For those of you who don’t know, Bill and I took a little trip to LONDON and PARIS!! Can you see me dancing a happy dance? To use another worn metaphor I’m still dancing on air.
Sitting here, a cup of tea at hand, and trolling through my photos, I’m still pinching myself at how fortunate I was to go. It took 53 years, but I walked in merry old England.
My next several posts will be a travelogue, and I’m starting with my favorite place, Sissinghurst Castle. I was going to build up to Sissinghurst, but then, I thought, nah.
If you’re a watcher of the BBC’s Gardeners’ World, you know that the head gardener at Sissinghurst, Troy Scott Smith, is making some changes to bring Sissinghurst back to Vita Sackville-West’s and Sir Harold George Nicolson’s original plan. If you love British gardening, and you don’t watch Gardeners’ World, you’re truly missing out. We’re lucky that in the States we now get the current episodes on Youtube.
I can’t fully express my feelings about Sissinghurst. My heart is too full. When I went into the tower–where you can’t take pictures–I was quite overcome at Vita’s writing studio, and her elderly voice reciting her poem, Sissinghurst, brought me to tears. Here’s her reading of The Land, another long poem.
I understand pouring your entire being into a space, loving it and knowing you can’t forever live there. A bit of background–Vita’s ancestral home, Knole, was lost because there was no male heir to carry on. Later, she and Harold bought Sissinghurst which was in terrible condition and transformed it piece by piece, pound by pound. In a fashion, their ingenuity and perseverance reminds me of the American settlers who often came to this country after losing everything in their homeland. Grit, determination and hard work can take you a long way. I know it did for my family.
For example, the owners called the famous white garden the “white, grey and green garden.” Volunteers said it was at its peak while we were here. Harold was a practical thinker. He laid out the hedges and kept Vita’s creative chaos in control. He’s not often given credit in the U.S. for his important contributions, but he and Vita worked together to make Sissinghurst what it was and is. Not that Bill and I as good as Vita and Harold, but their partnership in the garden reminded me of ours. Bill builds structures and comes up with plans. I am in charge of choosing and growing the plants. He doesn’t really offer any input there, but cheers my efforts. Sometimes, Bill also pushes me to try new things. The pond is a good example and after eight months, I am finally embracing it. I love the goldfish flitting about in the mornings. It’s good to have a partner in the garden who loves it as much you, but also lets you express yourself fully. I think Harold says it well below.
Their marriage and love affair was far more complicated than mine with Bill–thank God–we’re boring and monogamous–but they did love each other and their garden is an expression of their drive and love.
Above is the lime walk designed by Harold and being brought back to his vision by present gardeners. Sometimes gardens do go on.
If you’d like to read other views of Sissinghurst, here are two from my friends, Fairegarden and Gail. By the way, I’m being over familiar using Vita and Harold’s first names. I hope they forgive me. I feel like we’re practically on a first-name basis.
I’ll be back soon with another garden we visited. I hope I don’t bore you.