This is the second half of the story about our visit to Sissinghurst Castle Gardens during a recent trip to England with co-innocent broad abroad, Gail. Our tour guide and hostess is the delightful Victoria. Need to catch up? Go back to the beginning of the Sissinghurst photo essay by clicking here-Sissinghurst Part One. Continuing where we left off with the Pulsatilla vulgaris, we still wish to grow this plant at home.
Black parrot tulips rise amidst what looks to be Aquilegia of some sort. Tulips were well represented in all of the English gardens we visited. Parrots are a type never tried before here, but these would look splendid in the black garden, the Aquilegias are already in place. Maybe they will be given a chance this fall. Note to self: Self, make sure to place them with nice backlighting.
Opening after opening repeats the theme mentioned in part one about how this garden is designed to reveal surprises at each entrance and turn. There is an axis, very precise to line everything up properly, very geometric.
One cannot fathom the amount of pruning and trimming needed to keep this garden looking ship shape. The handbook mentioned a weekly combing by staff, removing any spent blooms or errant twigs. The results speak to that high maintenance. The espaliered apple tree, or is it pear? runs parallel to the hedge tops. How do they keep it so level, she wonders with camera slightly askew? (Celebrity sighting: the lady in the brown duster is Scottish actress Phyllida Law, mother of actress Emma Thompson.)
The Lime Walk, also known as The Spring Garden was a recognizable discovery. This view is featured in many garden books and magazine articles that have been collected and studied over the years. Seeing it in reality caused yet again the need for an arm pinch to make sure it wasn’t a dream.
“Don’t be misled by the name”, says the purchased Sissinghurst handbook. “As the garden writer Tony Lord has said, ‘This is as much a cottage garden as Marie-Antoinette was a milkmaid’.”
The ‘sunset’ theme of hot colors and jam packed plantings is maintained as the tulips, wallflowers, aquilegias and arctotis of spring are switched out to the verbascums, red hot pokers, cannas, crocosmias and dahlias of summer.
Times two. The climbing rose on the cottage is R. Mme Alfred Carriere’ (known to Harold as ‘Mrs. Alfonso’s Career’). It was the first thing they planted at Sissinghurst, on May 6, 1930, the day their offer to buy was accepted.
The Green Man guards the doorway of the South Cottage, which is in fact a fragment of the Elizabethan manor house that had fallen into ruin for over three hundred years when Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson purchased it in the 1930s. The gardens were rebuilt according to the grand plan of Harold to create classical elegance, mixed with the romantic profusion of Vita’s creative spirit. That double principle exists still.
Seen at the Malvern Floral arcade and several other gardens we visited, this Carex elata ‘Aurea’, also known as Bowle’s Golden Sedge was added to the must have list. It was found at our local nursery Mouse Creek and is now growing here at the Fairegarden, we are quite pleased to say. Will it ever look like this? Who knows, but it is the vision. Forever the optimist.
Veratrum album en masse was seen and noted. This plant was highlighted in a recently perused issue of Gardens Illustrated. Seeing the new to us plant and recognizing it from the magazine added to the enjoyment of the Sissinghurst experience. The leaves are like a hosta that was left in an overstuffed clothes dryer too long after the final buzzer sounded.
In the Herb Garden we find this bench, made by Jack Copper, the chauffeur, after World War II from old fragments of the Elizabethan manor house. The middle sign reads: Please do not sit here. The corner sign identifies the planting as Chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile.
The central marble bowl had been brought back from Constantinople where the Nicolsons lived when first married. Harold was a junior diplomat in the embassy, and it was there that Vita had cultivated her first garden. We found the paving around the bowl set on edge to be incredibly beautiful. Flowers, were there flowers there? We didn’t notice, too busy looking at the hardscape. (Added: When we saw the paving on edge, we thought immediately of Pam at Digging’s sunburst path around her stock tank in Austin, Texas.)
The Moat Walk, edged on one side by a bank of deciduous yellow azaleas, be still my heart!, and an elegant Elizabethan wall that was discovered under rubbish and brambles when a gardener’s pick struck it several weeks after Vita and Harold first arrived. The azaleas were originally an explosion of many colors before reverting back to the gold of the rootstock.
On the other side of the wall white wisteria flowers over the top, ready to spill its frothy foam down over the ancient wall. This area was my favorite of the whole garden. It might have been that the row of azaleas coloured the vision however.
There were other parts of this garden that were also delightful, including The Nuttery which was a sea of light green, yellow and white flowers and ferny foliage under a plantation of Kentish cobnuts, a variety of hazel. The images were not of sufficient quality to be shown, but that garden was outstanding.
Thus ends the tour of Sissinghurst. Tea and refreshments were enjoyed indoors after checking out the offerings at this farmer’s market on the grounds. While sunny, the wind was casting a chill on these poor ladies selling luscious sweets. They needed lavender raincoats to block the wind.
There is one more garden to showcase with a summary of thoughts about the travels before we close the book on Two Innocents Abroad. Thank you all for joining in the travelogues, we love having your pleasant company and comments.
To view all posts from the trip to England, click on the links below. (There is a permanent page on the sidebar containing the links to the England posts as well. Click England Trip-Two Innocents Abroad to view it.)