At the Plant Fayre

Monday 12th October 2020

Saturday Robert Nevil and I drove to the Great Dixter October Plant Fayre as usual. The Spring one did not take place, which reminds me of the saddest announcement ever made in The Times, in September 1982. It was headed: ‘Monaco National Day.’ ‘Monaco National Day, usually held on October 25th, will not this year take place.’ The unstated reason being, of course, the awful death of Grace Monaco only weeks before. That was why the announcement was so sad. So terse. Reason not given.

Great Dixter Plant Fayre was packed. Gardeners. Used to viruses. Who should we run into but the Multis, who as usual had bought everything. I think last year, they were seen but not spoken to across the great rift that opened up. This year there was a bit of necessary, preliminary hiss and spit, which led directly to inclusion and invitations. In the first place, a social whirl materialised right there at the Plant Fayre, the Multis’ friends, never seen before by me, encountered by chance. A blond young man and his wife – they’ d got a leak from their London roof terrace into the room below. V. worried their landlord would object to their plants on the terrace. It turns out he works for Tom Stuart Smith, one of our greatest gardeners, and has connections with the Garden Museum and our favourite Museum Director. Both have quite big followings on Insta. There was also a top-level B&B owner and sculptress with friend. In memory they were a matching pair. Floral masking possibly. The whirl whirled some more. Would we come back to the Multis’ nearby residence, known as ‘Kent’, for tea, drinks, snacks, people?

So Robert Nevil and I covered the Plant Fayre first. Several people came up to RN and raved that they’d met him on committees, at luncheons, at trustee meetings. The highlights of the Fayre were a young man with blue hair and a woman in her forties or fifties (the sort who would be photographed with her daughter and everybody would say, ‘Sisters!’) who had come to the Fayre in her school skirt – a tartan mini, the tartan being the Royal Dress Stewart, which is a dirty white ground with green and red stripes. You’d know it if you saw it. It is much worn by those not entitled to it like most of the other tartans.

We went round Great Dixter main garden as well. Robert Nevil hadn’t been for a year. We were ravished. It was even more ravishing than on my last visit in late August. Even more flowers. How do they do it? Great puffs of dahlias, asters, aconite, Helianthus Lemon Queen. The elements aren’t rare although Fergus keeps up to date with the latest and best new plants, flung together with such freedom and boldness. The garden is engulfing, quite literally so, and shocking. Robert Nevil and I were shocked as we always are by the horror of some of the plants – the golden euonymus, for instance. Throughout taste and colour-schemes are of no importance. It’s the massing of the plants in the setting and the contrasts, so even some variegated nightmare has its place, giving rhythm. Now and again, there’s a rarity, making a little solo appearance in a corner.

The other thing was I was comforted re: my own garden being rather over-grown and decaying at this time of year. Dixter taught me that that’s how gardens are in the late season.

On then to the Multis. Through the security gate and into their demesne. I was there the day they bought it when it was utter hell, a slum in a jungle, although the house old, Tudor, beamy. I’ve never seen a bath as filthy. That was eight years ago or so. Now vistas are revealed of all of Kent, landscaping, lawns, terraces, borders, within reclaimed flooring, downstairs cloakroom with basin carved out of a solid block of marble the colour of chocolate creme. They’ve managed to make it look not brand new. So difficult to bring off.  We took tea, drinks and substantial nibbles in the garden. The Insta couple appeared, plus someone who does the recipes for Dixter, plus the Blond Multi’s relations. The Photo Multi said the new garage would have to re-done. He wants it turned round so you can’t see the cars from the house. A shed is being built in the grounds. I can’t remember what it’s for. Maybe apple work. But it’s to have a studio in one section where they can hang surplus paintings.  When I say ‘shed’ you must imagine a substantial building in which you could park several tractors.

I had a marvellous time at tea railing against the present with the Blond Multi’s sister-in-law whose daughter has just gone to university and been told to stay in her room. But Robert Nevil had heard it all before and commanded the car for London where we had a venison casserole waiting. Then Netflix.

 

 

Young Man with Blue Hair at Great Dixter Plant Fayre

Young Man with Blue Hair at Great Dixter Plant Fayre

Bold and Free: Dear Precious Dixter

Bold and Free: Dear Precious Dixter

Shocking: Dixter

Shocking: Dixter

Red Orach: You can't Argue with It

Red Orach: You can’t Argue with It

The Great Border at Dixter

The Great Border at Dixter

Dixter: Words Fail

Dixter: Words Fail

Posted Monday, October 12, 2020 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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