Click on a location from the map above. Only the first page of each garden area can be accessed from the map; to view the entire garden, use the index below or take the tour. This website was developed in 1999 and is regularly updated.
There have been visitors to this site
Sissinghurst Garden is in the Weald of Kent, near Cranbrook, Goudhurst and Tenterden. It is close to landscape designated of outstanding natural beauty. The property is owned and maintained by the National Trust. The garden was created by Vita Sackville-West & Harold Nicolson in the 1930's. At this time, the site was very run down.
The site is ancient - its name is Saxon - meaning 'clearing in the woods'. A stone manor surrounded by a moat was built in the Middle Ages. Two legs of the moat survive - a third leg originally ran where the 'Moat Walk' lawn is now. The original building was replaced in the 15th century by a large manor built by the Baker family - related by marriage to the Sackvilles of Knowle. It was let to the Government between 1756 and 1763 as a prison camp for French prisoners-of-war. The prisoners were badly treated - as was the site generally, and much was demolished.
Vita and Harold found the place after concern that their Knole property was close to development over which they had no control. They purchased it in 1930 and began constructing the garden we know today. It was first opened to the public in 1938 - the entrance fee was a shilling (£0.05). Visitors were nicknamed the 'shillingses' however the term was not derogatory. Vita wrote in the New Statesman in 1939;
"These mild gentlemen and women who invade one's garden after putting their silver token into the bowl ... are some of the people I most gladly welcome and salute. Between them and myself a particular form of courtesy survives, a gardener's courtesy, in a world where courtesy is giving place to rougher things"
The garden is in fact a series of some ten separate gardens, all delightfully different. Walls and hedges separate the gardens, giving the visitor the impression of peace and seclusion. On a sunny day there is almost nowhere better to be.
Visiting gardens like Sissinghurst either online or in person can inspire many homeowners to consider new landscaping projects. While this may have been second-nature to the Nicholsons, most of us would need expert help. Like our British check-a-trade organisation (reviews of tradesmen by the public who use them) there's a similar reviews service in the United States specialising in helping property owners in the decision-making process called Home Advisor Reviews. I've been informed by a reader that the best reviewed landscaping companies on Home Advisor Reviews online will have the expertise to create beautiful gardens - you never know, maybe even something approaching the splendour of Sissinghurst Castle Garden!
The National Trust took over the gardens in 1967. The gardens are now very popular and visitors should be prepared for a wait for admission during busy periods.
|For a more detailed history see Kirk Johnson's fascinating articles
Here are some books which may be of interest. As well as books about the garden I have included a couple by Vita Sackville-West, who, together with her husband, designed the garden. Many can be purchased from the shop at Sissinghurst. Click the book title to get a review and availability from Amazon, the on-line book sellers.
|Portrait of a Garden
Sissinghurst - portrait of a garden, by Jane Brown and others. Recommended.
|Gardening at Sissinghurst
Tony Lord's photographic tour of the garden.
|In your garden
Gardening with Vita Sackville-West. Very popular.
|In your garden again
More gardening with Vita Sackville-West. Contains articles and practical advice on cultivation for the whole year
|No Signposts in the Sea
Vita Sackville-West's haunting, elegiac tale about the secret love of a man destined shortly to die. It was her last novel written in the year she died.
|All Passion Spent
By Vita Sackville-West.
|Vita and Harold
A selection of letters between Vita and Harold chronicling their intimate and turbulent relationship - edited by Nigel Nicolson.
By Vita Sackville-West with an introduction by Victoria Glendinning.
|In your garden
A set of audio cassettes based on Vita's best selling book, narrated by Janet McTeer.
By Harold Nicolson - introduction by Nigel Nicolson.
|English Country Houses
By Vita Sackville-West
|The letters of Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf
This book is occasionally out of print. If this is the case, it may be worth noting the page and re-trying a month or so later.
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