One of my absolute favorite gardens of all time is Great Dixter, in Rye, UK about 60 miles southeast of London. It is an enchanting place, steeped in history and cutting edge horticultural experimentation. The oldest part of the main house dates from 15th century, and the “newest” addition is an Edwin Lutyens original. It was the childhood home of esteemed gardener and author Christopher Lloyd, and is now preserved in a trust and open to the public. The gardens are a magical blend of formality and experimentation, with display collections, kitchen gardens, borders, bulb displays, and topiary all mixing together whimsically and with such synergistic effect.
Fergus Garrett, head gardener and long-time protégé of Lloyd, showed me around one beautiful March morning in 2019. Notwithstanding the sheer beauty and magic of the place, they are up to some incredible conservation work, cataloguing indigenous spiders, insects, and plants on the vast property, which falls away to pastoral land after the formal gardens end.
There is a fully functioning retail nursery, and a robust pedagogical program training the next generation of groundbreaking gardeners.
Director of Gardens and Grounds at Dumbarton Oaks