Sissinghurst, once the home of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, is now part of the National Trust. Sackville-West deserves several entries on her own, but I admit I never studied her work except peripherally and know only a little about her life. Of Nicolson I know even less. Since this trip was about the gardens, I'll stick with that topic.
This gardens at Sissinghurst ("themed garden rooms, wildlife gardens") will take two days to cover. I really tried to pare down my choices of photographs, but there was so much to see that I found it impossible to get the collection to a manageable size for one day. Fasten your seat belts for the ride:
This is the entrance to the house, the main part of the estate, and the gardens. I had to walk quite a way away from the entrance to be able to take a picture of the entire building at one time. Behind it you can see the tower.
Here is the Elizabethan Tower. The winding staircase we climbed is on the left side, and you go around and around (hoping you don't meet anyone coming down which, of course, one does) past windows full of colored glassware - one cobalt blue, the other gloriously red. There are also rooms in one of which Vita Sackville-West did her writing. Once at the top, one seems to pop out like a jack-in-the-box onto a surprisingly large area. Surprising because the tight quarters in the staircase make one forget the size of the entire structure. The walls around this upper viewing area are tall enough so one feels comfortable while still able to enjoy spectacular views of the garden "rooms" and the surrounding countryside. I just loved it!
In this view, you can see the beautifully manicured hedge that defines this particular room. Again, hedges are something the English do very well; they (the wealthier, of course) have the land, the time, and the help to plant, nurture, and maintain intricate hedges of many different sizes and shapes. Naturally, I had read about English hedges all my life, but I never really appreciated them until this trip.
This view is of an area outside the walled garden rooms though still of the estate. It gives you an view of the English countryside. One of the things that D noticed especially is that in England (or at least in the southeastern portion), one doesn't see uncultivated land. Here, we drive down a road and pass houses and then there are woods or fields that are uncultivated. What you see here in the distance in this photograph is what we saw every day from the bus windows. There would be small villages and then tended fields as far as the eye could see broken only by lines of trees or stone walls.
As you can tell, I like corners of the gardens that aren't intended to be a focal point but are anyway.
Remember what I said about hedges and how the English do them very well? Isn't this amazing? Along the pathway, there are openings in the hedges that will take you off into a room or a path to another area. If you watched from the tower, you would see people disappearing into these hedges from time to time, and you wouldn't always be sure where they came out again. Our horticultural expert simply would say that we would be "diving through the hedge again" to alert us that she was disappearing and we were to follow her Alice act with blind faith and fall into an invisible opening in the hedge.
Sissinghurst has serious oust houses!
Lovely view of the tower.
All right. You've been patient with me. Here are some garden pictures for you! Everywhere we went on this trip one would see huge rose bushes climbing up buildings, walls, trees, what ever they could find to support them. On the right is a combination of old rose and allium for which I developed a passion. They will be in my garden next year for sure!
And finally, verbascum. Another flower I've overlooked before this trip, but which I have added to my short list of "must have".
More of Sissinghurst's gardens tomorrow.