Great plants and great memories at Great Dixter

A historic 1930s greenhouse brought back happy memories for nurseryman Ray Bates when he attended last weekend’s plant fair at Great Dixter near Northiam.

Mr Bates, who runs Rotherview Nursery at Hastings with his wife Wendy, recalled that his grandfather Sam Relf was propagation foreman at the town’s Alexandra Park greenhouse in the 1950s. 

Mr Bates, who had a stall at the event, said: “Our nursery brochure features the greenhouse. We’re pleased to support the greenhouse project which is aiming to bring this glasshouse back to its former glory.”

His memories were prompted when greenhouse volunteers also set up a stall at the fair organised by Great Dixter Charitable Trust. Greenhouse volunteer Adrian Penfold said charity’s stall featured perennials, vegetables, herbs, cacti, succulents, house plants, plus cotton bags being sold to help support the restoration project.

The charity held a successful fund-raising campaign last year called Let’s Raise the Roof when supporters and a generous anonymous sponsor gave thousands of pounds to put a permanent roof on the structure. Carpenter Jason Wright, from Westfield, has started work to repair  the greenhouse’s wooden frame and restore metal glazing bars to support reinforced glass panels. Follow the restoration project’s progress via www.our-greenhouse.org

Last weekend’s fair, normally held in the spring and autumn, was the first summer one organised by the trust which runs the house’s grounds as a centre for high-quality, cottage style gardening.

The trust’s Christopher Lloyd Bursary Fund, named after the late owner of Great Dixter, raises money via its fairs to fund grants for students to learn horticultural skills at the centre. Stall holders donate 10 per cent of their proceeds to the fund.

Linda Jones, from the Friends of Great Dixter, said visitor numbers were down on Saturday because of the Wimbledon tennis finals and bad weather, but Sunday saw streams of people arriving to browse and buy plants and shrubs from 21 stalls. An additional stall was run by the Young Propagators Society which aims to share knowledge about plant propagation techniques.

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