Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville-West and the Creation of a Garden, by Vita Sackville-West and Sarah Raven. St. Martin’s Press, 2014

Sissinghurst is the garden created by Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicholson. They bought a Tudor era property that was nearly in ruins (it has a moat! And a tower!), fixed up the buildings without much modernization, and then, with Harold laying out the hardscape and Vita dealing with the plants themselves, made a garden that became very famous. Sissinghurst is the home of the famous (among gardeners) White Garden. Vita orchestrated a very lush garden, packed with flowers- especially scented flowers- that looked like they had sprung up naturally. Of course, it took a great deal of knowledge –and a couple of full time gardeners- to keep this looking natural.

150,000 people a year visit Sissinghurst to this day. While it has had changes- some plants didn’t do well, some just got old- the bones and spirit of the garden Vita created remain in place. Sarah Raven is a garden writer who has had the privilege of living at Sissinghurst for a while- she is married to Vita’s grandson. She considers herself the co-author of this book; she has mined Vita’s prodigious writings and included passages from them in the text. With this, we can see what Vita was trying to achieve in the garden and it’s a very interesting look inside. The book includes many black and white photos of the garden, inside the buildings, and Vita and her family; a few modern day color photos are also included. Very interesting for anyone interested in garden design from the viewpoint of living intimately with the garden 365 days a year.

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