The garden at Great Dixter is known for the way in which it merges the natural and the cultivated world. Its long grass, scattered ponds, old walls and changing flower borders provide a rich environment for all manner of fauna and flora.
In 2012 Great Dixter Biodiversity Committee was established to develop and implement biodiversity plans for all habitats on the estate, including in Great Dixter’s gardens and the surrounding fields and woodlands. The committee developed the Biodiversity Policy for the Trust.
With the help of experts and volunteers, Great Dixter has datasets for moths, spiders, bumblebees and butterflies. Click the links to the left to find out more about individual species.
Great Dixter Biodiversity Survey, August 2017 – August 2019
In August 2017 a £30,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), in addition to support from two private donors provided the funding to run a two year survey. A number of ecologists will be involved including specialists in grassland, ancient woodland and landscape archaeology as well as entomologists, arachnologists and ornithologists. It is hoped that local and national biological recording groups will also take part
The site will be evaluated for habitat diversity, connectivity and opportunity and the findings will influence the way the site is managed in future, balancing the needs of wildlife, access, gardening and forestry. Staff will be shown how to carry out ongoing monitoring.
Christopher Lloyd had a deep knowledge and understanding of the wildlife around him and his gardening was influenced by their needs. When the meadows were cut he would leave a buffer zone for insects and coppicing the woods would be arranged around the nesting habits of woodpeckers. Care and respect for the natural world has been embedded in the way that Great Dixter operates since the Lloyd family bought the property in 1910.
Nowadays meadow cutting is delayed until insect activity has slowed down and the seeds are set. Dense colonies of common spotted orchids have come to populate grass in both garden and fields. Chain harrowing and strewing has brought a sheep pasture back to a predominantly floral landscape. Woodland rides are scalloped at the edges to allow heat and light for insects. In the garden seedheads are left for the birds to feed on in winter. Through practices such as these Great Dixter has set a trend in the horticultural world and the rigorous scientific approach of the audit will add more weight to the message.
Rare visitors to Dixter today include the bumble bee, bombus ruderatus and the banded mining bee, Andrena gravida as well as over 380 species of micro moth and 150 types of spider. The audit will determine how Great Dixter targets threatened species in future as well as increasing the overall biodiversity of the site.
98% of species rich meadows have been lost since the last war. Fergus Garrett and his staff want gardens and horticulture to play a part in addressing this loss by enhancing the environment in which wildlife can flourish and promoting the essential co-operation between man and nature. The survey is the first stage in making this happen at Great Dixter and will hopefully set an example for gardens elsewhere.
For more information about the Great Dixter biodiversity audit please contact Victoria Williams email@example.com or telephone 01797 254048
We have a biodiversity blog that is updated with news and events through the season.