Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Sissinghurst Castle, Kent

Garden design London and Sussex, Sissinghurst Castle

What a glorious autumn we are having! Well into October and the sun is still shining which made the last of the autumn flowering plants even more vibrant in the golden light.

Gardens in London and Sussex, herbaceous border, asters

I've ventured out of Sussex this month and taken a road trip to Kent... Sissinghurst is a world famous garden and I had never been before although it had been on my list of places to see for quite some time. It was designed and gardened by Vita Sackville-West, a well renowned poet and writer in the first half of the 20th century. She purchased the stunningly beautiful remnants of the castle in the 1930’s although the impressive towers you see date from the mid 16th century.
London and Sussex gardens, Sissinghurst Castle and gardens

This garden was forward thinking at the time as it moved away from the earlier formality of Victorian planting and the generally ‘open’ style of stately homes and large properties and instead created a series of more intimate ‘garden rooms,’ a phrase that remains fashionable to this day. It uses large dark hedges to create vistas and segment the space into different themes.

Sissinghurst Castle: The white garden, garden room

Hedges and garden room with vista, Sissinghurst Castle, KentGarden design at Sissinghurst Castle: hedge and garden room, focal point

Pleached avenue, Garden design London and Sussex

There was some lovely colour on display in the form of late flowering perennials and the autumnal leaves of some of the trees. I particularly noticed that the Asters and Dahlias were still shining like large gem stones in the muted russet colourings of the early flowering plants that were now dying back for their winter hibernation.

Beautiful autumn planting, Garden design London and Sussex

Colourful planting and rose hips, Garden design London and Sussex

Garden design London and Sussex, autumn colour

autumn leaves in the garden, Garden design London and Sussexvine on old wall looks great, Garden design London and Sussex

An interesting quirk of this garden are the playful features and interesting use of materials that create little talking points as you move around the different rooms. A bench made from clipped box is not just decorative but could actually be sat on too. An area in the herb garden had been paved using what I presume were old terracotta roofing tiles reused on their side as flooring; I have seen this done before but I suspect this was one of the first places to use them in this fashion. These nuances give the garden a more domestic and romantic feel compared to larger gardens and you can see the eye of a poet at work.

Garden design London and Sussex, bench with box hedge

Garden design London and Sussex, unusual paving idea

An apple-laden orchard was so full of fruit it made me rather hungry but luckily being a National Trust property one always knows there is a decent restaurant at the end. Through the tress some water could be spotted; a moat surrounds part of the garden and provides a transition between the structured area and the wilder parkland beyond. The water is left over from a time when the castle had a moat all the way around but it now makes an interesting water feature.

Fruit orchard at Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, Kent

Moat and boat house in the garden at Sissinghurts

For those of you that like to walk a little further and get some more exercise there are also some lovely walks around the estate past some lakes, which offer interesting views back to the castle. This is also good if like me you have a dog who needs a walk as they are not allowed in the formal gardens. Luckily they are allowed outside the café for a warming afternoon tea!

Sissinghurst Cottage, KentColourful autumn border at Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, Kent

Worst bits
This is a very well maintained and thought out garden that I bet looks even better in full summer when full of flowers. The moat however was looking rather green and unappealing and some of the areas such as the Orchard were cordoned off.

Stream at Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, Kent

Best Bits
This is a fairy tale garden complete with turrets, flags and the plants and layout of a poet, what more could you want?

Lawn with specimen tree, Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, Kent