Great Dixter, Then & Now is the title and I suppose “Then, Then and Now” would have been too cumbersome a title for this small volume but it would have reflected the contents more accurately for this is a pictorial tour of the garden illustrated with present-day photographs, others taken by Christopher Lloyd himself and still others from when his parents first came to Great Dixter and began the remodelling of the house and the creation of the garden.
Great Dixter is rather a higgledy piggledy garden best walked, at least on the first visit, with a guide map in hand and this book opens rather sensibly with a plan of the garden for the rest of the book moves from area to area with a short description of each and photographs across the years to illustrate – some in black and white, some in sepia, others in that peculiar hue which persists when colour transparencies are converted to digital format and, of course, recently taken photographs.
It is a very pleasant and informative guide book, an excellent introduction, garden guide and souvenir of a visit to the garden. Great Dixter has changed over the years: Christopher Lloyd brought a distinctive style to the gardens his parents created setting out at times, one might feel, through his writing and his gardening decisions to be deliberately provocative and to create a stir in the English horticultural world. Fergus Garrett worked with Christopher Lloyd and continues the spirit of his gardening style which is, in a sense, to forge ahead not bound to the past, to be creative, to try new things, to push the boundaries of what has become comfortably acceptable – and he does this very well.
Three spreads from the book which illustrate the approach of illustrating the various areas with photographs spanning the years.
Great Dixter will continue to be a garden loved by the many, a cause of disappointment and a source of bewilderment to others, a constant prod to established tastes and a supreme example of the greatest horticultural skill. I have loved Christopher Lloyd’s writing, been infuriated by his garden and would drop all and go visit tomorrow if it were at all possible – and, of course, I would most certainly have this book in my hand!
[Great Dixter, Then & Now, Fergus Garrett, Photographs by Christopher Lloyd and Carol Casselden, Pimpernel Press, 2021, Softback, 80 pages, £12.99, ISBN: 978-1-910258-89-7]