A talk by Fergus Garrett of Great Dixter

Having read many of Christopher Lloyds books but never having visited his world famous garden, Great Dixter in Sussex, I jumped at the opportunity to get a ticket for a talk from his head gardener Fergus Garrett at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Sadly Christopher died in 2006 but Fergus continues to build on his ideas and achievements. The talk was a sell out  and an absolute guiding inspiration in explaining the strategy for succession planting for creating year round interest in the garden.

Although I got back late and did not get much sleep as my mind was too active wanting to get going on his advice, the next day I did just that.  I wanted to get started on the “layering process” as Fergus spoke about. This is the perfect time of year to identify spots where bulbs can go to bring added spring colour.  Unfortunately they are not for sale at this time of year. Spring flowering bulbs are always for sale in the autumn months when the garden is fully clothed with flowers and foliage.


At this time of year it is easy to see spaces where spring bulbs can go.


Harder during September when bulbs are for sale but garden is in full bloom

 However existing large clumps of bulbs or those not in the right place can be lifted, divided and replanted. So I started lifting some of my clumps of snowdrops still in the green, splitting them and replacing them near non vigorous low growing  clump forming grasses such as Carex and  under the bare stems of some deciduous shrubs and intermingling them with daffodils just coming into flower .


A divided clump of snowdrops replanted towards front of the border to be followed by irises (already passed) then daffodils (now fadding ) and now the flowering succession is achieved by orange tulips

 I have ear marked areas where at bulb planting time I will buy and plant crocuses and irises which will flower and increase colour  in the garden in the time between the flowering of snowdrops and leucojums and  before most of the daffodils flower. To increase colour during and after my daffodils flowering time I will plant more muscari and tulip bulbs. This is what Fergus refers to as adding layers of plants which continually take over from one another to provide colour, foliage, fruit and stem interest as we move through the year.


Photos are a great way to remind oneself where bulb planting opportunities are for the following years show. Muscari holding  spring show till hosta leaves unfurl. Fergus would be impressed I’m sure.


Lots of opportunity for spring colour here


Bulbs can provide the bulk of colour in the spring garden before this task is taken on by the early and late flowering herbaceous perennials and shrubs from Summer to Autumn.

I am sure it will take me many years and mistakes (I prefer  exponential learning curves) to achieve my own “Little Dixter” but I will enjoy the journey, learn and to my garden visitors although I will be aware of where I want to improve they will hopefully think it all looks wonderful.

A final reminder to my local followers of Plant Heritages plant sale in Forfar on the 29th April , 10.30 to 12 am Noon at Guide Hall, Myre Car Park DD81HZ. If you want the opportunity to get some rare and unusual plants not commonly found in garden centres get there early. See you there.


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