Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Winter

The view from the orchard in the frost at Sissinghurst Castle Garden

The transient nature of Sissinghurst's Garden is felt most intensely now in the autumn. Hastened by the first frosts (usually expected from mid-October) the season’s inexorable changes begin to accelerate. A sudden surge of deterioration floods in and with it the garden quickly assumes its winter guise. It is in winter that the garden becomes stripped down to its framework, empty of the floral feast of summer, it is also now that the garden is closed to the public.

But what do you do in the winter and why is the garden closed to visitors?

The impact of so many visitors on the garden is profound and can’t be ignored. Much of Sissinghurst’s success and the reason why nearly 200,000 visitors annually love to come can be attributed to the careful and hard work that goes on during the winter period. Unless wear and tear is mitigated against and damage repaired, not only can it become detrimental to the fabric of the garden, but it can also threaten to overwhelm the enjoyment of the garden too.

Unlike Sissinghurst, your garden at home may not close for winter, but for public gardens (particularly those like Sissinghurst – intimate and not ‘designed’ for mass garden tourism) this brief 16 week period during winter allows us to do the vital conservation and repair work we need to do, especially if we want it to look at its best next season.  

Winter garden conservation as the team 'clear off' the Azalea bank
Winter garden conservation as the team 'clear off' the Azalea bank
Winter garden conservation as the team 'clear off' the Azalea bank

It is at this time with the pressure of summer presentation work over that repairs to the fabric can be made.  It is also a good time to make improvements to the structure and tackle new projects. The major projects we have planned for this closed season is the re-imagining of Vita and Harold’s Lion Pond in the Lower Courtyard. If you take a visit to the South Cottage you will pass this area and can read more about it on one of our chalk boards which describe and detail this and some of our other garden work.

There is a time, usually late February, when the birds seem more joyous in their song, when the days are noticeably longer and when the sun begins to warm the air just a little. In the garden there are subtle signs of awakening too, on bare branches Hamamelis or witch hazel start to unfurl their spider-like flowers, the green spaths of Galanthus or snowdrop, slowly at first and then in a great rush, push through the hard ground and buds of deciduous trees begin to swell.   What a wonderful thing it is to participate in this annual unfolding of the gardening year and we hope to share it with you when the garden re-opens on 11 March 2017.