Introducing Fergus Garrett, Great Dixter and Christopher Lloyd
The March edition of the Homer Garden Club newsletter featured an introduction to the gardens of Great Dixter in Sussex, England, a brief bit about its founder, the late Christopher Lloyd, and a short bio of Dixter’s head gardener, Fergus Garrett. To provide you with even more reason to attend Fergus’ talk during this, our 13th annual Gardeners’ Weekend, we are literally taking a page from Dixter’s website which they titled Planting in the garden in Christopher Lloyd’s words. It’s fun to read! We encourage you to visit the website at to become even more familiar with this stunningly beautiful gardeners’ paradise. There you will also find two short videos of Great Dixter then and now.
It’s obvious that Christopher was a serious gardener but a gardener with a wry sense of humor and it appears that Fergus Garrett has followed closely in his footsteps. In photos he’s usually smiling! His presentation for our Homer audience is titled Succession Planting in the Mixed Border. There are two key words in that title, Succession and Mixed. Succession, of course, recognizes plantings that are constantly changing throughout the growing season. And Mixed? Lloyd’s words reveal, in the paragraphs that follow, that he really did like to mix it up. It might be British, but it’s British with a chuckle as he juxtaposes shrubs, annuals, perennials, biennials, climbers. If something popped up where it wasn’t expected, he didn’t always yank it out by its little roots fearful that it would spoil the look! Instead he sought a way to welcome it. The gardens seem to be a study in educated happenstance. Experimentation and education have always been a halmark of this amazing place and our special guest speaker, Fergus Garrett, has continued and expanded upon that tradition.
Gardeners’ Weekend this year will be held on July 27th and 28th. Remember, the Islands and Ocean auditorium only seats 150 and we have sold out in the past. Tickets for Fergus Garrett’s talk which will be held Saturday evening at 7:00, will be sold at our May meeting and will also be available at the plant sale the end of May. The tours on Sunday run from 10:00 in the morning until 5:00. The prices are the same as they’ve always been - $10.00 for the former and $15.00 for the latter. Plan well ahead this year since participation in this annual community event is limited. The gardens selected are an eclectic mix. You’ll love them all!
Planting in the garden in Christopher Lloyd’s words.
Dixter’s is a high maintenance garden; I make no bones about that. It is effort that brings reward. There are many borders and much work goes into them. Labour saving ground cover is not for me. If you see ground cover, it’s there because, first and foremost, I like it. If it does also save labour, that is an incidental benefit.
The borders are mixed, not herbaceous. I see no point in segregating plants of differing habit or habits. They can all help one another. So you’ll see shrubs, climbers, hardy and tender perennials, annuals and biennials, all growing together and contributing to the overall tapestry.
I have no segregated colour schemes. In fact, I take it as a challenge to combine every sort of colour effectively. I have a constant awareness of colour and of what I am doing, but if I think a yellow candelabrum of mullein will look good rising from the middle of a quilt of pink phlox, I’ll put it there – or let it put itself there. Many plants in this garden are self-sown and they often provide me with excellent ideas. But I do also have some of my own!
Fergus Garrett and I work hand in glove and he is as fertile in making suggestions for change and improvement as I am; so there is a continuing and productive exchange. Fergus is exceptionally energetic and inspiring, so a great deal gets done. Garden staff varies from five in winter to six in summer. This includes nursery work. They are a wonderfully supportive team. It would be impossible to exaggerate what a difference that makes, in so many ways.