Great Dixter Garden is the ideal spot to come if you’re seeking a garden that is both gorgeous and informative.
Great Dixter is the East Sussex home of Christopher Lloyd, one of Britain’s best-loved gardening writers. His books have inspired generations of gardeners and his influence on modern horticulture has been profound. The gardens at Great Dixter are an example of cottage gardening on a grand scale with a fine topiary garden, an exotic garden, a kitchen garden, and an orchard with a sea of wildflowers and a magnificent herbaceous border. They reflect the carefully contrived planting principles which were enthusiastically taken forward in Christo’s style by his head gardener Fergus Garrett. Today they continue to inspire visitors from all over the world who come to enjoy this unique landscape experience.
The gardens at Great Dixter are divided into four sections – the Topiary Garden, Exotic Garden, Kitchen Garden, and Orchard. Each of these areas has its own unique style and feel. It’s filled with flowers, topiaries, and other amazing features that will make your trip unforgettable. You can spend hours wandering around this gorgeous landscape and still not see everything it has to offer!
The History of Great Dixter
The history of Great Dixter starts in 1910 when architect Edwin Lutyens was commissioned to redesign the building. It is rumored that he found inspiration for the design of the house while still in his teens while walking in Sonning, near Reading. The house includes other features from elsewhere, including a staircase from Benenden Manor in Kent and other parts salvaged from elsewhere on the site.
The house was originally built as a country home for the Sitwell family – but while they were abroad during World War I, their staff looked after it. They sold it in 1919 to Lady Ottoline Morrell who made it her home until 1925 when she donated it to the National Trust. At this time, the house was without electricity and running water. The National Trust let it out as a holiday home until 1970 when they gave it to Christopher Lloyd – who lived there until his death in 1990.
The garden at Great Dixter is very important for its history. It started as an orchard with some shrubs along the edges. The first gardeners were three sisters who came to work at Great Dixter in 1920. They created the rose garden, the herbaceous border, and many other features which are still present today. Lady Ottoline Morrell also had a large influence on how the garden was to look – she helped with planting out some of the borders.
Who is Christopher Lloyd?
Christopher Lloyd attended Rugby School and King’s College, Cambridge, where he studied modern languages beginning in 1939. He was recruited into the Royal Artillery in 1941 and spent service in East Africa until being demobbed in 1946. His mother had instilled in him a passion for gardening from an early age, so after serving in the army, he went on to Wye College in Kent to study ornamental horticulture and then joined the faculty as a professor for two years. He then returned to Great Dixter to make a living and dedicate his life to the garden.
The garden covers 4 acres of land and is full of plants, some of which are extremely rare or even extinct elsewhere. It hosts an impressive collection of trees – including 250 types of daffodil, 150 types of peony, and many varieties of magnolia.
The Garden Structure
Great Dixter has an irregular shape with several different areas which are separated by high brick walls. The layout was designed so that gardeners would be working in one area, while visitors could look over the walls and enjoy the view of these areas.
The first section is where guests enter and include a lawn and herbaceous border (which is full of spring flowers including snowdrops). The second part contains the Great Barn which used to house farm animals – it now stores garden tools and holds seed swaps on Wednesdays.
The next garden is the kitchen garden which was designed in an irregular shape to not interfere with the view of the house. It contains fruit, vegetables, and some rare plants (including roses). The last section is the nursery where many unusual plants are bred – some of them include trees collected from around the world.
Who lives at Great Dixter now?
Great Dixter is now managed by the Great Dixter Charitable Trust. It is open to the public and also provides hands-on educational programs throughout the year (including some for children). Fergus Garrett has worked here since 1984 and is now the Head Gardener.
What is Great Dixter famous for?
Great Dixter is famous for its historic house, a garden, a center of education, and a place of pilgrimage for horticulturists from across the world. It is the family home of gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd – it was the focus of his energy and enthusiasm and fuelled over 40 years of books and articles.
The house includes other features from elsewhere, including a staircase from Benenden Manor in Kent and other parts salvaged from elsewhere on the site. The house was originally built as a country home for the Sitwell family – while they were abroad during World War I, their staff looked after it. They sold it in 1919 to Lady Ottoline Morrell who made it her home until 1925 when she moved to Garsington Manor.
How to get there?
By train, the closest train stations with connected buses to Northiam are Rye and Hastings.
By bus: From Rye, Hastings, and Tenterden, buses go directly to Northiam (Monday to Saturday). On Sundays, the bus service is significantly restricted.
By car: If you’re using a satellite navigation system, use our postcode: TN31 6PH or look up our location on Google Maps. Visitors to Great Dixter can park for free at the visitor parking lots. Overnight parking is not permitted.
Is it open all year?
The garden at Great Dixter will reopen to visitors on 1st April 2021. We are closed on Mondays except on Bank Holidays. Friends and Annual ticket holders do not need to book but general visitors need to buy tickets online in advance. The house will remain closed until the 17th of May 2021.
The Nursery is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. At any given time, the number of visitors will be limited to ten.
Currently, they only accept credit cards.
If you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit Great Dixter, be sure that you’ve planned a few hours of time. Wandering around this historic house and garden will take up most of your day – but it’s worth every moment! On arrival, make sure to head over to the nursery where there are plants from all over the world for sale as well as educational programs available. Be sure not to miss out on seeing some spectacular trees in Great Dixter’s gardens or taking a walk down its paths with their views across open fields. Finally, don’t forget about one last stop at The Barn which is now used for seed swaps. If seeds aren’t quite what you’re looking for then try a cup of their delicious cider!
Great Dixter English Garden