Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Great Dixter in the Spring

Reading in the Sunk Garden
11" x 8", pencil and coloured pencils in Daler Rowney sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

We visited the late Christopher Lloyd's garden at Great Dixter yesterday. His book "Christopher Lloyd's Gardening Year has temporarily replaced the art books as my bedtime reading. I'd read all about April in the garden before we got there. I love the review of the book which is quoted on Amazon - it's absolutely spot on!
The Guardian - review by Ruth Gorb, December 3 1999
"Read CHRISTOPHER LLOYD'S GARDENING YEAR and you are in the company of a master gardener and friend. In this latest book he is, as ever, chatty, opinionated and inspirational. He disobeys all the rules and wages a long-standing battle against good taste: his combination of orange dahlias and vivid purple verbena may not be your cup of tea, but he describes it with such zest...To be in his company, even through the pages of a book, is a privilege and an education"
I'm now starting his book on Colour for Adventurous Gardeners. It contains this wonderful quote.
Given the right cirumstances, I believe that every colour can be successfuly used with any other and that is the message I hope to convey..............there is something called the Colour Wheel that I have never understood and that I shall not therefore attenpt to explore or explain. It is somehow intended to demonstrate which colours may successfully be put together and which may not, but the outcome makes no sense to me, so I shall go my own way without.
Christopher Lloyd - Colour for Adventurous Gardeners
We toured the garden and marvelled at the difference between the garden at this time of year compared to the total profusion later in the summer. I wrote about this in my post on Great Dixter at the end of August last year. Then I commented as follows
To tell the truth I found most of of the garden almost impossible to sketch for various reasons:
  • there are virtually no places to sit
  • the gardens are much more about a profusion and an experience than about views (the garden is compartmentalised and is simply stuffed with an amazing mixture of plants)
  • there is no place to put a collapsible stool or seat even if one were allowed to as paths are by and large narrow and the plants are spilling over them. There might be places where one could sit - but I found it very difficult to compose views with the camera and I'm guessing the problem would be even worse if trying to sketch compounded by the virtual absence of seats.
My current thoughts are that I should try and get more sketching done earlier in the year having now seen the difference in how the garden looks at different times of the year. It's certainly holds lots of attractions in terms of the leaves of various plants. Plus, if they don't object to me taking in a seat to the vegetable patches, they have great veggies! I've invested in an annual visitors ticket for two people which gives me free access to the gardens (only) at any time during the year when the gardens are open. It will pay for itself if we visit just once more this year!

Here are some of the photos I took yesterday.

After our tour round we sat in the Sunk Garden. 'He must not be bored while I sketch' read his book and I sketched - he makes a marvellous model! Maybe I should do a series of sketches or even a book - "Not being bored in various gardens"? ;) What do you think?

Last summer I was have included Great Dixter in a post about arts and crafts gardens on Making A Mark as part of my gardens project . However this got hammered by a major Blogger malfunction and hence never got posted. I might try and see if I can finish that today.

I've also updated my information site Gardens in Art - Resources for Artists and added in a module for posts from this blog about gardens I sketch. For more details about this site see below.

  • Great Dixter - house and gardens, High Park Close, Northiam, Rye, East Sussex, TN31 6PH
  • Gardens in Art - Resources for Artists
  • If you love looking at paintings of gardens or enjoy drawing or painting your own garden or gardens you visit then this site will interest you. It also looks at gardens as art and artwork in gardens. It shares links to information about:
    • looking at drawings and paintings of gardens
    • studying how different artists have responded to the motif of 'the garden' in order to understand more about different approaches to drawing and painting the garden
    • gardens which provide opportunities for drawing and painting
  • Books


  1. It's a lovely garden, isn't it. And that's a lovely sketch, too. Lovely colours.

  2. If that garden was in my "reach" I would not hesitate to work on a book project no matter how long it would take ! Yesterday evening on TV I heard about a chinese proverb about getting happiness:
    If you want to be happy for one hour -drink a bottle of Schnaps.If you want to be happy for a year- get married.If you want to be happy all your lifetime - become a gardener. I think that there is a much more attractive option : become a garden sketcher !

  3. Beautifully composed sketch, Katherine. I think a series with He Who Must Not Be Bored would be very appealing. It is such a charming image - man reading in beautiful setting. I always think a series that reflects an aspect of an artist's personal life works well too. Go for it!

    I envy you those gardening books. I agree that one can combine colours in nature - or leave nature herself to combine colours - that wouldn't find a logical place on a colour wheel.

    Great photos! Are you going to make a painting from the tulips in water? It's gorgeous.

  4. Thanks Dave, Martin and Robyn.

    Martin - my sentiments entirely - I may just quote you!

    The yellow flowers are actually a variety of arum - and a rather splendid example too although it's not so obvious in the photograph.

  5. I thought at first they were lilies and then I thought, no it's too early for lilies. But what would I know, I can't afford a gardening book. ;)

  6. They didn't look like they'd been out very long. I also have some amazing photographs of the gunnera right next to it opening and unfurling - truly triffid like!


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