Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sissinghurst: 'A Garden, in a Ruin, in a Farm'

My last post on this summer's trip to the UK...our visit to what is understandably one of the most famous gardens in England. Sissinghurst’s beautiful grounds were first laid out by novelist Vita Sackville-West and her diplomat husband, Harold Nicolson, in the 1930’s. The gardens surround the remains of an Elizabethan mansion in which they lived with their two sons.

The library, or 'Big Room' as it was referred to by Vita and Harold, from the upper courtyard.

The Tower, built in the 1560's and seen here from the lower courtyard, houses what was Vita's personal study.

In addition to her novels, Vita wrote a very popular gardening column for The Observer. Below, the room where she did her writing.

The garden itself is designed as a series of 'rooms', each with a different character of color or theme, with walls of either brick or high, clipped hedges. The rooms are arranged so that one tours the garden with a sense of discovery as 'doors' lead into other garden rooms.

The entrance to the Rose Garden from the upper courtyard.

Vita envisioned this room as a 'tumble of roses and honeysuckle, figs and vines.' Her taste in gardens leaned to the romantic and a flamboyant use of color.

However, Harold's preference for symmetry and classical lines is evident in the circular shaped hedge, or Rondel, at the west end of the garden.

The Rose Garden from the Tower roof. Here is a more complete picture of the Rondel.

The White Garden, for which the original plan included white gladioli, white irises, white pompom dahlias and the white Japanese anemones which Harold and Vita both loved.

The White Garden from the Tower.

Warm reds and gold feature in the Cottage Garden which really showcases its blooms in late summer and autumn.

The Lime Walk is a Spring garden and so not in flower when we visited, but the pleached lime (linden) trees are stunning. It is almost impossible to tell where the branches of one tree end and those of its neighbor begin.

The Herb Garden is fragrant and peaceful.

A stone bench with a seat of live thyme.

A portion of the moat that originally surrounded the property.

For many years the rich farmland that surrounds the house and gardens was originally planted with hops. Below, the Oast House where the hops were dried before being sold to local breweries.

We concluded our visit with a walk on the trail that circles the property. It winds through fields where cows graze, past two lakes, and through the woods where foxgloves grow in abundance.


  1. Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures of this spectacular garden. I really enjoyed following along your tour.

  2. I am completely enchanted by this beautiful setting. The gardens are simply spectacular - would love to see in person!!

  3. Thanks for sharing! I love English gardens...

    Have a nice day!

  4. You just saved me 1000. in air fare;) Thank you for posting this, I will be copying a couple of ideas...the obelisk made from twigs for one! Great pics!!!

  5. One of my favorite gardens in the UK! Especially the white garden :) BTW, I remember that climb up the tower....what a view! Looks like you had glorious weather on this trip. And, not too many other visitors to Sissinghurst. It is an extremely popular and crowded garden. Thanks for the tour, Phyllis!

  6. What absolutely beautiful gardens. I think I would never leave home if I lived here! x Sharon

  7. Simply gorgeous! I would feel like I was in a fairy tale if I were actually there! It's been forever since we've been and I would love to go again someday in the near future! Thanks for the wonderful post!

  8. Towers, moats, and foxgloves...really, what could be better?

  9. I would love to see this garden one day. I love the mix of flamboyance and restraint. Throw in some statuary and I am a happy woman. Thanks for the beautiful photographs.

  10. well done phyllis! you truly captured sissinghurst in both images and words, felt like i was there again which filled my soul

  11. Fantastic post, thank you for taking us with you! My grandmother loved Sissinghurst, we will have to visit on our next UK trip. Hope it is as quiet as the day you visited.

  12. I am enjoying your posts about your tip to England, and this beautiful home and gardens...what we could do with the interior, right?
    Have a great day.

  13. Sissinghurst has long been on my list of gardens to see. Thank you for such a detailed tour. It's spectacular in it's beauty and history.

  14. How beautiful, Phyllis. I long to do a garden tour in England - Sissinghurst, Great Dixter, HIghgrove, I want to visit them all. This year it's Italy, but maybe next year I can talk my friend into England.

    Thanks for the inspiration as always,

  15. Hi Phyllis, loving your tour of Sissinghurst, all these gorgeous pictures and the history. And more sunshine! I love this garden so much, and have never been! Savoring your post, thank you. Have a wonderful weekend,

  16. Hi Phyllis
    Thank you for these beautiful photos and your story from Sissinghurst, I adore the place and hope to visit the garden soon. The White Garden are my favorite place in Sissinghurst.
    Also many thanks for visiting my blog.
    Have a great weekend!

  17. What a delightfully gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous post on Sissinghurst Phyllis.

    Just the kind of post that I love to start the day with over a great cup of coffee.

    Your photographs are are just wonderful, so much so that I may take myself off there this weekend.

    Paul XO

  18. I simply adore Sissinghurst! I find it to be one of the most romantic and beautiful gardens (and houses) in the country. Beautiful images - and a wonderful post - it looks like you experienced England in the most beautiful way possible!
    Paula xxx

  19. Phyllis!
    I'm BLOWN away by your blog!!! I was able to stop by the first time the other day... haven't had much time lately to spend on the computer, but it's a favorite for sure!!! Thank you for all your inspiring posts and I can't wait to follow!!
    It was such an honor hear that you have stopped by!
    Wishing you and your beautiful family all the best!


  20. Hi Phyllis, I am really enjoying your UK posts! I'm catching up on reading this weekend. I've now been through this post twice. I missed seeing Sissinghurst when I was England (unfortunately). The gardens are so pretty. I love the loose, colorful plantings with the structure of the tightly clipped hedges. The pleached lime walk is amazing. I hope to start a pleached hedge at my house this fall.


  21. What a wonderful place, such beautiful pictures! I wish I had such a wonderful stone bench in our garden. Greetings from Germany Nadja

  22. What absolutely fabulous gardens...Breathtaking...and I agree the herb garden feels so of my favorites..thanks for sharing. Mona

  23. Phyllis what a remarkable place you were able to visit. Seeing those gardens from up above is spectacular. Thank you for sharing both Sissinghurst and your holiday with us.

    Enjoy your evening!

  24. Phyllis-This is stunning!! I just stumbled on your blog and I will be back!! These gardens are just amazing!!!! thanks so much

  25. I hope to visit there one day. I am just starting to read Vita's book "The Edwardians" right now!!

    xo Terri

  26. I was hoping Loi had seen this post, seems perfect for him!

    My mother was British, and my husband's grandparents were lifelong Anglophiles and owned a flat in London (Belgravia). One of my favorite trips ever was a one month tour around England with the grand-in-laws; we stayed in Johansens rated country hotels (many of which were stately homes), and toured many beautiful castles and houses.

    However, we did not visit this beautiful place, Sissinghurst. I am planning a trip to England next summer, this will definitely be on the list!

    - Holly


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