Great Dixter Plant Fair and the Walled Nursery

We recently visited the Great Dixter Plant Fair for the first time. So keen to get the pick of the plants we turned up two hours before it started, but we were able to wonder around the stalls as they were setting up and buy a couple of boxes full of plants from the Dixter Nursery before we returned officially.

We mostly spent our time browsing Beth Chatto’s stall, I was instantly drawn to the delicate and dainty anenomes and the selection of perennials. We also made purchases from Invicta Nursery; three cardoons and three bronze fennels and a Tansy, in total we took home a boot full plants to try out for the new borders. *Some of which are still yet to be planted out some months after the visit…shame*

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Really impressed by the French stall with over thirty types of rhubarb!

*Southborough based photographer, Craig Prentis, coincidentally was there on the same day and made some excellent portraits of people there, which you can see on his Instagram here.*

Here are some pictures from the fair and the wander around Dixter’s gardens…

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The following weekend being blessed again with warm sunshine, we visited the Walled Nursery in Hawkhurst which boasts the best surviving collection of Victorian glasshouses. Thirteen in total; a Carnation House, Cold Frame, Cucumber House, Fernery, Hothouse, Melon House, Peach Case, Tomato House and a ¾ span Vinery.

They were designed and built by Foster and Pearson Ltd of Nottingham, who were renowned for their horticultural buildings and commissioned on several occasions by Queen Victoria.

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Sadly now they are in a state of disrepair, most with peeling paint and missing glass so they were inaccessible when we visited. One glass house remains open with a huge range of succulents which was originally the Melon House.

The estate was formerly known as Tongswood had been owned by Charles Gunther from 1903; who was the Director of OXO and High Sheriff of Kent. Today the main house is occupied by St Ronan’s School but you can find extensive information about the history of the site here.

They are currently raising money to be able to continue the restoration work and have recently opened a café within one of the glasshouses. It does feel like a place with huge potential; even in its delipidated state it is still a sight to see, perhaps even more romantic.

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This was originally the Melon House, where in the first half of the house the original trellis can be seen where the plants would grow up and the melons would hang off inside nets like in the image from 1880 below.

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After buying a car load of plants the previous weekend at Great Dixter, Nick and I thought we ought to reel in the plant buying, purchasing only three Kent Pride irises.

Since this visit to Dixter, we have been back twice at different stages of spring/summer to experience the garden, pick up a few more plants and have the obligatory custard tart. Post coming soon of Dixter in the springtime!

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