Genre: Gardening
Published: 4 March 2010
Publisher: Chatto & Windus

Christopher Lloyd: His Life at Great Dixter

by Stephen Anderton


Christopher Lloyd (Christo) was one of the greatest English gardeners of the twentieth century, perhaps the finest plantsman of them all. His creation is the garden at Great Dixter in East Sussex, and it is a tribute to his vision and achievement that, after his death in 2006, the Heritage Lottery Fund made a grant of GBP4 million to help preserve it for the nation.

This enjoyable and revealing book – the first biography of Christo – is also the story of Dixter from 1910 to 2006, a unique unbroken history of one English house and one English garden spanning a century. It was Christo’s father, Nathaniel, who bought the medieval manor at Dixter and called in the fashionable Edwardian architect, Lutyens, to rebuild the house and lay out the garden. And it was his mother, Daisy, who made the first wild garden in the meadows there.

Christo was born at Dixter in 1921. Apart from boarding school, war service and a period at horticultural college, he spent his whole life there, constantly re-planting and enriching the garden, while turning out landmark books and exhaustive journalism. Opinionated, argumentative and gloriously eccentric, he changed the face of English gardening through his passions for meadow gardening, dazzling colours and thorough husbandry. As the baby of a family of six – five boys and a girl – Christo was stifled by his adoring mother. Music-loving and sports-hating, he knew the Latin names of plants before he was eight.

This fascinating book reveals what made Christo tick by examining his relationships with his generous but scheming mother, his like-minded friends (such as gardeners Anna Pavord and Beth Chatto) and his colleagues (including his head gardener, Fergus Garrett, a plantsman in Christo’s own mould).

"Christopher Lloyd was already a legend in his lifetime, and this intimate biography adds vivid colour as provocative and challenging as the eye-widening combinations in Christopher's borders. This portrait is so alive, so evocative of his vitality, 'naughtiness' and untold generosity, that it hurts to be reminded of what we have lost." - Beth Chatto
"[Christopher Lloyd's] reputation as the finest plantsman of the 20th century is underscored in Anderton's affectionate biography of a shy, irascible man who applied a modern sensibility and a personal genius to gardening" - Iain Finlayson The Times
"An unputdownable autobiography" - Victoria Summerley, Independent
"Stephen Anderton is a clever and witty writer and well known for his lively take on gardening" - Daily Telegraph
"Stephen Anderton was invited by Christopher Lloyd to be his biographer, having been his friend for 20 years and being himself a distinguished gardening writer" - Daily Mail
"It may sound odd to say that a garden can move to tears, like music, like literature, but Great Dixter had that power". - Evening Standard
"Incisive... he is spot-on about Christopher: a maelstrom of talent and inhibition, conservatism and radicalism, rudeness and affection" - Mail on Sunday
"Anderton's style is so effortlessly easy and his subject such a fascination that I read the biography at one sitting" - Birmingham Post
"It is a gripper and quite an eye opener" - Daily Express
"This book is extremely well-written, and the narrative fair bowls along." - The Oldie

Other Books by Stephen Anderton