“My garden all is overblown with roses, my spirit all is overblown with rhyme.” We had an opportunity to visit Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent at the peak of rose season a couple of weeks ago. A intimate and lovely place.
Garden: “The strictest formality of design” by Vita’s husband Harold Nicolson.
Planting: “The maximum informality in planting” by Vita.
“My liking for gardens to be lavish is an inherent part of my garden philosophy. I like generosity wherever I find it, whether in gardens or elsewhere. I hate to see things scrimp and scrubby. Even the smallest garden can be prodigal within its own limitations… Always exaggerate rather than stint. Masses are more effective than mingies.” – Vita Sackville-West.
“Climbers are among the most useful plants. They take up little ground space, and can be employed for many purposes: to clothe a fence, to scramble over a dead tree, to frame an archway, to drape a wall, to disguise a shed, or to climb lightly into a pergola. They demand relatively little attention, once they have taken hold of their support, maybe a yearly pruning or a rescue if they have come adrift in a gale.” Vita Sackville-West.
We had a quick lunch in the restaurant and learnt that most of the vegetables and salad came from their very own vegetable garden. It wasn’t acres and acres of land. We were a bit surprised it was able to supply the restaurant.
Throughout the gardens, there were small blackboards hiding around, giving a lovely personal touch (and educational!).
Vita wrote once, “for the last 40 years of my life I have broken my back, my fingernails, and sometimes my heart, in the practical pursuit of my favourite occupation.” It’s fortunate that the garden is still well looked after today (over 50 years after Vita died) and the gardeners who work here try to maintain it the same way as Vita once did. It’s also a bit unbelievable that people from all over the world come and visit it. As we left the vegetable garden and the orchard and raced through the wood to catch the bus, there was a Japanese couple heading toward the Castle Garden. I wonder how they heard of it in the first place? The evening sky cleared as we (miraculously) caught the bus. I was sure the couple would enjoy the place as we did.
All photos by Rong Fu.