Succession Success


Members of Aldersbrook Horticultural Society are delighted to welcome Fergus Garrett, the Head Gardener of Great Dixter Garden in West Sussex, to their February meeting. Ruth Martin reports

Fergus Garrett is described as one of the most influential living garden designers and horticultural educators in Britain today. Since 2006, he has been the Chief Executive of the Great Dixter Trust and has continued to develop the garden, building on the work of Christopher Lloyd (1921–2006), world-renowned gardener and horticulturalist. Under Fergus’s leadership, the garden has become a centre for education and a place of pilgrimage for horticulturalists from around the world. 

At the age of 27, Fergus joined the Great Dixter team and worked closely with owner Christopher Lloyd, who wrote of Garrett: “Fergus is an amazing proselytiser. He believes in what we are doing and spreads the word… The number of visitors bears witness to his success. He can grip an audience right from the start, but he is totally unselfish. As long as he is at the helm, I have no fears for Dixter. He is an incredibly hard worker.”

The garden at Great Dixter is managed in the same way as in Christopher Lloyd’s time, with its vibrant planting giving high-impact visual displays – the mixed borders are densely planted with trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs, annuals and climbers. There is no bare soil and the planting is within a strong infrastructure of buildings, garden hedges and landscaped trees. Plants are fed with organic waste and no cutting back takes place until spring, providing a good resource for wildlife. Wild flower meadows surround the gardens and these are cut twice a year after the seeds are set. Trees within the meadows are allowed to grow naturally without too much intervention through pruning. Outside the house, there is always a beautiful display of bulbs regularly changed to reflect the season. At Great Dixter, much attention is paid to encouraging wildlife – ecological surveys show the abundance of insects and birds, and water is from their own borehole. They grow most of the plants themselves and are constantly experimenting with different forms of planting.

At our February meeting, Fergus will be speaking about succession planting – showing us how to keep our borders well planted throughout the year, just as the team at Great Dixter manage to do so successfully. There will also be plenty of opportunities for questions at the end of his talk.

Originally established in 1918, Aldersbrook Horticultural Society was reformed in 2018 and now meets regularly on the second Tuesday of each month at the Aldersbrook Bowls Club. We are a friendly bunch: keen gardeners, novice gardeners, indoor gardeners, balcony gardeners, allotmenteers and those interested in the local natural environment. We organise two visits a year to interesting gardens and maintain the gardens at Aldersbrook Bowls Club and Aldersbrook Medical Centre.

Fergus’s talk will take place on 13 February at Aldersbrook Bowls Club from 7.30pm (visitors: £5). Visit wnstd.com/ahs or email aldersbrookhorticul@gmail.com