Monday, January 30, 2006

Christopher Lloyd -- a great gardener

On Friday,Christopher Lloyd died. Some of you may not know the name, but he was one of the most influential English gardeners of the late 20th century. In 1996, he was pretty much responsible for sweeping away the silvers and pastels and replacing with them with canna, dahlias and other bold plants. His books and his weekly column in Country Life influenced a generation of gardeners , including my dh and me.
Although I came to The Well tempered Garden only in 1993, it was at a time when I was first beginning to become serious about my gardening. I had done the beginning bits, and was hungry to know more. Christopher Lloyd with his no nonsense approach helped. Except the pruning of clematis, do things when you are thinking about them -- whether it is the correct time of the year or not. He made me want to learn about plants. He also made think of walls as spaces to be covered.

in 2001, we were down in East Sussex and had the great good fortune to go through Great Dixter. A hot, dusty afternoon. The shadows were lengthening and the garden was shown off to perfection. We lingered a bit and could hear the yapping of his dogs. The middle and I went around the house -- a very cleverly restored manor house. His mother, a woman of great purpose, had insisted all her children learn needlework. On several chairs were pillows that Mr Lloyd had done. His study smelt of wood smoke and there was a jumble of papers,and books. A winged chair was drawn up in front of the huge inglenook fireplace.

When we returned home to Northumberland, my dh was inspired. We now have a collection of cannas, a hot border and sculpted holly dotted about the place. Although at one point, the holly tree near the beehives had rather a phallic look to it.... It now resembles a column with a bird on top.

Like Rosemary Verey who was another great influence, I am very pleased to have gone to Great Dixter while he was still alive and his personality was still very much in the place. I do hope Fergus Garret, his brilliant head gardener, does continue his legacy of innovation and experimentation, and the garden is not just put in aspic. At least he established a charitable trust. The last of triumverate gardeners that I love is Beth Chatto. Her garden near Colchester is certainly worth a visit. In fact when we went, I ended up sitting on luggage so we could take all the unusual plants we'd purchased home.

1 comment:

Anna Louise Lucia said...

Submit this somewhere, Michelle - either expand it as an article for something local, or cut it as a letter for a national gardening mag?

Honestly, it's wonderfully evocative.