Once the decision had been made that yes, it was possible that we, Gail and I were actually going to England to the Garden Blogger Meet during the Malvern Garden Show the first week in May 2010, we began discussing what gardens we might get to see. Internet sites were scanned, magazine articles checked, then maps of the UK were studied to see how close any of them were to the places we would be traveling. As the time to travel drew near, the offer of garden visiting was extended by Helen for the Saturday during the Malvern portion of our tour. After the show we were to be taken to London by Victoria and would find a way to see gardens close by. We felt it best to just go with whatever places these fine women decided they wanted to take us. What did we know about which gardens were best anyway? They all would be wonderful, the people and the gardens, and they were.
But when Monday rolled around, our last day in England for visits, Victoria called first to make sure the gardens selected, Sissinghurst and Great Dixter would be open, as she knew that certain days are off limits for the public so maintenance chores could be completed and such things as student days. Sissinghurst was open, but Great Dixter was not. I had mentioned to her that Great Dixter was the one English garden that I had really hoped to see. I have a couple of books about it by Christopher Lloyd and much admire his way with colors and design. It was his book, , that was actually READ, every word, rather than just looking at the photos and captions, many years ago. What he had to say struck a nerve with me on so many levels. (Photo of The Hovel.)
Using foliage and form, mixing colors all together, the brighter the better, not being afraid to make drastic changes, ripping out long standing gardens to start anew, these were tenets he believed in and the words and images in the pages showed the charming results. It changed me and my gardening outlook forever, for the better. Sadly, seeing the master himself in his creation was no longer a possibility since his passing in 2006, but seeing that garden has remained a dream for many years. Victoria sensed this and explained to the person on the phone that she was a journalist and had two Americans on their last day here who had traveled a great distance to see Great Dixter and could they pretty please let us come? The answer was yes.
We were the only visitors to Great Dixter that day. After the crowd at Sissinghurst where it was nearly impossible to get a photo without strangers milling about in it, this garden was deserted, eerily quiet. There were ghosts about, I could sense it.
It was not a dark and stormy night, it was anything but that, sunny and quite bright with a brisk and chill wind blowing. But there was a presence in the garden that could be felt. The hairs on my arm stood on end at the sighting of a disappearing black clad figure by the iconic yew topiaries.
“The yew topiary lends a particular atmosphere to several parts of the garden. … It has a presence, especially when shadows are long and it appears to inhabit, rather than grow.”
The gardens were closed and few people were in evidence. It was the time that the yews could animate…
When voices were heard, whisperings imagined that a spectre was chatting with the shrubbery and flowers, it was actually Victoria and Gail chatting with this fellow who was hard pruning the golden elm to help fight off the dreaded Dutch Elm Disease.
But still the hand of The Gardener was everywhere, as in his beloved color purple of the Lunaria biennis. In every photo I have seen of him, he is wearing a purple shirt. My raincoat felt right at home.
“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.”
This philosophy perfectly reflects my own views about color, or colour, formed at the
feet words of the master himself. It was not always so. I began serious gardening with an all white color scheme in my first planned on paper garden and added a few pastels, grudgingly. Even the beginnings of the current Fairegarden were pastels, blues, pinks, whites and lavenders with few yellows or warm colors. We have seen the light now, and that light emanates from Great Dixter.
This ends the trip to England. The experiences can never be duplicated, it was the true once in a lifetime journey. We arrived home with minds and memory cards full of the wonders that had been seen, smelled, tasted, heard and felt in our every fiber. It still seems like make believe, a fantastic fantasy story book tale, too good to be true.
To view the posts about the trip to England, click on the links below. (There is a permanent page on the sidebar containing the links to the England posts as well. Click England Trip-Two Innocents Abroad to view it.)