) to the Sunk Garden.
I loved the way the planting was different on each side of this path:
And then, reader, an hour or so in, I was spent.
I needed to rest my eyes, ears, nose, fingers. But not my taste-buds.
The bean salad was delicious, and I managed not to disturb the nesting sparrows.
I also got chatting to some very nice people, who told me to get myself to Hole Park in the next couple of weeks. So I will.
But I don’t think anything can beat my Perfect Day at Great Dixter. Better than a Mr Whippy by the sea.
What is your perfect garden visit? Or are you a Mr Whippy?
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I aim to share whatever is delighting me right now, to bring a little joy and mindfulness to wherever you are.