Idyllic colourful gardens that wrap around a 400 year old house
Great Dixter is the creation of Christopher Lloyd; he devoted his life to his garden. He was someone who broke gardening rules and shared with the world his ideas and sometimes controversial gardening vision. Lloyd was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society's Medal of Honour in 1997 and an OBE in 2000.
The borders are mixed, not herbaceous. Christopher Lloyd (1921-2006) didn't see the point of arranging flowers by colour or habit. He said 'you'll see shrubs, climbers, hardy and tender perennials, annuals and biennials, all growing together and contributing to the overall tapestry.' It is different from most gardens in that respect, and let's hope it stays that way; it is wonderfully refreshing.
Great Dixter is for those who enjoy a natural-looking oasis of non-conformity, with no colour coordination, just thriving borders with insects buzzing around, a real habitat. This garden is exceptionally colourful, and offers an explosion of plants and flowers, bursting along beds and borders like 4th of July (or 5th of November bonfire night in the UK) firework displays. For that reason, a tour of Great Dixter is a lovely contrast to other gardens you will see on our Great Gardens of Southern England itinerary.
A haven for wildlife
A brief history of Great Dixter
Three old Houses
Today Great Dixter, looks like it's about to go to sleep, but in a good way - the property is three houses joined together, one older than the other, like three siblings, hundreds of years apart. The older refusing to die and leans on the older brothers for support. The sections of time are; late medieval (the 1450s') Tudor (the 1500s') and Edwardian-ish (completed 1912).
The names of people living at Dixter dates from the 1340s, whose feudal responsibility was to supply one man-at-arms when needed. If we zoom on into the 20th Century, it seems the house wasn't a desirable home. It had been on the market from 1900 to 1910 when Nathaniel Lloyd purchased the property and surrounding farm.
Nathaniel Lloyd's family were comfortable financially; his grandfather owned a department store in Glasgow, Scotland. After a career in advertising and printing, Nathaniel set up his firm which became successful enough for his early retirement. He loved shooting, golf and antique furniture and proceeded to fill the house with various pieces.
The architect employed to make the additions to the house was none other than Edwin Lutyens. He was able to merge the old and new homes, seamlessly cleverly. Lutyens had a real appreciation for the antiquity of old houses, ahead of his time in many ways, he used local materials and traditional construction methods. Lutyens understood how gardens and houses work together and complement each other, not fight for attention.
During World War One (the Great War) the house became a hospital for the wounded, and in World War Two it was occupied by evacuated children. The Great Hall became a dormitory, much like so many large homes across Britain. Nathaniel Lloyd had died in 1933, and his energetic widow, Daisy ran the estate until 1972.
Christopher Lloyd (1921-2006) became a titan of gardening, learning from his mother as a little boy, and later receiving a decorative horticulture degree at Wye College, Kent. He made a living from the garden selling bulbs and plants but also had writing talent. For the next fifty years Lloyd gardens and writes passionately about horticulture. Christopher received the Victoria Medal of Honour, the pinnacle of awards from the Royal Horticultural Society, an honorary doctorate. He was appointed an officer of the Order of the British Empire.
Great Dixter today is a centre of learning, a historic house, plant nursery and pilgrimage for plant lovers the world over. Fergus Garrett runs this iconic garden, a friend of Lloyd and head gardener of many years.
The critical two things for us to know about your visit to Great Dixter is; do you want to enjoy it for what it is, relax and not read into the why and how. Our driver-guide will give you the back story, and you float around and take it all in. If you want understand and know more, we will provide a private tour of the garden.
Most people enjoy the way the garden encircles the old house, allowing them to complete a satisfying circuit. We love the way the hedging is used to divide each element, and planting is utilised to encourage wildlife, such as pollinating insects, birds and invertebrates.
Touring and accommodation
Include Great Dixter as part of your tour of southern England. A visit here works well with Sissinghurst Garden, and Dover, Scotney or Bodiam Castles. Great Dixter sits in the heart of England's Wine Country with approximately 500 or so vineyards. Another historic gem in the region is Hever Castle and Gardens, once the home of Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII. Winston Churchill's home Chartwell is also nearby and a must for Churchill buffs.
Our Great Gardens of Southern England Tour features Great Dixter. We have a database of luxury Bed and Breakfast and Hotels. The five-star option for the South East of England is South Lodge Hotel and Spa. This hotel is ideal if you wish to include Sparkling Wine Tasting, castles and gardens mentioned, and it is only 25 minutes to Gatwick airport and one hour to Heathrow.
If this is your first time to England, we would recommend a custom version of our Town and Country Tour; it covers the famous places and allows you to utilise your private driver-guide by getting-off-the-beaten-path. Our Classic tour of Ireland is a good place to start for the first trip to Ireland, and we suggest the Classic tour of Scotland for your first trip to the bonny Highlands.
Make a Pilgrimage to Iconic Great Dixter
Be ready for colour, fragrances and nature bussing all around you
- World Famous Garden
- Visit the Late Medieval House
- VIP Guided Tours Available
- Make is a Garden Day and Tour Sissinghurst Nearby
16th Century Bay Window
The Sunken Garden
Entrance to the House
Private Guide at Great Dixter
Great Dixter House
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