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The garden at Sissinghurst Castle Garden

A statue of a Bacchante stands at the top of the Lime Walk at Sissinghurst Castle
A statue of a Bacchante stands at the top of the Lime Walk at Sissinghurst Castle | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Discover why Sissinghurst is famous as the epitome of the English garden and explore its series of garden rooms, each filled with different planting schemes and unique designs. Heralded for its beauty and diversity, the garden is a result of the creative tension between Harold Nicolson's formal design and the exuberant planting of Vita Sackville-West.

Would you like to know more about our team's priorities when you visit? Our Gardeners' Cuttings are monthly updates written by the garden team that can be picked up at the garden entrance or read online.

The Spring garden

Spring is when the garden comes to life. The Lime Walk, Nuttery and South Cottage begin to fill their borders with colour - a sweet promise that more botanical delights are on their way.

The Orchard reveals some of the many daffodils that grow there from February onwards. The early Narcissus 'February Gold' is followed by our native daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, and then in a rush the others follow. The orchard really is lovely in spring and by the middle of March many of the daffodils should be getting into their stride.

Stumble upon the Gazebo when the Orchard paths re-open, which is perched on the corner of the moat in the Orchard. It was built in 1969 in memory of Harold Nicolson by his sons Nigel and Benedict. It once served as Nigel’s summer office and you can still see the desk at which he wrote his most famous work, Portrait of a Marriage (1973), and take in the view over the Weald which inspired him.

The Nuttery at Sissinghurst in Spring
The Nuttery at Sissinghurst in Spring | © National Trust Images/Jonathan Buckley

The Purple Border

In spring, the first wave of purple arrives with the tulips, wallflowers, Lunaria annua (honesty) and Hesperis matronalis (sweet rocket) that weave their way through the clumps of emerging foliage. The silvery Cynara cardunculus (cardoon) leaves are always quick to emerge and make a great foil to the purples and mauves.

The Lime Walk

Harold planned the Lime Walk to look its best during March, April and May. Since his death in 1968, successive Head Gardeners have ensured that the beauty and simplicity of the Lime Walk endures, continuously improving and replanting areas that need attention.

Many of Harold’s choices are still used today and we hope that if Harold were to see the Lime Walk, he would approve of how we care for his legacy. It is a wonderful sight in April and a joyful reminder that winter has finally passed.

A close up of flowers along the Lime Walk at Sissinghurst Castle Garden
A close up of flowers along the Lime Walk at Sissinghurst Castle Garden | © National Trust Images/Jonathan Buckley

Blossoms at Sissinghurst

One of the more popular blossoms in the garden is the magnolia. With lots of different varieties that flower at different times it makes for an impressive sight during spring. There’s Magnolia denudata in the Lower Courtyard which is the first to flower, usually in April, with huge white flowers. Also in the same bed is Magnolia liliflora ‘Nigra’, flowering slightly later but with dark pink flowers, and a Magnolia kobus x stellata.

There’s also Magnolia kobus in the Cottage Garden and some new magnolias in the Top Courtyard. One is called Magnolia ‘Scented Gem’. Apparently this cultivar came from the seed of a Magnolia denudata that was growing in a temple in Korea. And two magnolias in the White Garden called Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Rustic Rubra’ tend to flower throughout spring.

The Orchard in April at Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent
The Orchard in April at Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

For a truer sense of blossom the orchard is the place to visit. There are lots of old apple trees, many of which are unidentified, but they all have vibrant blossom nonetheless.

Our garden team recommend the Malus hupehensis, or crab-apple blossom. This is a large specimen nestled within the orchard, which always has an abundance of frothy white blossom.

Later into spring, the orchard with its 1,100 fruit trees present a canopy of blossom that makes for spectacular images from April. The cherry blossom trees toward the east end of the orchard are, quite rightly, a must-see for many of you.

Vita and Harold always intended the Orchard to be half garden, half wilderness. They planted roses against the boughs of old apple trees, with winding paths mown in long grasses. Look out for the bees making use of the apple blossom to make honey in the hives.

The Garden Orchard at Sissinghurst Castle Garden in April
The Garden Orchard at Sissinghurst Castle Garden in April | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

More garden rooms to explore

Beyond the most famous areas, there are many more spaces and features to discover in the garden at Sissinghurst.

The South Cottage Garden

See the warm reds and golds that evoke a sunset and mark out the South Cottage Garden, which is a riot of colour in late summer and autumn.

The Nuttery

See how 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 and that settled it,' he wrote.

The Herb Garden

Take in the wonderful sights and smells of the Herb Garden, set beyond the Nuttery. As Adam Nicolson, Vita and Harold's grandson, says: 'Only the beautiful, the pungent and the elegant are allowed here.'

The Moat Walk

Meander along the Moat Walk, defined on one side by the remains of an Elizabethan wall and by a bank of bright yellow azaleas on the other. Vita planted these in 1946, using the £100 she won from the Royal Society of Literature's Heinemann Prize for her poem The Garden.

Rosa Mulliganii in full bloom at Sissinghurst Castle Garden in June
Rosa Mulliganii in full bloom at Sissinghurst Castle Garden in June | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The White Garden

Wander through the White Garden for a refreshing contrast to the more colourful parts of the garden. Vita decided that only the colours of white, green, grey and silver were to be allowed to grow in this garden and it's now one of the most famous areas at Sissinghurst.

The origins

Vita understood that when colour is restricted, the gardener has to focus on creating interest and drama with different shapes, textures and form.

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. Look out for evidence of his all-important structure here, too – yew and box hedging allow the white flowers and silver foliage to shine out against the dark background.

Documenting the garden's creation

In her plans, Vita imagined ‘a low sea of grey clumps of foliage, pierced here and there with tall white flowers’ and by 1953 she was able to report to her Observer readers how this vision was progressing.

She writes about various grey mounds: artemisia, the silver Cineraria maritima, grey santolina and Achillea ageratifolia. These are pierced with the upright white trumpets of Lilium regale and the white spires of eremurus, foxgloves and delphiniums.

There are shrubs to add volume and structure; Hydrangea grandiflora, a white cistus, Paeonia suffruticosa subsp. Rockii and Buddleia nivea as well as trees such as Hippophae rhamnoides, a Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’ and almond trees lining the central path. The giant Arabian thistle Onopordon arabicum surges up 8 feet into the air, whilst foamy gypsophila softens the planting.

A worthwhile challenge

It was the contrast of all these plants together that created interest for the eye, despite the absence of colour. Vita seemed to relish the challenge, writing:

'It is something more than merely interesting. It is great fun and endlessly amusing as an experiment, capable of perennial improvement, as you take away the things that don’t fit in, or that don’t satisfy you, and replace them by something you like better.'

– Vita Sackville-West

Today, the garden team strives to maintain the White Garden in this way using a mixture of shrubs, roses, perennials and annuals to create interest and drama.

The exterior of Priest's House, Kent
Delos: the most recent addition to the garden at Sissinghurst Castle | © National Trust/Mike Henton


Experience a taste of island life as you walk through Delos, the area of the garden named after the Greek island and inspired by Vita and Harold's visits there.

The couple had wanted to emulate the feel of the island both in planting and with a ruined feel but, unfortunately, the Kent climate and the garden's north-facing position proved problematic. This, combined with their limited knowledge of Mediterranean planting, meant that it never really became all they hoped it would be.

However, in 2021 the garden team finished a project to reimagine Vita and Harold’s vision and the Delos garden is now complete for you to enjoy.

A must-see in the garden

Regional Curator Dr Jerzy J Kierkuc-Bielinski highlights a feature of Delos that you shouldn't miss:

'The garden rooms at Sissinghurst contain a number of objects that evoke the worlds of ancient Rome or of ancient Greece. Amongst these, I think that the group of Hellenistic altars from the sacred island of Delos are the most intriguing. What ancient rites or sacrifices were performed at these altars?

'Harold Nicolson’s ancestor Captain Hamilton fought in the Greek War of Independence during the 1820s. It was he who brought the altars from Delos to Shanganagh Castle in Ireland. From there they would eventually be brought to Sissinghurst by Harold.'

The tower is seen through the branches of a magnolia tree, with a few pale pink flowers, at Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent

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Find out when Sissinghurst Castle Garden is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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