Great Dixter, Part 4 (the Final Chapter)

This will be my last post on Great Dixter. As I’ve already said, it was our favorite English garden. We liked it so much, in fact, that I felt compelled, almost against my will, to enjoy some of the topiary. But only because it was so very silly.

Entrance to the Peacock Garden
Entrance to the Peacock Garden

This was in the Peacock Garden. It’s called the Peacock Garden because it is full of topiaries that were originally meant to be blackbirds, pheasants, and other sorts of birds. Eventually, though, they were all referred to as peacocks. Christopher Lloyd’s mother called this part of the garden as the Parliament of Birds.

Peacocks or turkeys? Or squirrels? We report, you decide.
Peacocks or turkeys? Or squirrels? We report, you decide.

When I first saw these topiaries, I had to laugh. At first I thought they looked like turkeys, then squirrels. They certainly look nothing like peacocks.

Here's more of a close up.
Here’s more of a close up.

I don’t know if these topiaries were meant to be humorous or whimsical but that is how they struck me. Not something I would want for my garden in a million years (nor would I recommend anyone spending the time needed to shape the yews in this way), but entertaining nonetheless.

A yew ziggurat.
A yew ziggurat.

I suspect there was also something tongue-in-cheek about this yew hedge shaped like a ziggurat.

2013-09-14 07.49.00 great dixter, peacock garden

Fortunately, there was more to the Peacock Garden than topiary peacocks/turkeys/squirrels.

Calico Aster is used as a hedge along this path.
Calico Aster is used as a hedge along this path.

Tall grasses and flowers grew luxuriantly around the topiaries. A hedge of calico aster ‘Horizontalis’ (Symphyotrichum lateriflorus) lines one of the stone paths. It was not quite ready to bloom. I’ve found calico aster to grow to shrub size and seed aggressively in fertile soil, so I only plant it in difficult spots. Apparently it is more manageable in England, or maybe it’s just this cultivar.

2013-09-14 07.44.33 great dixter, peacock garden

I think this is a path for the gardeners. A lovely mix of yellow, blue, and pink – with a giant variegated grass in the background to the left.

2013-09-14 07.48.34 great dixter, peacock garden

Crocosmia, asters, teasel, and kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate, which is the tall one with pink flowers in the background. Truly a great name for a plant, isn’t it?

2013-09-14 07.45.52 great dixter, peacock garden

What is this grass – is it Big Bluestem?

2013-09-14 07.50.17 great dixter

Leaving the Peacock Garden, the vista opened up a bit.

2013-09-14 07.53.25 great dixter

We saw something of the Great Dixter house. Lots of flowering containers congregated around the front door.

2013-09-14 07.51.47 great dixter

I liked how succulents were grown here and there on the roof.

2013-09-14 07.55.37 Great Dixter

Great Dixter was an inspiring garden. The High and Orchard Gardens were for me the most exciting, fearless and unrestrained. Overall, I left thinking about borders much more mixed than I’ve been used to, and with a greater appreciation of yew and boxwood hedges. Also, I felt encouraged to be more experimental with color combinations.

Anyhow, what do you think – did those topiaries look more like peacocks, squirrels, or turkeys?

42 Comments on “Great Dixter, Part 4 (the Final Chapter)”

  1. Really enjoyed the virtual tour. I loved that tall blue salvia(?) next to the narrow path, and am amazed that they have teasels in their borders – they are so invasive here! They look really effective though, and I bet the gardens still look great in winter with all those tall grasses. Wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

  2. You have made me determined to visit Great Dixter again this year.
    The topiary looks like some weird turkey/squirrel hybrid. Quite good fun but I wouldn’t want it in my garden. A bit of a waste of effort really.
    Thank you for the tour of the garden.

  3. Love the topiary! (Of course, I would be the one.) This part of the garden would be chaos w/o it, don’t you think? Side note…the first time I visited GDix (2001, I think), the peacock’s tails had been chopped off by someone in a snit. Heard in the village it was a love spat, but who knows.

    Thanks for the tour; it’s been exciting to see the garden through your eyes. No question this is one of the top gardens in England, and by far the best in autumn.

  4. The large grass looks like a Miscanthus to me, but I’ve no idea which one. I’ve very much enjoyed seeing all the gardens through your eyes, garden visiting with friends is fun and virtual visiting is fun too. You know I like the topiary (didn’t used to like it), I think the garden needs the structure if it is planted in such a riotous way.

  5. I don’t mind the topiary – in the right garden of course. I draw the line an box balls in mine. I did have a go at trying to shape one once, that was a complete failure!
    I thoroughly enjoyed your tour of Great Dixter with you Jason. It’s a beautiful garden. To me they look more like squirrels than peacocks.

  6. Oh, how I’ve enjoyed the 4 chapters on this marvelous garden! Thanks for sharing so generously, and with such super photos, too. So inspiring this time of year with more than a foot of snow & ice on the ground here.

    Uh, they looks like squirrels to me, Jason! Goodness knows, I’m seeing enough of them raiding the bird feeders, despite putting out corn on the cobs & peanuts for them… I, like you, have no desire for any topiary, but enjoy seeing it elsewhere. Have you ever been to Ladew Topiary Gardens near Baltimore?

  7. I admire the Topiary and especially the gardener who is up on ladders maintaining these splendid shapes, they look immaculately clipped. I have so enjoyed your series of posts, it was a great decision to break it up into four sections. Inspiring photos too. A trip to Great Dixter is definitely on the cards this year.

  8. I vote for squirrels too. I’m a lover of hedges, but so-so on the topiary…. even though a lollipop here and there wouldn’t offend me.
    I was reading a book on Sissinghurst and saw a picture from back in the day of some delicate little songbird topiaries… in the picture from the current garden they had turned into overweight turkeys. I guess you have to remember that over the years everything grows and changes in a garden and the topiaries there now might not be anything like what was first planted or planned.

  9. With the exception of the hedge/wall in the first photo, I really don’t like big hedges and the topiaries would give me a headache, regardless of what they are. I prefer his more open garden rooms and love the teasel. I love all the flowering containers and am working on adding more annuals to the garden this summer.

  10. So Stunning! And yes…his borders are so inspiring! So many different plants, shapes, and colors! Just an gorgeous and peaceful place that I would like to see! I am working on many containers this year…I have been stocking up and tucking planters away in my garage as I buy them! I can’t wait but this snow makes me feel like it will never come! Thanks for sharing your beautiful trip! Nicole!!!

  11. I always think they look like squirrels. And from what I know Lloyd certainly had a sense of humour!
    So pleased you enjoyed your visit to a favourite garden of mine and that you found inspiration – I’m lucky enough to be able to visit regularly and buy plants from the nursery. In fact the head gardener Fergus has given me a load of spares that now sit happily in my garden at home – a little bit of Great Dixter on the Promenade so to speak.

  12. Did you hear that Fergus Garrett, of Great Dixter, will be speaking next month at the Chicago Botanic Garden? Alas, it’s on a Monday, March 24, from 2-4 p.m. Don’t think I’ll be able to make it as a result. Hope you can……

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