Finding inspiration and ideas for your own garden
If you’re a gardener, and even if you’re not, Sissinghurst Castle gardens in Kent is a must see. I knew that Sissinghurst has been an inspiration for many gardeners. I had heard a lot about it and my husband was keen to visit, so we took a drive down to Kent from neighbouring Surrey. We were very lucky with the weather, the mid-August sunshine was out in full force. The drive through the Kent countryside was a treat in itself, I love all the quaint little villages along the way. I expected there to be huge signs pointing in the right direction, but surprisingly we just got the odd small signpost and the entrance to this world-famous garden was very unassuming and low-key. At one point I thought we had got lost down a country lane but we eventually got to the car park and knew we were in the right place.
Sissinghurst in Kent
You’ll find all the details about how to get there, entrance fees and maps on their website, so I will not overload you with those and just relate our experience of the day in this post. My first impression upon going in was that this was unlike any other garden we have visited. This garden has its own style, its own identity. It was created by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson, who fell in love with it and created their own world in a garden.
Vita and Harold
There is plenty of information about Sissinghurst Castle and there is a whole building dedicated to its history and most importantly, the lives of Vita and Harold. I could have spent all day reading about their eccentric and bohemian lifestyle. Somehow I felt drawn to the people who created this space. I’m not sure how authentic the current gardens are compared to how it was back in the days of its fascinating owners. I felt that the planting was sympathetic and in keeping with the original. However, as any gardener knows, no gardening year is ever the same and gardens evolve and change. It is inevitable that this garden is no exception. But the spirit of Vita and Harold is reflected in the planting and design of the garden.
The design of this garden is very clever. The garden is arranged in ‘rooms’, so that you don’t get a feeling of the overall size of the whole garden but you enter individual spaces that are all interconnected by paths. Some of those paths are quite long and narrow and in most cases they have a focal point at the end like an urn or bench. This makes the space seem more intimate but leads you to explore what lies ahead.
Around every corner, there is a smaller individual garden, a ‘room’. Whether this was deliberate or evolved into such, I’m not sure. It seems that Vita envisaged the Rose Garden as a ‘tumble of roses and honeysuckle, figs and vines’. Harold was very different in that he liked strict geometric lines. I like how their different styles have merged into something quite unique. A reflection of their marriage perhaps? Both very different, both had affairs, but yet they remained together, unconventionally, yet devoted to one another. The story of Vita and Harold is fascinating and is intrinsically linked to the garden they created together.
Urns and Ornaments
Sissinghurst gardens use garden planters, urns and sculpture very effectively to create a focal point. The planting is the real star of the show but these accessories give each space a finishing touch.
One of the things that struck me about this garden was the informality of the planting. The layout may be formal with the geometrical lines of the paths and rooms, but the planting itself is cottage style and, dare I say it, had a slightly wild and unkempt look. Not that the planting wasn’t orderly, it just has a very natural, lived-in style.
The White Garden
Vita created this garden by using white, green, grey and silver planting, no other colour was allowed. This is what is now called the White Garden and is probably the most famous part of Sissinghurst.
Get the look
There are lots of ideas and inspiration you can take away from Sissinghurst Castle Gardens. Our visit really helped us when we transformed our small town garden and we were really excited to get back and get started.
- create garden rooms by sectioning parts of your garden. You can do this by
- incorporating paths in your garden that will give you easier access to different parts and will help in dividing different areas.
- add height to the garden by planting small trees, tall shrubs or tall flowers. These act as ‘walls’ and are effective for dividing sections to make them feel more secluded
- use garden accessories to provide a focal point, for example, this is very effective at the end of a path. You can use sculpture, planters, urns, water features or a bench or seating area.
- create areas of just one colour, for example, as in the White Garden. You can plant different plants of the same colour in one area to give maximum visual impact.
- use evergreen shrubs or plants to give structure to your garden, otherwise the informal style can look messy. Box hedging (preferably cut into geometrical shapes), Hebes and Euphorbia lend themselves very well to providing structure.
There is much more to see at Sissinghurst and I’ve only highlighted a few of the areas that you can explore. I hope this post has inspired you to try out some of the elements Sissinghurst has to offer in your own garden. I would recommend visiting this garden in person, if at all possible, as every gardener will see different things and take away different ideas. Check out their website for any information on events and accessibility. But even if you’re not a gardener, it’s a beautiful space to spend time in. And there’s a restaurant where you can eat home-grown food. And who could refuse a garden visit, a cuppa and cake?
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