Great Dixter's magic garden
Near Rye in Sussex, at a place called Northiam, is one of my favourite gardens, Great Dixter. It's usually, and rightly, associated with the late writer and gardener Christopher Lloyd, but it was originally designed by the architect Edwin Lutyens. The style is pure Arts & Crafts and he saw it as a series of rooms but with fluid, curved edges rather than straight walls and he used what he found on site, such as farm buildings, cattle troughs and even a chicken house with rotten walls that became an open-sided loggia. And I was intrigued to discover that the York sandstone on the paths was acquired from the streets of London, where it was being ripped up in favour of newly-fashionable Tarmac.
The house is a wonderful mish-mash: to the original 15th century dwelling was added a second house from over the Kent border, transported piece by piece, and then Lutyens worked his magic to combine them and add more, so that it all looks like it's been there forever and morphed into the landscape. There are some lovely touches such as the 'crawling window', set low down so that even the smallest child could enjoy the view - which also puts me in mind of another favourite Arts & Crafts house, Standen near East Grinstead, which has a lovely lived-in, family feel.
The owner who commissioned the work at Great Dixter was Nathaniel Lloyd and it was his son Christopher who made the garden famous, with bold experiments in form and colour as well as ground-breaking plant combinations. Which is a funny thought, really, but fashion is a fickle thing. Luckily for us, his life's work is now in the hands of a charitable trust and head gardener Fergus Garrett, so we can now visit and enjoy this fabulous place. From tourists and casual visitors to serious gardeners and academics, there's something for all of us.
If you're on holiday in East Sussex, Great Dixter is a garden you shouldn't miss. It's open until 30th October, though not Mondays (except bank holidays), you can go into part of the house in the afternoons and it's well worth doing so, and it's easy to reach from many of our country cottages and luxury lets around Rye, Camber and Hastings - click here to view our selection of accommodation in this area..