Follow the brown signs
Yesterday I went out for the day with my Moofies (aka my mother) to one of her favourite gardens down near Rye in Kent, Great Dixter. These guys run a plant fair every year where stall holders from far and wide come to sell their plants and talk to visitors about their specialities. Living in a 1st floor flat in South East London reduces my horticultural potential to the size of a small hanging basket but that doesn’t stop me wishing I had a small holding, so I went along with my ma to dream and carry all her purchases.
The plant fair had been brilliantly organised with a nicely printed map for every visitor and details to read about each of the 30 or so vendors as you went around. The only good thing about not having a garden during this visit was that it allowed me think completely impractically about planting and what would work best for my garden, instead I pootled around choosing my favourite plants which definitely wouldn’t work together but I liked the look of anyway – they included Chinese Lanterns, succulents, thistles and Bolivian furry budded pink flower things that I can’t remember the name of.
My mum basically brought up half the stall’s stocks and I came out with a willow bird feeder. Not as insignificant as it sounds though because it was actually made in a Kent garden which provides skills to people with learning disabilities to craft and make gorgeous little arts and crafts, that are sold to people like me with the proceeds going straight back to the charity – awesome. Obviously I won’t be using my willow bird feeder for feeding any birds, instead I’ve hung it in my kitchen and filled it with garlic. As soon as I get a garden it’s going straight out there though I promise you little birdies.
After purchasing a cup of tea and squeezing onto a picnic bench with other tea drinking randoms (my most awkward of situations but powering bravely through anyway – I even made a bit of conversation with one of them, high fives for me) we went off to explore the Long Border and gardens that Great Dixter is famous for. The planting was of course fantastic and so it should be as Christopher Lloyd, who shot Great Dixter to fame, made it his life’s work to provide an absolute feast of colour and joy for the eye to devour through the medium of plants. Gorgeousness, especially with the backdrop of the 15th Century wonky porched house, which looks like it’ll fall on top of you at any minute, the very best type of architecture in my opinion.
Great Dixter importantly run collaborative creative projects which enrich the experience beyond just walking open mouthed through the grounds. They are a centre for learning and in the newly restored Great Barn (where there was a choir recital going when we were there) there are education courses and workshops galore which help to engage everyone from local school children to the most hardcore of horticulturalists. With money and support from the National Lottery (without which I dread to imagine what the landscape of British heritage attractions would be like) this house and garden can help educate people about the importance of nature, planting and growing your own – which you won’t be surprised to hear makes me wet myself with happiness. Great work Great Dixter, I hope more people follow your brown signs and stuff themselves with the feasts you have to offer them, yum!