Gardens Worth Visiting: Sissinghurst
Sissinghurst is the very famous garden of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson in Kent, England. When I visited Sissinghurst in early June of 2000, I was just developing an interest in gardening. I had heard of Vita Sackville-West, but had not yet read any of her wonderful newspaper columns on gardening. I knew that Sissinghurst was famous, but I didn’t know what it was famous for. I don’t remember which of my friends advised me to visit Sissinghurst, but she must have really impressed on me that it was a “must-see” garden because I went to quite a lot of trouble to get there. Nevertheless, even as I got off the Chunnel train from Paris to London in Maidstone, used a public call box at the rail station to find a B&B where I could spend a couple of nights, and set off the next morning in the rain to take the bus to Sissinghurst and walk the last mile or so along a muddy footpath to Sissinghurst Castle (wishing all the while that I had chosen different footwear!), I had no preconceived notions of what I would find there or what I should be paying special attention to.
When I look back at my photographs from that visit, though, I see that I was very taken with the “garden room” concept for which Sissinghurst is famous, and which is very apparent in views from the writing tower (see photo at top of page). I especially loved the gateways from one room to the next.
|I was bowled over by the incredible variety of roses,|
|and charmed by plant and color combinations like these orange poppies and yellow Achillea.|
|And, of course, I spent considerable time exploring the famous white garden.|
I think what I most loved about my visit to Sissinghurst, though, was the discovery of new plants or of new uses for familiar plants. Before I went to Sissinghurst, I had no idea that rosemary could be grown as anything other than a small annual herb; the idea of rosemary hedges was mind-blowing. And it was at Sissinghurst that I fell in love with Astrantia, a plant that I had never seen or heard of before, but which I made a point of finding and planting in my own garden.
Sissinghurst Castle Garden is operated by the National Trust. While the estate is open to the public every day of the week, year round, the garden is open only from mid-March to mid-October, Fridays through Tuesdays. Sissinghurst is accessible by public transport if you don’t mind a bit of a walk. (Wear good shoes for muddy conditions.) But, however, you get there, this is very definitely a garden worth visiting!