Complete 700 word article, more pictures
SISSINGHURST; AN AUTHOR'S LOVING
CREATION IS ONE OF BRITAIN'S FAVOURITE
It has become so popular that admission
has to be timed and no prams, picnics,
tripods or easels are allowed inside. There
is simply no space to spare for such things
here at Sissinghurst Castle Garden, created
by poet-author Vita
Sackville-West in the
Garden County of
Vita loved Kent.
She was born here in
1892 at the family
ancestral home of
Knole, and in 1913
Harold Nicholson in
its chapel. Following
their return from an overseas assignment the
couple bought a property known as Long Barn,
just three kilometres from Vita's beloved
Knole. It was there that her interest in
gardening became a passion.
In creating Long Barn's garden the
Nicholsons were the closest of partners; he
was the architect, she the creator. When
developers moved into farmlands around Long
Barn, Vita began her search for a new home.
In April 1930, accompanied by her small son
Nigel, she discovered Sissinghurst. Sixty-five years later, and living here once again,
Nigel told me how appalled he had been at his
first sight of the property. He recalled that
day when, in pouring rain, he stood before
these crumbling buildings with no glass, no
doors, no drainage, electricity or running
water. Accumulated trash of centuries was
everywhere. Some rooms housed farm animals.
"We can't live here" Nigel protested,
"there's simply no place to live." "Oh I
think we can make something rather lovely out
of it" was his mother's response.
Within three weeks the Nicholsons had
purchased Sissinghurst, which contained
little more than the wing of a sixteenth
century mansion, a free-standing tower,
cottages, outbuildings and a farmhouse.
Slowly the rubbish was cleared, new walls
built, hedges planted, but it was five years
before electricity and water were installed.
Nigel still remembers the enormous discomfort
he endured here following his happy early
years at Long Barn. From the start his mother
claimed the tower as her own, for a study and
Vita wrote some 30 books in the tower,
usually with complete disregard for comfort.
She seldom lit the fire in her study.
Instead, to ward off the tower's damp chill,
she would wrap herself in a blanket. Often
she went hungry. In good weather she spent
her days working in the garden, then retired
to the tower and wrote through most of the
night. Cut flowers from the garden always
decorated her study then, as they do now
because the tower is open to the public.
Although Sissinghurst is generally known
as Vita's garden, she was quick to
acknowledge the value of Harold's planning.
By 1939 it was virtually completed, with the
exception of the fabled White Garden. The
overall site is a little less than 240 ha.,
Bounded on two sides by a moat, and divided
into ten different gardens separated by high
hedges. Vita saw these as outside rooms in a
The essence of Sissinghurst is its
profusion. Tall and short plants are mixed;
some look as if they are stretching to see
over their neighbours' heads. In places they
appear to have grown with a mind of their
own, when in fact every inch of space has
been meticulously planned and cultivated.
There is always plenty to see here. The
Spring Garden is in full flower from March
through May, the Moat Walk flanked by scented
azaleas peaks in May, after which the Rose
Garden takes over. A tapestry of greys and
whites, the remarkable White Garden is at its
best in summer.
The pleasure of a Sissinghurst visit is
heightened for anyone lodged at the
nineteenth-century Castle Farm. Housed on-site this way I was able to walk in the woods
at dusk and around the moat in early morning
when only the gardeners were about. My
thoughts then were usually with Vita
Sackville-West, and this perfect place where
her two great talents met to inspire each
Sissinghurst Castle Garden is 3km (2mi)
northeast of Cranbrook, 1.5 km east of
Sissinghurst village via A262 in the county