Thursday, 23 April 2015

Fergus Garrett at Malmesbury Garden Festival and Abbey House Gardens visit

When I saw the line up of speakers at the Garden's Illustrated Garden Festival in Malmesbury on the 17th/18th of April, I was keen to go. The only problem really was selecting which talk to go to since there were 3 speakers on at the same time in 3 different venues.
The weather was fabulous, with startlingly blue skies above as we prepared to enter Malmesbury Abbey

Having become a great fan of Great Dixter, having visited there, read Christopher Lloyd's biography and become interested in emulating the look in my own garden, I was keen to hear Fergus Garrett, who has been at Great Dixter for 25 years and just received the RHS Veitch Medal,  talk about 'Designing with Plants at Great Dixter'. He spoke so eloquently about planting and I came away with some excellent ideas, I made a few notes which I'll include here, and hope I'm not straying too far from what was said. I think Great Dixter planting aims to create an exotic garden with atmosphere which works by making the eyes work up and down when they look at the garden because they see contrasting tones, textures and shapes, and undulations in the borders. He likes punchy combinations of plants, and certain plants which act as catalysts in combinations, Umbellifers like the diaphanous Cow Parsley do this, it was also described as 'kissing the neck..' of another plant. By showing a huge number of brightly coloured slides, Fergus Garrett was able to illustrate what he was saying about certain plants providing a contrasting backdrop, and demonstrated the fact that the gardens change every year as they play with some pockets with a twist to see if they can achieve the sort of look they are seeking. He was certainly correct when he said the creative element runs through our veins, and I agree that we should ignore the rules on colour and embrace pink and yellow together.
I took a few photos during question time where you get an idea of the slides shown:

The session ran over the hour, and Fergus continued showing more slides during question time, and had to be almost wrestled off the stage by Annie Guilfoyle before he stopped talking. If you get the chance to hear him speak, go along, it's a delight, like the gardens.
Afterwards I thought it would be difficult to top that really, but  the marquee was great, I bought some gorgeous plants including a Turkish Thyme and another Viola Molly Sanderson
These iron supports were rather lovely from
 From there we walked into the Abbey House Gardens, home to Barbara and Ian Pollard, known as 'The Naked Gardeners' for their days when you can visit and take your clothes off. This year it's on 24 May. Rather aptly, the first thing you see apart from a gorgeous Magnolia, is 2 naked men wrestling:
 From there, you see wonderful topiaried box and tulips galore
 with glimpses of the lovely house

 There's also an intruiging wild part across the river with lots of fish in evidence

 Above the house from the woods, and below a gorgeous Rhodedendron
 Altogether a fabulous day out, I hope Garden's Illustrated hold it again next year.

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