Dixter’s Tricks Revealed

I’ve never been to Great Dixter, although it is top of my To-Visit list. I had hoped to go this year, but it has been difficult and I’ve not managed it! However, a couple of years ago I did hear Fergus Garrett talk about how they are continuing to evolve the glorious gardens and legacy created by Christopher Lloyd. So I know that he gives interesting talks, jam-packed full of ideas and examples. In fact, as a result of that talk I bought seeds (from their catalogue) to replicate some of the effects in the garden. Not a complete success, it must be admitted! For instance, the giant fennel would be a dramatic addition to our driveway border, if only mice didn’t manage to eat the young leaves and stunt the plants every year. However, Tagetes ‘Cinnabar’ has shown itself to be a worthy showstopper. This year I even planted it at the base of all the tomatoes in our vegetable plot. It has done well and looks pretty too.


Tagetes ‘Cinnabar’ in the vegetable garden around the bases of the tomatoes

Unsurprisingly, this year, with the first Lockdown, Great Dixter’s gardens were closed. However, to continue to share the magic of the place, Dixter has got creative and has been hosting a series of monthly Zoom-based lectures. I’ve attended several of those given by Fergus and I’d highly recommend them to anyone interested in finding out more about Dixter or indeed in diversifying or expanding their own gardening repertoire. Aaron Bertelsen (also of Dixter) is giving a parallel set of talks on vegetable growing and their use at Dixter.

Fergus illustrates his talks with a copious supply of beautiful material. His slides are a mixture of photos (including some that are historical, professional (Claire Takacs) and seasonal sequences) interspersed with short videos, diagrams and notes.  Fergus interacts with the slides using a highlighting cursor/pen. Here, for instance, he was discussing using a notebook to record ideas for change. On the slide red highlighter marks possible positions for new Veratrum nigrum plants.


Notes for strengthening planting in the border by adding more Veratrum nigrum

With each talk I come away with a wish list of plants of course. Then I comb through the slide list when it’s emailed later, looking up details for things I’ve never heard of. This time round (entitled ‘Dixter Tricks’) I must find out about Boehmeria cylindrica (a brilliant perennial foliage plant), Veratrum nigrum (hence the above slide) and Vernonia crinita (purple, aster family with a narrow vertical profile).

However, my top mission is to replicate one of their rustic, homemade (chestnut) mallets for bashing canes and the like into the ground!


Exceptionally handy, homemade chestnut mallets. Useful for bashing in stakes etc. Who wouldn’t want one?

And after our own trouble with badgers, I was particularly interested to hear about their problems with those nuisances in their zinnia bedding:


Badger trouble

Solved by making and placing hurdles, so now I must find out how to do the same!

Even though Dixter’s gardens are once again open, these talks seem to be continuing. Hurray! The next lecture will be given by Aaron Bertelsen and is on the Making of Great Dixter (14th Oct, see their events page).

Meanwhile, previous lectures (roughly 2hr duration with ~200 slides covered in each) have been recorded and can be found on Vimeo and watched for a smallish fee.

Now, where is my whittling knife???


About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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6 Responses to Dixter’s Tricks Revealed

  1. Washe Koda says:

    Wow I thought those corcks were for a bong ❗️ 🙂

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    Wow, such a valuable resource. One of Covid’s silver linings.

  3. pbmgarden says:

    Love your tagetes. Thanks for sharing this information.

  4. I too have been tuning in to the zoom lectures. Fergus has a wealth of knowledge to share and the garden is my favourite.

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