13 March 2011

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

In forty years of prolific writing, Christopher Lloyd penned columns for the Guardian and Country Life magazine as well as an impressive number of books, never missing his weekly deadline. With inspiration coming from his garden right outside, he always had something to write about. And now here I sit at his home at Great Dixter in what I fancy was once a servant's bedroom converted to a kitchenette for students, with the same sources of inspiration at my fingertips and I'm at a complete loss as to what to write. Part of me still can't believe I'm actually here and there are no words for such a condition!

The journey from the States was smooth and uneventful, which is as good as a journey can get in my book, and we arrived in the UK early in the morning and eager to get to Dixter. We took planes, trains, and autos (in the form of a London cab) and miraculously didn't get lost! Thus, when we made our way to the south and the village of Northiam, we were greeted with several happy views.


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It's spring here, which is plainly evident in the profusion of naturalized Crocus blooming in the lawns and meadows, the Daphnes wafting their scents throughout the garden, and the swelling buds of fruit trees in the orchard (many of which Christo grew from seed).

We've been here two full weeks and already have had wonderful adventures: a volunteer weekend led by head gardener Fergus Garrett with students from Kew, Wisley, and Cambridge, an outing to Wisley, and this week we're due to visit Beth Chatto. Work in the garden is hard and the list of jobs to do before opening day on April 1st is long but we're getting through it. Each day is different and with each we learn several new plants, techniques, meet a new volunteer, hear new and wonderful stories, and try to keep up with Fergus's boundless energy and enthusiasm (which isn't easy, let me tell you!).

Students who partook of the volunteer weekend with Fergus and staff
This is real gardening and I can't wait to chronicle our adventures here over the next six months! But now I must leave you as we have been invited to lunch with a neighbor and mustn't be late. Before I go, I'll leave you with some images of spring at Dixter!

Liliputian Cyclamen in the garden

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Galanthus in the Barn Garden

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Daffodils in the Peacock Garden

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Potted Anemone on the porch

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Sheep graze contentedly at sunset (heck, if I were a sheep here I'd be content, too!)