I have long been fascinated by the work of the late British garden designer Christopher Lloyd. So it was with great anticipation that I recently visited his Great Dixter garden in Sussex to the south of London. And I must say I was not disappointed by the extravagant use of interesting plant material throughout the landscape there. As a plant lover rather than a lover of landscape design I am a sucker for the perennial beds that Lloyd filled to overflowing with exuberant mixtures of foliage colours and textures.
I was particularly struck by the fascination with variegated plants used to provide contrasting colour in many parts of the garden. I felt at times the current gardeners may have been overdoing it in making their point. Whist I do love colour contrasts at a personal level there can also be too much of a good thing.
The crowded nature of the plantings was also a feature. There is hardly a square inch of the garden that is not taken up with plant material. I gather quite a lot of self seeded plants are allowed to grow when they appear. I love this effect in my own garden when everlasting daisies and fan flowers pop up in unexpected spots and help create a meadow-like atmosphere. The mass of vegetation certainly grabs your attention and creates an ocean-like effect of colour and movement.
The eclectic nature of the plantings was the final point that held my fascination and I was certainly not disappointed by Lloyd and his successors’ choices ranging from hostas to heucheras, geranium to geum, gazania to gunnera, gladiolus to granny’s bonnets, phormium to phlomis, papaver to paper daisy and allium to alstroemeria.
If you are a lover of colour and unusual cultivars displayed as a manic masterpiece then Great Dixter could be your cup of tea.