Christopher Lloyd’s legacy—both his garden writing and the magnificent Great Dixter—will never be forgotten. Not if Timber Press has anything to do with it. After publishing (posthumously) his book on exotic planting in 2007, the press has released a tribute to Lloyd and his famous property in East Sussex, entitled The View from Great Dixter.
Now Great Dixter is part of a trust, and the gardens continue, under the direction of Fergus Garrett, who was head gardener during Lloyd’s lifetime and is CEO of the Great Dixter Charitable Trust. So the good news is that you can still tour Lloyd’s masterpiece; you can even take gardening classes there. The bad news is that you will never have the experiences detailed in this book, which is a loosely-stitched-together collection of memories from those who knew Lloyd and spent time with him. The contributors include Lloyd’s family, his friends, and his colleagues (with plenty of intersection among the categories)—some of the names: Anna Pavord, Dan Hinkley, Helen Dillon, Rosemary Alexander, Beth Chatto, Garrett, and many, many others.
It’s interesting how much of this book is not about gardening. It’s about drinking, cooking, eating, playing the piano to Paul McCartney, and a whole lot of other fun-sounding stuff. In fact, many of the reminiscences begin with “We arrived in November”—a time when you’d have to assume not too much border admiring would be going on. We learn that Christo loved Champagne and single malt—and had quite a temper when provoked. We also learn that a roaring fire was preferred to television and radio and that Christo’s dogs were named Canna and Yucca.
It’s a delightful book, and the oral history-style narrative that bounces around between decades and topics makes it easy to browse. Start in the middle, the beginning, or the end: it makes no difference.
And yes, I have a copy of The View from Great Dixter to give away. Here’s the contest: I know we all feel sad when we get to the end of a beloved writer’s oeuvre. If a long-lost manuscript from a famous writer turned up, which one would you pick? It need not be gardening, either. Mine is easy and kind of boring I guess—I would like to see at least 6 more novels from Jane Austen. Sorry, that’s how I roll. Who would yours be?
I will choose a winner from comments and announce it tomorrow at 5 p.m. EST.