Great Dixter has featured many times on my blog over the years, but my visit yesterday was particularly special because I went with friend and fellow blogger, Ronnie of Hurtled to 60 and Now Beyond, for whom I have the greatest admiration. Ronnie recounts her personal story on her blog about her fight against bowel cancer and although much of her life is currently taken up with her battle against "Eric", which you can read about for yourself, we have promised each other that we will visit gardens together whenever we can this summer.
|Some tulips are beginning to bloom at Great Dixter, but the garden is running well behind this year|
Ronnie had never been to Great Dixter before, and I had promised to surprise her with a visit to somewhere new. As luck (and endless perusal of the weather forecast) would have it, the day dawned bright and clear, which is a remarkably rare occurrence in England this spring. Great Dixter was looking good, despite the lack of sunshine so far this year and although the garden is running well behind on terms of what's in bloom, my fellow blogger was delighted when she realised where we were going because this was her first visit.
|The Great Dixter meadow is filled with fritillarias|
There's little doubt that Dixter is a sublime garden, created originally by gardening guru and author, Christo Lloyd, but continuing to attract visitors from all over the world under the successful stewardship of Fergus Garrett as head gardener, who worked closely with Christo for many years before his death in 2006. It's particularly glorious at this time of year, when you can see the bare bones of the garden and the basic structure before all the perennials rise to dizzy heights and obscure the earthy skeleton which prevails in winter.
|Now is a good time to see the bare bones of the garden at Great Dixter|
Particularly glorious at this time of year is the meadow filled with the remnants of daffodils and bobbing purple and white fritillarias, plus all the brightly-coloured potted plants at the main entrance to the house. The tulips are beginning to bloom and the magnolias are magnificent, but get there quickly if you want to catch them, because they'll soon be gone and the beds will begin to fill with the riot of colour that the garden is renowned for in high summer.
|The Beach Bistro is just half an hour's drive from Dixter|
After our visit, we needed lunch and whilst I don't normally write about restaurants here, the place we went was so good, that I'm flagging it up for fellow gardeners who make the pilgrimage to Great Dixter this summer. There are, of course, many pubs locally, but I've yet to find one that I really like, and the food and the service at The Beach Bistro near Rye, is well worth making the half-hour drive to if you want a perfect meal. We had a really delicious lunch - fish is the main offering here - all locally sourced, but combine that with excellent service and charming decor and you're onto a winner. Although I suspect that you'll need to book well ahead during the summer months because Camber Sands is a popular beach destination.
|Prospect Cottage, former home of film director Derek Jarman, at Dungeness|
While at lunch, we realised that we weren't far from Derek Jarman's cottage and seaside garden at Dungeness - an unlikely spot for a holiday home when you consider that one of the country's largest power stations is just a stone's throw away. But having tracked down the charming timber house with bright yellow windows and wandered down to the sea, you could see the attraction of living here on a sunny day. Sadly, there was little in bloom, but for a really good review and pictures, check out wellywoman's blog.
Prospect Cottage is not open to the public, but you can see it from the road and a telephoto lens affords a good view of the garden with all its driftwood sculptures and the writing on the wall of the house is taken from John Donne's "The Sunne Rising". You can access the sea from the other side of the road. Ronnie and I plan to return when Dixter is in full bloom, because that's when this charming garden will also be at its best.