Fairlight End and Great Dixter

Sue Marsh reports on our visit to Fairlight End and Great Dixter on 1st June:

Following Head Gardener, Fergus Garrett’s, wonderful talk last autumn, 40 of us gathered on a sunny morning to go and see Great Dixter for ourselves.

But before that we visited FAIRLIGHT END.  Visited by all the leading garden tour companies, we knew it would be (as the Michelin Guide used to say) “vaut le détour” and so it was!  We spent a blissful two hours in this ravishing meadow garden; leaning against sun-warmed walls, lying around on the various “platforms” that dot the meadow, eating our packed lunches and knowing ourselves to be in heaven!    We had been welcomed with glasses of ice cold elderflower cordial, and our generous host had spoken to us about his garden – and then left us free to find our own special spot.

There are classic borders, flat lawns edged in the local corten steel, and an inspired wooden stairway edged with flowers and herbaceous plants, but mainly this is a garden that celebrates its Sussex Weald surroundings.  The meadows sweep down the hillside towards ponds built by the owners and giving shelter to ducks and other water lovers.  We were blessed: the meadows were at their very best, awash with marguerite daisies and orchids – and much, much else.  If you were one of those who didn’t come with us, don’t despair.  Chris and Robin Hutt open through the National Garden Scheme also.  Do try and go!

And then there was the dreamy treat of GREAT DIXTER!  Just as at Fairlight, everyone was kind, everyone was helpful and we felt thoroughly at home (one or two actually meeting, by happy chance, Fergus himself!)  Gardening has changed so much.  Now the buttercups are allowed in, as is the Cow Parsley, and really anything that pleases the eye and soul.  Very carefully managed, of course.  The garden may have the air of everything falling on everything, but this, as at Fairlight, is a work of great sophistication.

It is a most happy coming together and there were moments when we felt we had found the key to the Secret Garden and wondered where Dickon was!  We were shown round by two guides, both horticultural students, one from Florida, the other from South East Asia, so that we understood the rationale of the planting before enjoying our own wanderings.  The house, too, was open and how we were charmed: the photograph of Christopher Lloyd dictating gardening notes to the young Fergus Garrett seemed to us the epitome of all we had loved and learnt during our visit.