Real Men Sow

An Inspiring Talk by Fergus Garrett of Great Dixter Gardens

Posted on by in days out with 12 Comments

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be given a tour of Great Dixter house and gardens, thanks to a blogging meet organised by the very lovely Naomi from Out of My Shed.

The Dixter gardens were beautiful, but it was a talk by head gardener Fergus Garrett (pictured, photo taken from Out of My Shed) that inspired me the most.

Fergus talked passionately about the gardens and the Dixter ethos, making several points that really fired my gardening soul. First of all, Fergus discussed how important independence is to Dixter. He cited the recent job given to a man who had previously been living on the streets of Hastings as an example. The staff at Dixter didn’t have to go through any committee to make the decision. They could take a chance on this gentleman because they thought he had something.

Fergus also talked about how Dixter were free to do whatever they liked with the gardens too. Last year, they let cow parsley grow freely to create a wispy affect in beds. The cow parsley was a risk, but they had the freedom to go with it, and simply see what happens.

Fergus likened this independent spirit to blogging, as a blogger isn’t controlled or influenced by anyone or anything. There is no industry to try and sway what you right. You are your own person, and you can write exactly what you want.

He also discussed the significance of experimentation in the garden, and of not fearing things going wrong. I immediately understood this. I’m often obsessing about making sure I get a good crop, regularly sticking to the same reliable varieties and only recently have I begun to try different things.

Listening to Fergus’s boundless enthusiasm for experimentation made me realise what I’m doing is right. This whole veg growing things is meant to be fun, a voyage of discovery.

Synergy with the Garden
Fergus made a comment that any house must have ‘…synergy with the garden’, regardless of the sizes involved. This reminded me of a quote by Alys Fowler, about starting from your back door and working outwards.

For the first time, I’ve got a house where I can sit and eat my dinner looking out over the garden. Its funny how just a few words can strike a chord and the synergy comment did just that. Contemplating the creation of a connection between my kitchen and my garden is such an inspiring thought but one I’d never had explained to me in such plain terms. This concept seems so obvious now, yet for months I’ve been searching for this meaning.

Veg Growing Similarities
Up until now, I’ve never been a flower gardener, and I was way out of my depth with all the latin plant names and clever bed management methods, but I can see a likeness in how Fergus gardens and a vegetable patch.

He talks about creating beds that provide colour and display for nine months of the year by growing successional plants that cohabit but appear at different times. No bed is ever left empty – something attractive always goes into a bare space.

Veg is the same, especially if you’re attempting to sow successionally, and I always try to fill a space with something.

I might not have known any of the plants Fergus was talking about (well, apart from the cow parsley) but I didn’t really need to. He speaks so fervently, and with such passion that it doesn’t matter whether he’s talking about flowers or veg, or even if you understand. Fergus simply inspires you to go outside and get gardening.

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  1. Mark and GazMarch 29, 2013 at 12:14 amReply

    It was a great day out and lovely to meet so many other bloggers. Fergus was incredibly passionate and certainly gave us a few ideas to consider for our own garden.

    • Jono

      JonoMarch 29, 2013 at 8:31 amReplyAuthor

      Morning chaps,

      Was indeed a great day. Quite an eye opener for me too, not being a floral gardener.

      Great to put some faces to names too. :)

  2. VPMarch 29, 2013 at 9:50 amReply

    Well said Jono – we were both struck by many of the same things during Fergus’s talk.

    It was great to meet you – perhaps the next time you drive past J17 of the M4, you’ll stop by for a cup of tea, rather than just waving. You’ll be most welcome :)

  3. VPMarch 29, 2013 at 10:20 amReply

    Me again – cos I’ve gone away and had a think about what you said :)

    You’re right what Fergus was talking about is universal – it applies to both flower and veg gardening. When Christopher Lloyd was alive, he very much encouraged the coming together of people to share their ideas and thoughts whilst sharing food.

    We had a taster of that ethos on Wednesday :)

    Have a look at ‘Gardener Cook’ if you can…

  4. Jono

    JonoMarch 29, 2013 at 12:05 pmReplyAuthor

    Hey Michelle, great to finally meet you too. I’ll definitely be stopping in the future. :)

    I love that idea. All the best chats come over a decent dinner.

    Until Wednesday, floral gardening always seem so daunting, but Fergus really demystified it for me.

  5. CaroMarch 31, 2013 at 12:39 pmReply

    Hi Jono, it’s endlessly fascinating to see what each of us got from the day. You’ve done a lovely review of FG’s talk – it was SO inspiring, i love his enthusiasm and passion for what they do at Dixter and the end results will be something I want to go back and see throughout the year.
    It was absolutely great to meet you, i enjoyed our chat and walk round the veg garden. I know what you mean about latin names – i’m just getting to grips with it all since I’ve been at college! I always grow flowers in my veg patch, some are edible, but all bring in the bees and butterflies. If in north London, come and say hello! Caro xx

  6. Anna BApril 1, 2013 at 8:54 pmReply

    Hello Jono! It was great to meet you in person and talk about veg! I love the fact I’ve come back from my holiday down south and can re-live the wonderful day at Great Dixter with all these wonderful blog posts! I completely agree with you about Fergus being inspiring and being able to apply what he was talking about to veg gardening too : )

  7. colinApril 2, 2013 at 11:22 amReply

    It was a great day!

  8. wellywomanApril 3, 2013 at 8:28 amReply

    Sounds like a lovely day. I couldn’t make it, unfortunately but it would have been amazing to meet everyone and have the chance to hear Fergus talk. I can understand why you found the day so inspiring. Maybe next time.

  9. Jono

    JonoApril 3, 2013 at 12:45 pmReplyAuthor

    Hello all, apologies for not replying earlier!

    Was great to meet everyone and talk veg – I don’t get to bore too many people with veg tales around here very often!

    Caro – was a perfect start to the day, will definitely pop in if I’m passing.

    Looking forward to seeing everyone again.

  10. Great Dixter | Out of my shedApril 4, 2013 at 3:40 pmReply

    [...] Real Men Sow [...]

  11. Naomi/OutofmyshedApril 6, 2013 at 8:27 amReply

    Hi Jono, Love your post. You perfectly summed up the experimental ethos at Great Dixter and in turn have inspired me to look again at my own back garden as seen from the kitchen door. Hopefully meet up soon -a get together over a meal sounds a perfect way to have another veg chat!

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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