Great Dixter, a garden that once seen, can’t be forgotten but could you as easily, recall its sounds?
Last week The3Growbags were invited to this iconic garden, created in East Sussex by the late Christopher Lloyd, to learn about its biodiversity ethos – as it’s heard.
Stopping briefly to offer sympathetic noises for Elaine who was still in Normandy, Laura and I grabbed out hats and coats and we were off!
In setting the scene Christo’s trusted garden confidante Fergus Garrett put words to what has been obvious to many of us: that there is a middle way between full on ‘re-wilding’ and profligate use of insecticides and wasteful gardening habits; that Dixter, in common with many others, has long worked in harmony with its incumbent wildlife; but that as we learn more, and share our understanding of biodiversity, we have the power as gardeners, to make a bigger and bigger difference.
Crucially Dixter has previously undertaken a biodiversity audit, so in the company of ecologist Andy Phillips we set off to check-out its creepy crawly hot-spots. First stop – and first lesson – a log pile is a wildlife priority. Andy explained it’s the spectrum of decomposition that happens in a log-pile that brilliantly supports the transitioning life cycles of a huge array of…I’m going to call them ‘bugs’ because I’m not an ecologist.
Next it was to the sunken garden and the pond – another wildlife ‘must have’ and then through the tropical garden to the ‘long border’. Traditional elements like this offer the all-important ‘lengthening’ of the pollen and nectar season. Osmanthus got a big tick from Andy as an early food source and of course ivy provides food well into the start of winter.
Blurring the edges between wildlife gardening and modern art, the final exhibit was an immense wood-stack created specially as a ‘five-star hotel’ for animal and insect guests. And to think we routinely set fire to these every November 😳
But there’s another element to the merger between the needs of humans and wildlife – what it sounds like. And in the creaking galleon of Dixter’s Great Hall, electronic headsets ‘opened our ears’ to the wonderful co-existence of nature and gardeners.
That log pile which looked completely inanimate – actually seethes with audible activity. The sound of the wind and swallows are interspersed with those of the garden’s human inhabitants – the scraping of spades on the concrete, the chatter of volunteers, the boom of Fergus Garrett’s voice ringing across the garden as he tries to track someone down. They merge into a wonderfully therapeutic soundscape which, explained Harry Coade and Mike Edwards from SoundMatters, is an insight into interactions often not visible to us in our busy lives.
More immediately the sound of Laura knocking over her water glass twice during the otherwise sepulchral silence of our listening experience, together with the rising decibels of the torrential rain outside signalled it was time for The3Growbags to head for home.
Next year audio clips from this recording will be available to all at Great Dixter – another compelling reason to visit this garden which looks back, and forward, and clearly reverberates with the sound of its protected wildlife and human laughter.
This was a biodiversity workshop that was inspiring, encouraging and fun and we left feeling that Great Dixter is, yet again, leading the field. Christo Lloyd would be delighted.
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