Garden Secrets: My Life as a Great Dixter Volunteer.

Great Dixter house with colourful floral bedding in foreground
Great Dixter house from the Long Border

When I retired as a councillor last May, I contacted Fergus Garrett, the Head Gardener and Chief Executive at Great Dixter to ask if I could work there for a day a week as a volunteer. I knew Fergus, albeit not that well, from my work as Hastings Council leader. He told me to just turn up the following Tuesday. When I did, no-one had any idea that I was expected, but when I said Fergus had told me to come, they sighed and gave me a form to fill in. And so my career as a Dixter gardening volunteer began. It’s been at times wet, cold, tedious, repetitive, hard, and tiring.  But it’s been hugely enjoyable. Here’s an account of the Dixter way of the world, how the place runs, and what I’ve learned.

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A Year At Dixter

As a volunteer at Great Dixter Garden, in Northiam, East Sussex, I have been taking a weekly picture of the long border, since August 2022, with the aim of completing a whole year of weekly pictures taken from the same place.  I’ve missed a couple of weeks (when it snowed, for example, and couldn’t get there, and over Christmas) but the record is pretty much complete, and I’ll keep adding to it each week. You can see the pictures as a slide show below.

The Christmas Tree: How to Keep it Green

Two Christmas trees planted in the garden, a large one in the background smaller in the foreground.
Two generations of Christmas tree: in the foreground, the tree just planted out. Behind it, one planted five years ago.

There’s been a bit of discussion recently about Christmas trees. It’s the season for it.  But this year, the debates have been around sustainability, and whether it’s better to get a real tree, which you’re cutting down and chucking away, or an artificial tree, that’s (probably) made from plastic derived from fossil fuels.

When put on the spot with the ‘what kind of tree do you have’ question, I described what I did. They suggested I put it on the blog.  So here it is.

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