Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, England, September 2009

Since none of my Nationals dog photos have arrived, I decided to treat you to some of the beauty of Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens, in Kent, England. I took these photos in mid-September 2009, the week before judging the ASCA show in Belgium. It was in the heat of the day with a high sun, so some detail and color contrast is lost in the bright conditions. But, off we go...

No, this is not the Castle, above. It's just "the Priest's House".

BELOW is part of the old castle ruins, originally built in the 1530s , which was restored by famed poet, writer and garden designer,(and interesting lifestyle trend-setter) Vita Sackville-West and her husband, writer and diplomat Harold Nicholson. The two famously collaborated to create the incredible gardens known throughout the gardening world, as Sissinghurst. This life-work began in 1930 and ended with Vita's death in 1962. Harold "survived her by six years, sad and lonely. Visitors would see him sitting in the garden with tears running down his cheeks." The estate was left to their son, Nigel, who couldn't afford the large death taxes nor upkeep of the huge grounds and buildings. In 1967 The National Trust (akin to our National Parks) received Sissinghurst from Nigel. There is much, more history to be learned by the curious.

A small garden by an entrance. Perhaps the Queen came through this very door in August 1573?

The climbing rose, 'Mermaid':

And perpendicular to the wall above, the lovely Purple Border:

A closeup in the Purple Border:

And then the Tower, built in the 1560s. It had 4 rooms on the left as you climbed the 78 stairs to the viewing roof. One of the rooms was Vita Sackville-West's workroom. Yes, I think I could design great gardens, too, in such inspiring digs...sigh...

The view from the Tower was invigorating. I can still remember the warm breeze that smelled of farmland, flowers, and, perhaps, the sea. These are the barns and oasthouses (funny funnel shaped guys). Oasthouses were used to store grain for ale. The long roof in the foreground is part the old castle, which became their library:

Moving to the right of the oasthouses, was this view over the Kent Weald (hills):

Below, the view of the potager (kitchen) garden. And behind it, some un-named, un-important accessory buildings (!). Servant's house, perhaps? Another wing of the castle in the foreground.

Below: The famous White Garden is adjacent to the Tower. I must return in Spring to see this in full bloom. Not much white to see in September. The small building in the upper right of the photo is the Boathouse. It straddles the moat there:

Down the Tower stairs and out into the White Garden. This is under a simple square tubing arbor. (Yes.Yes I did say "I could make that!!"). Nigel Nicholson designed the arbor using paperclips in his model. You can see their arched ends here:

Since Pam had the sense to buy us a picnic lunch earlier, we sat here at an old wooden picnic table in the Boathouse over the moat. We were refreshed by the cool air and relaxing view. Lunch grew a little long...

We ended up a bit later in the Sunken Garden - another cool spot. Originally the Lion Pond was here, but, in true gardener fashion, it was redesigned into a sunken garden by Vita:

Here's a close-up. Note the embossed detail on the ancient galvanized trough. And I love the Baby Tears creeping along the wall. The salmon Fuchsia really brightens this spot.

My last photo: The Red Summer Border that lines a long flagstone path back towards the "house". I must return to Sissinghurst again in Spring, to see these incredible gardens in their full glory. "I simply must!" she wailed, as she ran off into the Nuttery, with her ever-faithful and beautiful companion, JJ the Dog, following her... (from my novel).

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