Sissinghurst Castle Garden in England: the history of the castle and its garden

England’s Most Beautiful Gardens, Part 2

A splendid garden, swinging its branches full of fruit. It has been quiet for centuries, Spreading a sweet fragrance. In its silence its rustling sound is loud, It is music to the groves of wonder, Between the blooming greenery it gently circles, Turning into an orchestra all round. But the garden’s loneliness has not made it so, And the sun’s playful, faded face Peeks into the wilderness, where mystery dwells. Don’t ruin the garden’s riches, man, Leave Nature’s age-old virginity, Be more attentive to shouting gestures, And dwell yourself among the heavens.

1. Sissinghurst Castle Garden

Sissinghurst Castle Garden is a green open-air palace with many rooms – miniature gardens. Each room is different in style, mood, and color scheme. Gardeners around the world use the ideas of this garden in their creations.

The basic idea of the Sissinghurst garden is a combination of the incompatible. Regular and landscape gardens, the strict lines of an aristocratic park and unpretentiousness of a country kitchen-garden – all this is incomprehensibly harmonically connected to the whole on the territory around the old castle in the county of Kent (England).

Sissinghurst castle itself was built by Sir John Bucker in 1530, one of Henry VIII’s Privy Councillors, on the site of an ancient Norman manor. The construction was continued by his son Richard. When the estate was purchased in 1930. Sackville West and Harold Nicholson, the castle was mostly ruins.

Harold was practical and calculating by nature, which allowed him the talent to design the landscape, lay out the alleys and fill in the space.

The garden is divided into “rooms” by walls of brick and greenery. They are all united by arches and passageways. The separation allowed for bold experimentation with a palette of colors, without regard to the color combination of neighboring mini-gardens.

The old brick buildings, walls and medieval moat were not destroyed. On the contrary, they were carefully preserved and these relics of former times largely determined the design of the garden. Over time, the garden was decorated with arches and fences of climbing roses. Flowering shrubs and perennials dictate the color scheme of each room. All of Sissinghurst’s mini gardens are unique not only in their form but also in their color scheme.

At the center of the garden is Harold’s “circle”: a circular mowed lawn surrounded by yew hedges, with breaks through each quarter of the circle. Exits from it lead to rectangular flower beds framed by low trimmed boxwood. The lawn and surrounding hedge are the foundation, the permanent compositional center of the garden regardless of the season.

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The purple border of the courtyard, first welcomes the visitor entering the grounds of the estate. Roses, poppies, irises, geraniums, lupines, phlox in every possible shade of red and purple are collected here. They are combined with green foliage, and in the cold season – with purple, maroon and fiery red leaves of shrubs.

Lilac and pink Delos is an early spring garden, all the beauty of which opens before the trees are clothed in foliage. In spring there is a carpet of pink chironodocuses, blue blue leprosy and white anemones, later white magnolias, soft pink geraniums, wild violets and snow-white peonies come into their own.

The White Garden is filled with all shades of white. It is one of the most refined and sophisticated gardens. It has a clear structure in the shape of a cross, at the crossroads of which is a pavilion of wrought metal. Here in a chaotic mess are planted white violets, deitias, irises, dahlias, gladioli, and silvery wormwood. Here, under the canopy of willow-leaved pear stands a romantic sculpture of a pensive girl, at her feet modestly white dicenters and white-cauliflower pelargoniums.

The Rose Garden contains a splendid collection of roses. A shaded passage leads to it. The Rose Garden is in its full beauty only in midsummer. The rest of the time, this garden is enlivened by other flowers: irises in spring, clematis in summer, and asters and chrysanthemums in fall.

The Green Lime Alley, or Spring Garden, was designed entirely by Harold. In spring, hyacinths, bluebell and other bulbs bloom here under the canopy of delicate green foliage of the lime trees.

The vibrant colors of the Village Garden are striking after the calm green hues of the alleys. This garden is red-orange.

The Medicinal Plant Garden is nestled in the farthest and most secluded corner of the estate. The garden’s paths form many small beds in which spices and aromatic plants are planted. Lilac, silvery, grayish-green color is given by wormwood, sage, thyme, mint, and rosemary, and lilac wisteria in the background provides a gentle backdrop.

Sissinghurst Manor is currently managed by a non-governmental charitable organization that preserves England’s national treasure. Tours are offered here, and the park is visited by many visitors each year.

2. Hyde Hall Dry Garden

The peculiarity of the Hyde Hall dry garden in Essex is that it is located in the driest region of England with very little annual rainfall. The dry garden sits atop a windswept hill. Thanks to the hard work of the Robinson couple, the arid wasteland was transformed into a magnificent garden with many plants.

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The Hyde Hall Garden is a prime example of the fact that the plants grown there do well in drought conditions.

Interest in dry gardens has grown considerably in the last few years. Although people often picture England as a “green and favorable land” with abundant rainfall, this is actually not always the case. Due to climate change in recent years, most of East Anglia has been banned from using tap water to irrigate gardens.

Hyde Hall gardens are home to perennial ornamental grasses, mullein, milkweed, sage, allium, fennel, lavender, cnifolia, agave, yucca, cortaderia, yarrow, bluegill, escholtia, nigella, poppies, echinacea, sedums and other drought-resistant plants.

Many of these plants remain ornamental even after flowering. The stems and seed heads of ornamental perennial grasses, allium, barnyard grass look beautiful until frost. Drought-tolerant plants are also hardy, as long as the root system doesn’t get soaked by flood waters in the spring.

Hyde Hall’s desert garden is an impressive sight. Check out the photos, take in the ideas you like.


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Sissinghurst Castle Garden.

For those who travel to the gardens of England, a visit to this amazing place should be a must on the program.

This garden was made famous by a married couple who bought the estate in the 1930s and in a short time turned it into an iconic horticultural landmark. The meticulous and practical Sir Harold Nicholson designed and implemented the Sissinghurst land-use scheme as a whole, while his romantic wife, the poet and aristocrat Vita Sackville-West, displayed a mastery of ornamental horticultural principles and techniques.

The fate of the estate is very unusual. Queen Elizabeth I spent three nights here in 1573, after which the palace was rebuilt several times during her reign. In the mid-18th century, a prison for French prisoners of war was built there, and over 3,000 prisoners passed through in the following seven years. Later, the dilapidated building housed first the poor of the parish and then the inhabitants of the almshouse.

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The old house was hardly habitable. So when the estate was put up for sale in 1928, there were no buyers for two years. That all changed one rainy April day in 1930 when Vita Sequille-West came here looking for a place where she could create her own garden. Vita fell in love with Sissinghurst at first sight, so 3 weeks after her first visit, the house and 400 acres of adjoining land were purchased by the couple. However, all the buildings and services were in such terrible condition that it wasn’t until several years later that the Nicholsons were able to move into the main building on the estate.

But Sissinghurst’s past has not been forgotten or superseded by remodeling and new occupants. The design of the garden was largely determined by the pre-existing brick buildings, walls, and medieval moat, two arms of which now frame the Orchard. To this Harold decided to add 3 more new walls of the traditional material (brick) for this garden and some new hedges of yew, boxwood, hornbeam and roses. The result is a system of ten separate gardens connected by passageways in the walls and hedges. Almost every transition from one garden to another is not only a spatial, but also a visual experiment. Unusual narrow vistas direct the eye to distant views, sculptures, or vases. The particular, well-designed arrangement of the vistas gives the impression of walking through the garden with its creators, who want to show the most beautiful corners. Harold described his idea for the layout as creating “a special chain of expectation, anticipation of various surprises and riddles and the rapturous wonder that one feels when one unravels them.” This is why Sissinghurst cannot be fully seen, even from the top of the tower. This garden requires a long study, as if inviting you on a journey through its labyrinths, where you will be greeted not by a frightening Minotaur, but by a statue of a beautiful girl surrounded by white roses.

At Sissinghurst you won’t find repetitions. Each garden is a delightful work of art, whose color, character, aroma are truly unique. In general, Sissinghurst can be called a portrait of the creative union of two infinitely talented, though very different people. While Harold’s taste was classical, preferring geometric layout and symmetry in the arrangement of paths, hedges, flower beds, sculptures and vases, Vita had a romantic attitude. She picturesquely filled in the well-planned areas of the garden with plants: shrubs, perennials and grasses seemed to “splash out”, leaving the limits of strict flower beds. Vita was intransigent only to weeds, fighting them by weeding and mulching the soil with crushed pine bark.

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Although Sissinghurst gave roses in almost every beautiful corner, Vita named one of the green rooms “The Rose Garden.” She preferred the old-fashioned varieties, which usually bloom only once a season, so the splendor here peaks in June. And so that in the other months the garden did not look boring, Vita masterfully combined roses with various perennials: they are preceded by irises in spring, clematis blooms in July and August, and autumn asters and chrysanthemums maintain interest until October. At the center of the garden is Harold’s “circle”: a circular mowed lawn surrounded by yew hedges, with breaks in every quarter of the circle. Exits from it lead to rectangular flower beds framed by low trimmed boxwood. The lawn and the surrounding hedge are the foundation, the permanent compositional center of the garden regardless of the season. But when, having given all their beauty to the world around them, the roses blossomed, it seemed to Vita that the garden died with them for a while.

From the Rose Garden, it’s easy to get to Lime Alley, Harold Nicholson’s favorite creation. This corner was conceived in classic Italian style with statues and Tuscan pottery at both ends of the alley. Harold planted the trees and pruned them each year so that the branches of the lime trees grew only in a direction parallel to the path line. At its peak in bloom, the garden resembles the backdrop of Botticelli’s Spring painting. And in the summer and fall, this corner is left almost untouched by gardeners – otherwise you could damage a sea of spring-flowering bulbs.

The garden in front of the South Cottage once overlooked the windows of Vita and Harold’s room, and it was with a glimpse of it that their mornings began. Four tall yews seemed to stand guard over the tranquility of the garden and its inhabitants. The lush flower beds are yellow-red-orange, they are almost entirely monochrome, but that does not prevent the garden from impressing with its variety of forms and combinations. The first plant planted in it was a white clover rose, which still blooms luxuriantly every summer. The cottage garden is one of Sissinghurst’s loveliest and coziest places, with slightly narrower paths and smaller flowerbeds. It’s not a “secret garden,” though. Now, as before, it exists for people walking along its paths and enjoying its beauty.

A fashionable element of modern garden design, the herb and spice garden at Sissinghurst is a veritable collection of over a hundred different species of herbs (the most complete collection in all of England). This is a case where not only the plants, their shape and color, but also their scent play a role in creating the unique appearance and character of the garden. Vita’s own sense of smell was so acute that even with her eyes closed she could name any herb. Keeping a garden in order during the summer requires a lot of effort and attention. This applies not only to flowers, but also to herbs. Some, like coriander and chervil, grow quickly and lose their ornamental value, so they have to be replanted 2-3 times during the season.

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Sissinghurst’s most original place is probably the White Garden. In the beginning, a traditional rose garden was planted here, behind the priest’s cottage. But then Vita had the unusual idea of making it a monochrome garden, almost entirely composed of white flowers and silvery gray foliage. Harold implemented her idea in the design, turning the garden into a sequence of rectangular flower beds framed by a low boxwood border. Vita carefully designed the flower bed schemes, combining plants of varying blooming periods. The plants have been selected so harmoniously that every week a new one blooms and the appearance of the garden is partly altered. One can envy those who were lucky enough to visit the “White Garden” at the beginning of July, when white climbing roses bloom lushly. An enormous cloud of snow envelopes the openwork iron gazebo that formerly housed the almond trees.

Sissinghurst is now mostly known as “Vita’s Garden,” but she herself would never agree because she always wanted the garden to be remembered as their joint creation.

This article uses materials from “New Home.”

Sissinghurst Garden photos courtesy of Nature’s Charm Landscape and Environmental Center . On the multimedia albums produced by this company, you can find more information about famous parks and gardens around the world (as well as international landscape design shows and ideas for your garden). The undoubted advantage of presented in albums is the possibility to open them on full screen with the size from 300 KB to 2000 KB. Detailed comments from experts in landscape design and architecture accompany the photo album. Address: 630005, Novosibirsk, Frunze St., 49, office 30 Tel./fax: (383) 201-22-00, 8-913-941-94-52, 8-913-750-24-12


Sissinghurst, Cranbook TN17 2AB, Kent OS TQ8038, 2 miles northeast of Cranbrook, exit off the A262. Tel: 01580 710700, reference tel: 01580 710701, fax: 01580 710702.

Category I in the English Heritage Register. Owner: National Trust.

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