Travelogue: Sissinghurst Castle


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.

A vignette in an old concrete planter. There were two of these along this wall.
A vignette in an old concrete planter. There were two of these along this wall.

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.

Hop houses at Sissinghurst.
Hop houses at Sissinghurst. We were in hops-growing country. Beer is an important commodity in England although grapes are starting to get a foothold too with the warmer weather.

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.

Famous blue gate at Sissinghurst.
Famous blue gate at Sissinghurst.

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.

Some of the garden beds at Sissinghurst Castle.
Some of the garden beds at Sissinghurst Castle.

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.

The azalea walk Sissinghurst was stunning in the spring sunlight.
The azalea walk Sissinghurst was stunning in the spring sunlight.

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.

From Harold to Vita.
From Harold to Vita.

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.

Harold said his lime walk was his life's work.
Harold said his lime walk was his life’s work.

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.




  1. Rose says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Dee! This has been on my bucket list for some time. How exciting that you were able to visit Sissinghurst! Looking forward to more posts about your travels.

  2. Thanks for sharing. Such beautiful places!

  3. Layanee says:

    I had the privilege of visiting Sissinghurst over ten years ago. I loved it then and it gave me great perspective in my own very young garden. I enjoyed visiting it here once again through your eyes.

  4. Gareth Barr says:

    Looks like you had a fantastic time, we are going over later in the year, one of our stops is Kew Gardens, we are also staying in the same neighborhood…such fun.

  5. Oh I am loving all these photos! Going to England to visit gardens is on my bucket list so I am really enjoying your lovely photos!

  6. Jen Young says:

    Gardens never bore me! I can’t wait to see more of your garden travels.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Oh good Jen. Maybe Hever Castle next.

  7. Sue says:

    Loved reading about this beautiful castle, seeing the pictures, and getting the “dirt” about another place to roam!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank you Sue. There will be more coming down the pike.

  8. Denise says:

    Thanks for sharing your travelogue. It is wonderful to read first hand accounts of places I have not visited yet. You’ve inspired me to plan more trips around gardens in the future.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Denise, travel is so important I think. I learn so much.

  9. I’ve only heard of Sissinghurst, and knew nothing else about it, so thanks for this lovely travelogue! I think I’ll need to read up on it. And maybe I’ll get to England some day myself.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Oh Robin, you simply must go. You will love it.

  10. indygardener says:

    No possible way you could bore us with tales of your travels to England. Loved your pictures and thoughts about Sissinghurst and I look forward to wherever you take us in your next blog.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Carol, where shall we go?

  11. Jenny says:

    Oh! It was wonderful to be back at Sissinghurst and see it through your eyes. And it will be interesting to see the changes that are made. I read that Vita had a lot more roses although searching for them and finding them will not be easy. I did see the piece on GW. Love that show and love Monty Don even more! We, like you and your husband, are a team and neither one of us could have achieved alone. There is something really special in that-just like the relationship of Vita and Harold and what they created. She must have been heartbroken at losing Knole. Did you go there too? Can’t wait to see where else you visited.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Jenny, Im glad you enjoyed it. No, we didn’t go to Knole. From their letters, it does appear that Harold helped her buy Sissinghurst because she was so bereft at losing Knole. They created something very special in the spot where they ended up. 😉

  12. I think we’ll be there when the roses will be doing well, knock on wood. I’ll have to try to watch some of those videos soon; thanks for reminding me about them!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Yes Jean, the roses were just starting and were quite early. I think you’ll have a lovely time.

  13. Thank you for taking us along on your dream journey….any pix of Sissinghurst are most appreciated!! Looking forward to more from your adventures!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thanks Tamara! Will do.

  14. Would love to see Vita Sackville-West’s white garden. You were lucky to be there when in its prime. Beautiful photos.

  15. All I had to read was Red Dirt Ramblings and Travelogue and I knew it was going to be a good one. From the looks of that first photo it appears that you were walking on air. This is a fabulous post about a garden that is written about ever so much. You have brought it to life beautifully with your personal expression. I so enjoyed the glimpses of areas and things that caught your attention. Thanks so much. Some day I would like to see it in person. I won’t give up until I do.

  16. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Oh, what a treat to see a little of this legendary garden! I’m so glad you and Bill were able to make this trip.

  17. Marcie says:

    Very envious! lol. Thank you for sharing a trip-of-a-lifetime in such beautiful photos!

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