“How slender, simple, shy, devinely chaste,
She wilting stood,
Her suppleness at pause, by leisure graced,
In robes archaic by the chisel woo’d,
That smoothly flowed around her waist
And all her figure traced,
And at her feet in fluid ripples broke;”
‘Vita’ Sackville-West (1892-1962)
“Profusion, even extravagance and exuberance within the confines of the utmost linear severity”.
Vita Sackville-West’s own words to describe what has become one of the most internationally famous gardens of this century. In 1930, Harold Nicolson and his wife Vita Sackville-West bravely and ambitiously bought the badly deteriorated Sissinghurst Castle. He was the meticulous designer and she, the plantsman. He was strictly classical in taste, she poetical and romantic. The result is a most beautiful garden of strict formal design and joyously abundant planting.
In the first two years of ownership, they made a complete plan of the garden which was never basically altered. Every planting was recorded and carefully dated. Each year after planting, every tree was measured to the inch and recorded.
Now more than seventy years later, this couple’s vision of a truly English garden is realised and enjoyed every summer by thousands of visitors from around the world, seeing the perfection of the very famous white garden; the profusion of lovely old roses billowing through trees and over walls; the Nuttery carpeted in primroses and polyanthus; the spring bulbs in the Lime Walk known as the Spring Garden; the decorative Wild Garden in the orchard. Vita Sackville-West’s borders of carefully shaded and blending colours are equalled only by Gertrude Jekyll’s earlier herbaceous borders. Vistas of glorious colour so beautifully balanced by Harold Nicolson’s severity of design in each area.
It is said that if all other plants were removed leaving only the rose, that the garden would still be outstandingly beautiful. The rose is Sissinghurst’s ‘most brilliant star’. The old roses here are recognised as one of the finest collections in the world. Vita Sackville-West planted hundreds in every form and helped return some lost roses to cultivation. She personally loved scented plants and a wave of fragrance ascends all over the garden in June and July from the thousands of roses blooming everywhere. She was a very romantic woman and this reflected in her description of the elusive definition of some shades of colours. An example is :- “like dusk falling under a thunder-cloud that veiled the setting sun”. (Meadow fratillary) “deep pink dusted with chalk” (Primula pulverlenta).
This most beautiful garden is the result of the combination of two quite differently gifted people, blending their talents perfectly and leaving a legacy of beauty for generations of gardeners to come.
The garden is wonderfully conserved and renewed by the National Trust and is always a favourite on our tours.