Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Lessons from Great Dixter

Signature of Fergus Garrett in the inside cover of The View from Great Dixter

Hello Fellow Readers, On a recent frigid afternoon, a light dusting underway and uncertainty when the snow could wreak havoc, I joined a hundred and a half other Fergus Garett fans at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morris Township.

Fergus Garett is a gardening rock star of sorts to dig in the dirt folks and fans of Christopher Lloyd. For nearly twenty-five years, Fergus has been the head gardener of the 15th-century Great Dixter estate in East Sussex, England, the family home of the late Christopher Lloyd. Lloyd is a legendary bachelor gardener who rose to fame as a plantsman, author of 20 books, and a weekly gardening columnist for 40 years, never missing a deadline, even when hospitalized.*Fergus Garrett, Christopher Lloyd, Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone, Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design

Fergus Garrett’s friendship and admiration of Christo, Lloyd’s well-known nickname, was evident as he spoke. His contagious British accent cadenced along with the glorious slides of the lively, ever-changing spaces of the 55-acre estate. Sometimes Christopher Lloyd cast off traditions of the color wheel, Garrett explained, boldly planting yellow and pink flowers together. Or he ripped up a 70-year-old rose garden in place of what was reported ‘a brazen kaleidoscope of sub-tropical plants’, which stirred ‘letters of complaint’ from the public.

“The garden is not stale in any way. It’s a living place. There is always change,” Garrett said, “but it is not change for change’s sake, just to shock people and make headlines. It’s change because it was a natural improvement.” Garrett added, “It’s normal in a garden, isn’t it, that you fall out of love with certain plants and new plants come, and combinations change. Trees grow and cast shade on the border underneath it so the border underneath changes.”

After chocolate-covered strawberries, I white-knuckled it home as the snow had turned into a heavy dump. But what inspiration! Lessons from Great Dixter, where I hope to visit someday. And when I do, Fergus Garrett signed in my copy of The View from Great Dixter; Christopher Lloyd’s Garden Legacy, Dear Mary, Come and visit (tea and cake!)

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* Imagine that – Christoper Lloyd wrote about 2,080 weekly columns.  That gives me 37 more years of weekly columns go!  Thanks, Christo, for setting the bar :^)

Column Updated 12/11/21 

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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