Friends of Great Dixter were invited to a post- Christmas event at the end of January to join Fergus Garrett, students and staff. Warm spiced home-made apple juice and biscuits were available for refreshment and the archives were open for those who had not already seen them. We were welcomed into the Great Hall where a huge fire crackled and students created a ladder from chestnut poles gathered from the surrounding area. Outside, Fergus demonstrated how, using a traditional A-frame and tools, chestnut poles could almost perfectly be split ready for use. Of course, the highlight was being able to look around the gardens at a time when they are not usually open to the public. For those who have watched Fergus’ lectures on successional planting, the practice was evident in the canes laid out on the soil. Fergus’ favourite giant fennels were already unfurling and the gardens were positively covered with Galanthus Atkinsii, both of which are clearly visible in the photograph above. An added bonus was that the day was sunny and moderately mild. What a treat.