Vita often wrote of Sissinghurst: 'The heavy golden sunshine enriched the old brick with a kind of patina, and made the tower cast a long shadow across the grass, like the finger of a gigantic sundial veering slowly with the sun. Everything was hushed and drowsy and silent but for the coo of the white pigeons.'
The Rose Garden
Vita envisaged the Rose Garden as a 'tumble of roses and honeysuckle, figs and vines'. Whereas Harold's keenness for strict geometry is evident in the circular shaped hedge, or Rondel, at the west end of the garden
The White Garden
Until 1950, the White Garden had been filled with roses but as they outgrew their space they were transferred to what was to become the Rose Garden.
When planning the garden, Harold found some white gladioli, white irises, white pompom dahlias and the white Japanese anemones, which he and Vita both loved.
The South Cottage Garden
Warm reds and gold mark out the South Cottage Garden, which is a riot of colour in late summer and autumn.
Against the wall of the South Cottage, the early-summer-flowering rose Mme Alfred Carriere was the first thing that Vita and Harold planted at Sissinghurst, on the day their offer to buy was accepted.
The Herb Garden
Set beyond the Nuttery, the Herb Garden looks and smells wonderful. As Adam Nicolson, Vita and Harold's grandson says: 'Only the beautiful, the pungent and the elegant are allowed here'.
Kentish cobnuts, a variety of hazelnut, create a shady haven for birds and visitors alike in the Nuttery.
In April 1930, Harold recorded in his diary the moment he and Vita decided to buy Sissinghurst - 'We came suddenly upon the nutwalk', he wrote, 'and that settled it'.
The Lime Walk
Also known as the Spring Garden, this is one area where Harold controlled the design and planting. Long beds of tulips, fritillaries and hyacinths are marked out by an avenue of pleached limes, punctuated by generous terracotta pots, every inch bursting with colour for about four weeks.
In 1935, while on a cruise of the Mediterranean, they visited the Greek island of Delos. So inspired were they that, on their return to Sissinghurst, they created a new garden, a landscape of ruined stone fragments and Mediterranean plants, which they named Delos in homage. Though there are no plans to speak of, just letters and photographs, by 1937 the garden was mostly finished, however it was not a success. The spot they had chosen was north-facing and, unusually for such experienced amateur gardeners, their knowledge of Mediterranean plants was sorely lacking.
With the help of Dan Pearson and his studio we have reimagined Vita and Harold’s Delos into the Mediterranean Garden they had dreamed of. Austere yet delicate, full of loss and ruination and full of promise and beauty. Our challenge now is to learn how to garden this landscape, to create the sense of a garden with plants that have colonised a ruin rather than one where plants are cultivated within a ruin.
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The Moat Walk
The Moat Walk is defined on one side by the remains of an Elizabethan wall, and on the other by a bank of bright yellow azaleas. These were planted in 1946 by Vita with £100 she won from the Royal Society of Literature's Heinemann Prize for her poem The Garden.
Vita and Harold always intended the Orchard to be half garden, half wilderness. Roses were planted against the boughs of old apple trees, with winding paths mown in long grasses.
Bees make use of the apple blossom and make honey in the hives. The gazebo was built in 1969 in memory of Harold Nicolson.
The Purple Border
The Purple Border is not made up of purple plants alone. One of our gardeners says, 'Not much of it is purple. It's a clever mix of pink, blues, lilacs and purples.'
Roses are planted in the border; beauties such as 'Charles de Mills' and Rosa 'Geranium' along with hazel brushwood help to keep the plants upright.