“Anyone who was serious about plants would be admitted into the great conversation that is the English garden.”
–Simon Jenkins (speaking about Christopher Lloyd)
I visited Christopher Lloyd’s famous garden, Great Dixter, on a garden trip in 2000. In the intervening years between that visit and writing my novel, Greening of a Heart, I read the book Dear Friend & Gardener: Letters on Life and Gardening between Beth Chatto & Christopher Lloyd, which gave me a real sense of the man. From this source came the inspiration for the young people in the novel who come to the Vicarage garden to help Hannah Winchester rethink her life.
After Lloyds death in hospital in January 2006, a friend said of Lloyd that he retained the capacity to constantly re-imagine the world and himself to the end. I am convinced that this was the genius of the man. There is the life we imagine and the life we lead. Dan Hinkley, a famous plantsman and writer in his own right, said, “Life and Dixter with Christopher…is like a very long and intricately-worded sentence; a synthesis of perpetual entertainment, ﬁne cuisine, opulent plenitudes of Scotch and Champagne and the ratchety barks of ardently pampered dachshunds, all wrapped within an historical house and polymorphic garden.” Don’t you wish you could have written this wonderful description!
Another of Lloyds friends said Great Dixter was so much more than a garden, but a way of life. It is a fact that Christo, as his friends called him, lived one of my unlived lives. Hannah takes great interest in the young people who area part of her summer. She, like Lloyd, was kind and hospitable. Lloyd was “keen to nurture any impulse towards plantsmanship” and he was generous with his attention and teaching. Simon Jenkins, who became Chairman of the NationalTrust, said ‘anyone who was serious, about plants would be admitted into the great conversation that is the English garden.” I remain indebted to Jenkins for this beautiful phrase.
Lloyd’s writing life added to his legacy. He wrote weekly columns in Country Life for many years and for The Guardian newspaper as the garden expert for seventeen years.There is a long list of his garden books. If you can buy one book, I suggest you buy The Well-Tempered Garden, which you will ﬁnd referred to again and again by other garden writers.
I rather hoped that Hannah in Greening would find a writing life beyond the scope of the novel, starting with her book about the renovation of the Vicarage garden. In reading the book,The View From Great Dixter: Christopher Lloyd’s Garden Legacy, written after his death, I reveled in the contributors reﬂections on the man and the place. He changed people’s lives with his generosity, directness, his ever-changing imagination, and dedication to the world of gardening and his friends.I thank him for his cast of young people that populated his life, who inspirit, came to the Vicarage garden in the Village of Burford in the Cotswold’s.
Book Covers for a few of Christopher Lloyd’s books