Chelsea London Paris
This was our 10th tour to the Chelsea Flower
Show. It never fails to amaze me, the ideas and lengths at which these
designers go to bringing us the latest in what is new and in. Some of the
gardens are trendy yes, but they all inspire us to think of what we can do
in our little patch. We stayed at the Rubens at the Palace Hotel, met for
our evening get acquainted dinner May 26th and while eating went through the
tidbits of information I have picked up over the years on visiting the show.
All my pictures of Chelsea this year are in the Brighton/Chelsea 2006 tour.
I did two tours back to back so check there to see what Chelsea was like
this year. May 27th was the Chelsea Flower Show day for the group and they
made good use of that day!
After breakfast on May 28th we boarded our coach for Sissinghurst and Great
Dixter – two incredible and incredibly different gardens.
Sissinghurst Castle, once home to the writers Harold Nicholson and Vita
Sackville-West, and its stunning Gardens, perhaps the country’s most famous.
‘Profusion, even extravagance and exuberance within the confines of the
utmost linear severity’ was Vita Sackville-West’s philosophy in creating the
gardens, and this is still gloriously apparent. Sissinghurst ... what can I
say about this beautiful garden that Harold and Vita Sackville-West
discovered and rescued. It occupies a very ancient site, somewhere around
the middle Ages. There used to be a stone manor house surrounded by a moat -
that was replaced by a mansion by the Baker family. In 1756 it was a prison
camp and there was so much damage to the old building that at the end of the
war two-thirds of it was demolished. Harold and Vita came along in 1930,
fell in love with the place and it was five years before they even had water
or electricity. What remains now of the original house is the Entrance, a
long building dating from 1490. Originally a stable it is now called the
Long Library mostly used for storing furniture from her family home and all
the books she reviewed. The Tower is what Vita wanted ... this is where she
would write, isolated and content and it remained her sanctum until she died
at age 70.
What we see now is a love story ... a story of a couple who have made this
their home and turned their land into a series of gardens that draw oohs and
aahs with each separate garden.
In the afternoon we visited Great Dixter, the home of Christopher Lloyd who
passed away just this year. A must see for gardeners, you will not forget the series of gardens nor will you forget the differences in
gardening styles of today’s visit. Great Dixter is a charming 15th century
timber-framed manor house set in one of the most beautiful gardens in
England. Records for the manor of Dixter go back to the 13th century but the
core of the present house was built in 1464 by the Etchingham family. By the
early 20th century the building was in a very poor state of repair but it
was saved by Nathaniel Lloyd who bought the property in 1910. He
commissioned Sir Edwin Lutyens to renovate and extend the medieval hall
house between 1910 -14. Lloyd and Lutyens found a derelict 'Wealden House'
that was about to be pulled down in the nearby village of Benenden. Lloyd
bought the building and the timbers were carefully numbered and transported
to Great Dixter. The house forms a superb backdrop to the garden laid out by
Lutyens and the Lloyd family. Lutyens' input can be seen in the way the
stone steps and paths are laid.
Christopher Lloyd was a renowned garden writer and he used his flair and
plants man’s knowledge to great effect at Great Dixter. He had a bold style
and used strong shapes and colour to give interest throughout the year. The
garden is divided into a number of ' outdoor rooms' by huge yew hedges and
several red-tiled, timber- framed outbuildings.