A Perfect Day at Great Dixter

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.

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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:

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Then someone turned the technicolour dial up a few notches with this:

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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):

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There would be a sudden bold block of tulips, like this:

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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:

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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:

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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?

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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:

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Then let’s wind around here:

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Down here:

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Under this lovely magnolia:

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Look at the sky!

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Then back up here: (yes, I know I’m going in circles, but wouldn’t you?)

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Let’s just have a sneaky look down the back of the Long Border, and pretend we are the Dixter gardeners:

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Back to where we’re supposed to be, now, front-of-border:

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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:

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There were great drifts of tulips of one variety, which then swirled into another:

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Again, I marvel at the lushness of the planting.  Let’s not forget to look up at the house, though:

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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?

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But no, because I wasn’t meant to witness that wonder today.  I was meant to witness this wonder:

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Those are orange parrot tulips (possibly ‘Orange Favourite’) with…what, fellow garden bloggers?

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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:

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They weren’t the only self-seeders.  I think the Centranthus ruber has lifted the stone off the wall here!

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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):

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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).

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Shall we go up towards the Blue Garden?

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Just gaze a moment on this.

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And turn around to look at this:

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Were you waiting for the pots?  Go on, then.

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The scent was heady.  I staggered a bit up those steps.

I love this Geranium madarense:

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Climbing (oddly) to the Sunk Garden.

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I loved the way the planting was different on each side of this path:

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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?

52 Comments Add yours

  1. What a beautiful post for this glorious day! I’ve only been to Dixter in the height of summer so really enjoyed your detailed tour of Spring.

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    1. Ali says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Elizabeth. It was just as fab as summertime today.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Island Time says:

    Looks like a perfect day to me! I am amazed at how much farther along your spring seems to be than ours…weren’t you covered in snow just the other day?!

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    1. Ali says:

      It was snowy just over a month ago! It’s incredibl how quickly things have come on, just in the last week.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel almost giddy and breathless after that whirlwind tour! What sumptuous colors!

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    1. Ali says:

      That’s exactly what I was like!

      Like

  4. Heyjude says:

    Someone planted a whole lot of tulips! Thank you for taking me back to Dixter for this rush of tulipmania. Having seen the planting I shall not be cross with my forget-me-nots every again. They obviously just need some tulips among them! As for the orange ones planted with those deep red flowers, I suspect they are some kind of Bellis perennis – the pompom daisies. (Well that’s what I call them). Divine!

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    1. Ali says:

      It was a lot of tulips to have planted. I have forget-me-nots in some places, but limit them, as they do take over. There is a lot of work behind the scenes at Dixter, I think!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Gorgeous photos, those colour combinations are just fabulous.

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    1. Ali says:

      The colour combinations were amazing. I thought my garden was looking quite good til I saw Dixter!

      Like

  6. What a brilliantly beautiful tour through your photographs!

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    1. Ali says:

      Thank you, I am really glad you enjoyed it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My pleasure 🙂

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  7. bcparkison says:

    I did enjoy this little visit. Wonder how many gardeners they have and how did they get everything to bloom all at once after this crazy winter.

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    1. Ali says:

      I think they do have a good team of gardeners and volunteers. Interestingly I didn’t see any at work, just tools downed in the heat! I went to Sissinghurst the day before and there were loads of gardeners at work in the blazing sun. I wanted to bring them ice-pops! There were signs of the same damage I have seen to some of my tulips – whether it is tulip fire or just stress I am not sure, but some are looking a bit tatty and some of mine have gone over very quickly.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Eliza Waters says:

    Wow, gorgeous day to visit an equally gorgeous garden. Thanks for sharing your tour with us, Ali. The colours were incredible!

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    1. Ali says:

      Thanks Eliza, I am really glad you enjoyed it.

      Like

  9. janesmudgeegarden says:

    It seems only five minutes ago, Ali, that you were posting photos of snow and grey skies, and now Spring has burst forth in a wonderful display. I’m glad you had a quick return visit to this garden so we could all enjoy it.

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    1. Ali says:

      I know! Our seasons have been in fast-forward and we seem to have forgotten to do spring! It is always amazing, the rate of growth in April, but this year is astonishing!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. ladyfi says:

    Ooo – so beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow, Fergus Garrett and his team are so clever and you have captured their brilliance in these photos. I went to Great Dixter on a study day in February, when it drizzled all day long. I still had a wonderful time, but oh the difference between then and now. If there is one thing I have learnt this spring it is that I need more tulips and forget-me-nots in my life!

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    1. Ali says:

      Yes, you can never have enough tulips! I was just in awe of the planting. So many gardens (mine included) have lovely tulips, but the earth between is pretty bare. They look so gorgeous nestled in a bed of foliage or in forget-me-nots or Honesty. Fergus Garrett is a genius.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. pommepal says:

    Thank you for taking us again to this glorious garden. I do miss the English country garden with all its riot of colour and the colour combinations are spectacular

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    1. Ali says:

      I’m really pleased you enjoyed it. It was such a treat, and it would have been selfish of me not to share it!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. FlowerAlley says:

    Crazy beautiful. Lucky you!!!

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    1. Ali says:

      I certainly was!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Cathy says:

    It is wonderful to see your personal tours of Dixter, and this one was simply delightful Ali! I love the way things have self-seeded too. Centranthus does that in my garden as well, and I am hoping to see some hummingbird hawk moths on it again this summer. Your post was a whirlwind of oohs and aahs, like those tulips with … pink Bellis? Great combination.
    Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm for this place! I have never been, and have no idea if the opportunity will ever present itself, so seeing it through your eyes is fabulous!

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    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Cathy, you are the second person to id Bellis. Centranthus is my favourite self-seeder (along with forget-me-nots, primroses and good old alchemilla!). Thanks so much for your lovely comment, it makes me very happy to share my day out!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. rusty duck says:

    Wow. Would it be worth the 12 hour round trip? Oh yes.

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    1. Ali says:

      I think so! Stop by for a cup of tea, if you’re in the area! Many people combine a trip to Dixter with Sissinghurst. There’s also Nymans, Emmets, Salutation, Scotney Castle…

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  16. Fantastic photo’s Ali. I am definitely going to have to make a pilgrimage to Great I lived in Camber Sands for a year and wisb O had known about this garden then.

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    1. Ali says:

      Ooh, lovely place to live. Did you visit Derek Jarman’s garden?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wasn’t into gardening 22 years ago I am afraid. I say lived I worked in Pontins for a year but fell in love with the are New Romney, Lydd, Druridge, Rye, Winchelsea, Hastings etc. Will have to go back soon

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      2. Ali says:

        Ah. Yes, so many lovely places. Love Rye especially.

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      3. Reading about Derek Jarmans garden. is the Pilot Inn the pub with all the key rings?

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      4. Ali says:

        I don’t know – I haven’t been! Keep saying I’ll go!!

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  17. Robyn Haynes says:

    I loved this post! The photos were glorious but no doubt the real thing was even better. Basking in the whole experience is an apt description. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Ali says:

      It’s my pleasure Robyn. I’m so glad you got the sense of basking! It’s rare that you just completely sit back and relax and soak it all in, but I really did.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Robyn Haynes says:

        Sounds like bliss

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  18. Rupali says:

    Such wonderful tour of the Great Dixter you offered us Alison. It’s not just the names of the flowers but I enjoy your commentary as well. I really hope for a good summer this year then I get chance to visit the arboretum and the botanical garden and soak myself in nature’s beauty.

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    1. Ali says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the commentary, Rupali. Thank you for your lovely comment. I look forward to your photos.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. WOW, WOW, WOW! Garden Heaven…

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    1. Ali says:

      Isn’t it? I have to keep looking at the pics!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. He’d surely be pleased that his garden is looking like this, wouldn’t he? I’ve only read of this storied garden~what a delight to be able to actually visit it at will! What a glorious day you had there, and you so graciously took us along. Marvelous!

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    1. Ali says:

      I’m really glad you enjoyed it, Melissa. Yes, I would imagine that Christopher Lloyd would be delighted that Dixter has continued to thrive and evolve, and has managed to hold on to its bumpy paths and self-seeders and eye-popping combinations.

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      1. What a wonderful character he must have been. I was just re-reading a passage in which he had decided to rip out a quiet corner and enliven it with hot colors. I loved getting a glimpse of it, in your post. You did such a wonderful job of showing the garden.

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      2. Ali says:

        Thank you, Melissa, for your kind comment. X

        Liked by 1 person

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