Chelsea London Paris
May, 2006

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.







  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row