Tag Archives: Ann Larås

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)


Filed under Attractions & Culture, England, Nature & Heritage

Englishmen painting with plants

We’re proud to present our newest guest blogger, Ann Larås. She’s a Swedish journalist and author of the newly published book Engelska Trädgårdar (English Gardens). Here’s her first blog post on this very subject.

Great Dixter - Northiam, East Sussex

I´m driving on the left side, on narrow streets covered by ivy and branches of the treetops interlaces as a ceiling over me. It’s a dream to experience the landscapes of Kent and East Sussex. Here you can find many beautiful open gardens, many kept but National Trust or by private foundations. I will visit  Sissinghurst and Great Dixter. Two beautiful gardens and country estates south of London.

Great Dixter – Humour and Trimmed Birds
Location: Northiam, East Sussex
Designer: Edwin Lutyens, Christopher Lloyd
Style: Inspired by Arts & crafts – movement.

Time: From 1910 –

I am really taken by the first sight of Great Dixter. The vista of the paved aisle in a blooming meadow leading to the mediaval tudor house  is unreal, like something out a fairy tale.  The house was built already in the 15th century. On the grounds is also an oast house where hop was dried in the past for beermaking.  In the beginning of the 20th century Lloyd family moved in. And through the yongest son Christopher Lloyd, the garden at Great Dixter became famous. And still is.

Great Dixter garden

Christopher was a well-known gardener, he was a garden writer and tv-personality, until his death in 2006. He loved flowers and they are in abundance here; old-fashioned perennials like knight spurs, lupines, poppies and bluebells in an imaginative mix with vegetables as artichokes and fennel. Roses and clematis cover trellies and fences. The topiary are the focus of Christopher Lloyd’s garden. They come in the form of clipped yew in figures, like peacocks. Some of them resembles people. The garden has a well thought-out design but the architectural form is not visible on my first walk at the end of June because the flowers are so high. But the funny shaped yew hedges and are recognizable as an invisible frame and frame all shifts during the year.

It is easy to imagine how a child is experiencing Great Dixter, going around in the maze of garden rooms with high beautiful flowers and scents from all directions. Here and there is an opening in a hedge that leads to a new room on a different theme. Among the greenery, a hat or a head, belonging to one of the six garden workers or volunteers at Great Dixter pop up. If you want to help get an idea of the garden as a whole and, should you come here in early spring when the plants are not as high.

During the summer, in June-July, it’s a total experience of beauty, but hard to keep track. The garden is designed as a circle around the house, the hedges divide the surface of many large garden room. The Long Border, the long perennial beds is absolutely delicious with its height against the house behind. The perennials bloom from April to October and create a dense carpet of color.

The garden is very personal and changes constantly and develops, thanks to the head gardener Fergus Garrett who now manages the gardens at Great Dixter.

Stayed tuned for my next post wherein I’ll visit the gardens of Sissinghurst.

/Ann Larås (my blog, my book)


Filed under Attractions & Culture, England, Nature & Heritage