A few weeks ago I reviewed Christopher Lloyd: His Life at Great Dixter, Stephen Anderton’s controversial biography of Christopher Lloyd. But there’s also been a second book, The View from Great Dixter (Timber Press). This is an altogether more comfortable read but provides a rich and multi-faceted portrait of the man, his house, his garden and his plants.
For the book is made up entirely of recollections from a wide range of Dixter visitors and friends of Christo, each personal memory contributing to the picture in the same way as the plants in Dixter’s Long Border are all both important in themselves and but also help build the complete display.
The spread of contributors is impressive. From Britain they include Rosemary Alexander, Beth Chatto, Ian Hodgson, Alan Titchmarsh and Joy Larkcom, plus Dublin’s Helen Dillon. From North America there’s Cole Burrell, Tom Cooper, Joe Eck, Tom Fischer, Dan Hinkley, Marco Polo Stefano, Wayne Winterrowd and more. Together with Fergus Garrett, of course, Christo’s inspired choice to take Dixter into the future. All unafraid to express the full breadth of their recollections.
One current that I noticed running through the book is that many visitors were wary, if not downright scared, at the prospect of first meeting Christo – but were quickly won over. I was a little apprehensive myself. Tom Fischer, for example, on the staff of an American gardening magazine when they first met and now Editor-in-Chief at the company publishing the book. On first meeting Christo he says: “…the chief emotion I felt was pure terror.” But things soon changed. “As it turned out…,” he says, “under that formidable exterior Christo turned out to be the soul of kindness…”
Family, friends (some from the world of opera), gardeners, plantspeople, designers, writers, painters – all help us remember Christo (in all his moods) and help the many people who knew him only from his writing get a full sense of him and his huge influence.
And, I should mention, no fees were paid to contributors - we all gave our contributions to help support the future of Great Dixter. (Yes, I’m in there too.)