Sissinghurst Castle in Kent is probably my favourite garden. The design by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson is similar to Hidcote Manor, but it has an extra element – romance. The first thing you see when approaching the gardens is the twin-turreted tower rising from the open farmland. This fairy-tale tower is the garden’s centrepiece and was built for Queen Elizabeth I’s visit in 1573. From the top of this tower you get a bird’s-eye-view of the gardens. You also get a feel of Vita herself as her writing room in the tower is pretty much as she left it – usually with a simple flowering pot plant on the table. Most of the borders or garden rooms are themed around a clearly defined colour scheme.
On entering the garden, before you reach the tower, is a courtyard where the plants echo the colour of the brick: salmon and copper tones. The first garden you come to after passing through the tower is the Purple Borders, though the colours are a mix of lilacs, pinks, blues, violet, magenta and purple. What I refer to as ‘bruised’ colours and my favourites. In my small space plants and flowers are grown in containers and the common theme is ‘bruised’ with a splash of orange, pink or yellow for contrast. Depending on what season you visit this garden you will find tulips, irises, wallflowers, geraniums and asters and clematis. It is difficult to describe this garden as there are so many different areas to explore and so many plants. I have visited in April and both late and early July and in each season it is different. (click on a photo to take a walk through this garden with me)
In mid-summer you cannot miss the Rose Garden, Irises, peonies, violas, pinks and alliums spread a Persian carpet beneath the old-fashioned shrub roses that were Vita’s passion. Reminiscent of the Orient. And the famous curved wall at the west end of the garden is covered with Clematis Perle d’Azur which is much-photographed. There is a lot more to this garden though – a moat walk, a herb garden, a pleached lime walk, woodland gardens, the Cottage Garden a cauldron of hot colours – yellows, oranges and tropical reds – lawns and an orchard, and the most famous of all the White Garden. Filled with white wisteria, tulips, irises, hydrangea, pure white cosmos, sweet-peas, roses and lilies, it is a delight in the spring and summer months. Bear in mind that the rose over the canopy – Rosa Mulliganii – flowers early (mid June) Amongst all this beauty are Italian oil jars, urns and statues. And surrounding the property is the glorious Kent countryside. If you only have the chance to visit one garden in England then I would urge you to visit this one. You won’t regret it.