A famous garden at Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent

A view from the white garden

The garden at Sissinghurst is the magical creation of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson who moved here in 1930.

The cottage garden in the summer at Sissinghurst Castle Garden
The cottage garden in the summer at Sissinghurst Castle Garden
The cottage garden in the summer at Sissinghurst Castle Garden

Recapturing Vita and Harold's garden

The garden today

Sissinghurst Castle Garden is renowned the world over. Its abundant planting and unique design make it a place that people have flocked to for almost 50 years.

We’re now starting work to reimagine the garden as its creators Vita and Harold saw it. Recapturing its original romance and the spirit of this special place, we’ll be conserving Vita and Harold’s vision for their home and garden over the next seven years.

A romantic vision

In 1930 Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson happened upon a 450 acre estate and large farmhouse in the Weald of Kent complete with ‘ruins in grounds’. These ruins were the remnants of an Elizabethan manor house and would go on to frame one of Britain’s most celebrated gardens.

Over the course of several years, they began transforming the ruins into a garden which became a refuge for them both.

Inspired by the land, Vita and Harold created vistas which provided views for miles around.
Vita was a gifted amateur who gardened instinctively and without the desire for perfection. When it came to planting she didn’t want to see the soil but vibrant flower beds bursting with colour – in her words she wanted to ‘cram cram, every chink and cranny’. Harold took a more classical approach to the garden, feeling more comfortable with straight lines that could create a framework for planting.
The result of their work is what you see today, a refuge dedicated to beauty.

The limewalk at Sissinghurst Castle Garden
The limewalk at Sissinghurst Castle Garden
The limewalk at Sissinghurst Castle Garden

A gallery of trees lines the Lime Walk and creates a frame work for planting.


A vision recaptured

65 years on, we’ve extensively researched the original vision at the heart of the garden’s creation. Using Vita and Harold’s ideas from their detailed garden notebooks and our archives we’re gently reimagining and conserving Sissinghurst Castle Garden.

Recapturing the kind of look and feel which the couple loved is a challenge. Head Gardener, Troy Smith explains: “Our conservation and reimagining of Vita and Harold’s well-loved garden won’t be heavy handed or invasive. It’s all about light touches – allowing a rose to billow or a meadow to flourish. It’ll be a series of small interventions added together to ensure the garden retains the romance and faded beauty that attracted the couple to live here”.

“It’s only by gardening instinctively, with a freedom and ease that comes from a deep absorption and close affinity with the place, that the style and spirit of the garden will be maintained, enriched and enhanced, whilst ensuring visitors still enjoy time spent here year-round” adds Troy.

Over the next seven years, there’ll be subtle but significant changes to help restore the direct relationship between the garden and its rural landscape. We’ll bring the countryside that Harold and Vita so loved back into view from all around Sissinghurst Castle Garden. We’ve started by removing the hornbeam hedge beyond the nuttery to open the view to the lakes, and we’ll reinstate farm ponds and transform grassed areas back to wildflower meadows too.

Keep checking back to find out what we are doing each month.
If you have any pictures or memories from the 1950s at Sissinghurst Castle, please get in touch sissinghurstcastle@nationaltrust.org.uk