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Fergus Garrett in the gardens at Great Dixter.

Fergus Garrett in the gardens at Great Dixter.

Fergus Garrett helps greenhouse project to grow

If you are interested in learning the secrets of cultivating a successful cottage garden, take the chance to bid for a study day with gardening expert Fergus Garrett when he gives a talk on behalf of the Alexandra Park Greenhouse Group next month. Lynda Foy reports.

Fergus Garrett, head gardener and chief executive at Great Dixter house and gardens in Northiam, is donating a study day worth £100 as an auction lot when he gives a talk on Saturday 16 April at Horntye Park Sports Complex. The successful bidder will learn valuable techniques about succession planting at Great Dixter, a world-renowned centre for high-quality, cottage-style gardening.

The study day is one of several lots which will be up for bid; others are expected to include some trays of plants from Great Dixter and gardening equipment such as wooden ladders made at Great Dixter. There will also be a raffle. The event is being held to support the Alexandra Park Greenhouse Group’s project to restore the park’s 100-foot 1930s greenhouse and establish it once again as a valuable community, horticultural resource.

Fergus, 50, who is married with two children and lives in Hastings Old Town, will talk about succession planting and extending the seasons – planting one type of plant after another to achieve continuous blooming and colour over a longer period. He will explain how gardening techniques used at Great Dixter can be used on a smaller scale in domestic gardens. Afterwards he will answer questions and sell and sign books he has co-authored.

“You can use space effectively and get a multi-layered effect, by using long-season plants and different shapes and textures to give a longer visual display,” he said.

Fergus started working at Great Dixter in 1993 with the house’s late owner Christopher Lloyd. When Christopher died in 2006, the 60-acre estate which comprises the house, gardens and nurseries became a charitable trust which supports community projects.

Of the greenhouse project, Fergus said: “It gives a focus for the community and it is restoring a very valuable part of the town’s history. It is a beautiful structure.” Volunteers started work on the teak-framed greenhouse in 2013 and have so far cleared it of trees and brambles, installed cold frames and restored its paths. They have been granted a licence to work on the site by the owners, Hastings Borough Council, but they are seeking a long-term lease so that the project can attract much-needed grants.

Chairman Linda Pearson said the group had received a quote for £140,000 to completely refurbish the greenhouse for community use. Members are presently growing plants donated by residents and the Landscape Group, the park’s contractor,  to sell and raise funds for repairs. “It could be used for all types of community group, gardening clubs, allotment societies and schools,” she added. “Pupils could use it as a valuable educational tool to learn about how produce is grown and about nutrition.”

Fergus’s contribution to the project was very important, Linda said. “Great Dixter is a very inspirational garden, encouraging everybody who visits to review their gardens with renewed enthusiasm.”

Meanwhile, Fergus aims to keep Great Dixter’s gardens exciting by experimenting with different plants, colours and designs. He has five full-time gardeners, plus students from all over the world who finish their studies there. “I have no intention of moving on, but I do realise that the job here requires someone with energy,” he said. “As long as I feel I am doing an effective job, I shall stay here.”

He has updated one of Christopher’s books, Meadows at Great Dixter and Beyond, with 15,000 words describing developments since the author’s death. It will be published during April by Pimpernel Press, priced £30.

Succession Planting and Extending the Seasons: talk by Fergus Garrett Horntye Parks Sports Complex, Bohemia Road, Hastings TN34 1EX, Saturday 16 April. Doors open at 2pm for a 2.30pm start, followed by auction and raffle. Tickets £7, including tea and biscuits, available from Eat @ the Park Cafe and Hastings Tourist Information Centre, Aquila House, Breeds Place, Hastings, TN34 3UY, tel 01424 451111. Free parking is available.

Do you want to help with the restoration of the greenhouse? volunteers meet there (entrance on St Helen’s Road next to the Landscape Group depot) on Saturdays between 11am and 1pm, weather permitting. Plant donations are always welcome. See the Alexandra Park Greenhouse Group’s website.


Posted 15:08 Monday, Mar 14, 2016 In: Grassroots

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