Sissinghurst in September, Part 1
A day after seeing RHS Wisley, John and Pauline drove us to see Sissinghurst, the garden created in the 1930s by Vita Sackville-West. I’m embarrassed to admit that I have never read a single one of Sackville-West’s gardening books (or her novels, poems, or other writings for that matter). This, combined with the thousands of words that have already been written about her garden, makes me a little reluctant to comment on what I saw. However, I will just share with you my own reactions, as ill-informed as they may be.
You approach the garden by walking through an arched gateway that passes through the main house. An engaging touch is the “Head Gardener’s Notes”, written daily on a chalkboard located near the outer edge of the arches.
As many gardening books will tell you, Sackville-West promoted the concept of gardening rooms, and this idea is certainly put into practice here. The garden is divided by numerous walls and tall hedges, with gates and gaps tempting visitors with a peek of whatever garden lies beyond.
I knew of Vita Sackville-West as essentially a gardener and garden writer. Turns out that beyond the gardening world she was much better known as a prolific and successful author (mostly novels and poetry). She was also an aristocrat whose very active social life (which included affairs with Virginia Woolf and a bunch of other people) did not get in the way of her very amiable marriage to a prominent British diplomat. Who says gardeners are dull?
Some of the first benches designed by the British architect Edwin Lutyens were purchased for the garden at Sissinghurst.
Nice to see Joe Pye Weed at home in such an aristocratic setting.
The rose garden has a great deal more than roses. It seemed more like a garden of mixed borders with a generous dollop of roses mixed in.
Red roses, white Japanese Anemone, and blue Agapanthus.
At this point in the season the bountiful Rugosa and other rose hips were as decorative as the roses themselves.
In the “Cottage Garden”. I suspect Vita Sackville-West’s idea of a cottage may differ a bit from many of us. There was lots of this tall Rudbeckia – R. laciniata, I think.
What is that bright orange flower behind the Helenium?
I generally don’t like Yew, but the dark Yew hedges make a nice backdrop for brighter colors, as with these red roses.
Sunflowers in the Cottage Garden. The tops of the trees of the Lime Walk are visible above the hedge.
My overall impression was of a mix of exuberance and orderliness: great mounds of color and billowing foliage contrast with neatly clipped hedges, straight paths, and rectangular beds. The combination is certainly striking. However, as much as I liked the garden rooms, for myself I would have preferred a more informal means of separation than all those clipped hedges.
That’s it for now. I will try to summarize the remainder of what we saw of this garden in Part 2. Have you read any of Vita Sackville-West’s garden books? Do you think I should? Which one would you recommend?