Englishmen painting with plants, part II

Here’s Ann Larås second post about English gardens.

The gardens of Sissinghurst

Sissinghurst, Cranbrook, Kent
Creator: Victoria (Vita) Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson from 1930-

Vita and Harold opened their beloved Sissinghurst to visitors already in the 1940s. The visitors could find Vita in the garden working, often dressed in a long lace shirt with a corduroy blazer and high boots, wearing long earrings; gladly answerering questions and usually with one of her dogs by the side. Vita and Harold were actually long ahead of their time to open their own private garden to visitors. Today ”garden tourism” is very popular and spread throughout the U.K. And Sissinghurst is still open for the public five days a week.

Rose portal

I’m here for a  garden tour on Midsummer evening. The visit includes a dinner and a tour in the evening light to the garden rooms at Sissinghurst. Though it’s the first time I’m here, it feels like I’ve already been here, through all books and articles. I’m excited and rush through a portal in the brick wall  into the the White Garden. It is one of the world’s most famous garden rooms and a unique opportunity to be here right now in the twilight at the beginning of summer.

The gardens of Sissinghurst consists of a series of private rooms, and they are a mirror of the creators of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson’s character and temperament. Here you can find garden rooms like: White garden, Lower garden, Rose garden, Lime alley, Cottage garden, Yew lane, Herb garden, Moat path and the Orchards. The property is created on the ruins of a large Elizabethan house and is located in the Weald historic landscape with its rolling hills and shady forests.

From 1930 the land was owned by the couple. When they came here, most of the buildings dilapidated. Harold was a classicist who designed the layout. Vita was a romantic who created the atmosphere, filled with roses and planting perennials and was enchanted place.

The garden is constructed with brick walls and dense hedges of yew and hornbeam as a formal framework. There are long walks and lines, openings in walls and surprises around every corner. Planting within the hedges and walls are generous and lush. And since the late 1950s, there were already 10 000 visitors each year.

Overview, Sissinghurst gardens

The inspiration for the famous white garden room appeared in one of Vitas dreams in the 1930’s. Twenty years later around 1950 the white garden room was created. I stand here now, in a rectangle of green, silver and white, surrounded by yew hedges with razor sharp edges. Low boxwood frame the white and silver plants. In the middle floats a delicate ceiling, a dome over a simple but beautifully glazed urn. The Gothic dome is covered with a giant rose Rosa mulliganii which reaches its finest flower in the middle of summer and then covering the iron structure with its white roses with yellow eye and a lovely fragrance.

The tower rises in the background. Here, Vita had her study, where she planned for the garden and for the poems she also wrote. She could look out over the garden and make plans.

Roses were the flowers that Vita was most fond of and which filled her imagination. She was an incurable romantic. Even today, the gardeners at Sissinghurst retain the style and color combination in the Rose Garden: Easy and unstructured with soft colors that were Vitas style.

/Ann Larås (my blog, my book)

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3 Comments

Filed under Attractions & Culture, England, Nature & Heritage

3 responses to “Englishmen painting with plants, part II

  1. That’s a very beautiful garden! I wish I could go there and enjoy it for one day. I love gardens.

  2. Yes, I love Sissinghurst. Its perfect. Perhaps too good to be true. I wish I lived nearby in Kent to be able to see the seasons shift in the different garden rooms. Especially in the springtime, when the bulbs flower in the LimeAlley.
    Hope you´ll come to Sissinghurst one day. If you want to follow me on my garden tourism blogg, you are welcome (in Swedish and in English)
    /Ann

  3. Beautiful! I love the rose portal. Romantic and lovely.

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