Friday, April 6, 2012

Making Ladders (and Friends)

On Monday and Tuesday evening, the students and Fergus, stayed late working until dark to make ladders. Like everything at Great Dixter, these were made from the raw stuff of life! Chestnut poles harvested in the Dixter wood, split, shaved, drilled, and assembled into beautiful, character-rich ladders! It was intensely satisfying to make everything by hand from start to finish. I wanted to able to finish mine before I left, so I made a very short ladder. It was very... cute and perfect for my cat Patrick.

Above: Students James Horner and Yannic Boulet with Craig Pharo just after splitting their chestnut poles. Craig is one of the many amazing people here at Dixter. He works in the shop doing all sorts of jobs, including building beautiful shaving horses.

Students (and roommates) Rachel Dodd and Emma Senuik drilling holes for the ladder rungs. Emma is from Pennsylvania and was the first North American Christopher Lloyd scholar and is here for a year. Rachel is from Wales and is the current Christopher Lloyd scholar, also here for a year. These two are amazing women, gardeners, and friends!

Fergus hard at work on his ladder

Yannic Boulet is a student from Belgium and this is his second or third working/learning trip to Dixter. He is the one who knows the history of this place like the back of his hand.

Rachel at the shaving horse

James Horner, from Yorkshire, has stayed on for another year after his first year as the Christopher Lloyd scholar. This group of students have been the most motivating bunch to work with. I have learned so much from all of them and their dedication to this garden and the work they do is commendable. They are always happy to answer questions, share what they know and think, and they all know so many plants! I feel very lucky to have been a small part of this group.

The side rails

Fergus's very nice ladder and my very short ladder

I do not feel like I can bring the ladder with me on the airplane, so I am leaving it here, leaning up against the smallest tree I can find...


  1. Helen,
    How bout you lead a class in Vermont to teach us how to make ladders? I am loving these posts!

  2. What a beautiful work of art...making ladders and friends...there is something to this that is wandering around in my brain

  3. Very fun... lots of bonding in the work. Thanks for posting!

  4. Happy B-day sweet one! The posts are so great - a great, big gulp of fresh air after being in the studio for far too long. You are such an inspiration!!! Thank you for it all.

  5. WOW! These are perfect for people that use ladders like this in the home as a design feature. I bet you could sell millions of these things!