Within minutes of arriving Vita was ‘flat in love with Sissinghurst’. ‘The place, when I first saw it on a spring day… caught instantly at my heart and my imagination. I fell in love at first sight…It was Sleeping Beauty’s Garden: but a garden crying out for rescue.’ Standing in the middle of the vegetable patch looking up to the Tower, she turned to twelve-year-old Nigel and said, ‘I think we shall be happy in this place.’
-Vita Sackville-West & Sarah Raven
Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville-West and the Creation of a Garden
I’m a book lover. Correction, I’m obsessed with books. People will hear this and ask me what I thought of the latest best seller. I haven’t read any of them. I’m working my way up through time. When I finally get to today’s best sellers they will be considered only a residue of our history. Like little creative bursts of the past, old and forgotten; just the way I like them.
We recently went to our family cottage for a week. My book of choice was Vita’s novel The Easter Party. I finished it in a couple days. It was good, subtle but brilliant in its own way. It was the first novel I ever read of hers. It really gave me a glimpse into the inner workings of her mind. She put her observance of flowers on hold and applied her skill to the observance of people instead. I dare say she excels at both.
This one finished, I pulled out the second book I brought. It was a gift from my husband for Mother’s day this year. He’s so thoughtful; always giving the best gifts of thoughtful simplicity. He gifted me, Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville-West and the Creation of a Garden.
This book is very inspirational. So much so that when we returned home I saw my own garden with fresh eyes.
I was feeling Vita’s spirit all the more because I had immersed myself in her knowledge and life all weekend. As I looked at my garden, I saw where I could make some changes. For instance, I would like to pull out the marigolds and plant them elsewhere. Instead, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a lavender hedge there? Vita always sectioned off her gardens with hedges. The lavender in the back of the garden have done very well and bloom consistently. I think it would be perfect for my miniature garden to bring them forward. I’ll make a note of it for next year. Vita had a garden journal where she often made notes of what she would plant/change the next spring.
I have about fifteen zinnia sprouts that need transplanting. They will replace the marigolds this year. They will create a tall hedge. One will have to step into my garden to peer at the lovely flowers- like a secret.
About those marigolds: I have found, marigolds do not keep the bunnies out, nor do they deter moles, as these are still major pests in my little sanctuary.
Apart from these changes, this book also renewed my inspiration. Every plant in all my gardens, even the ones frequently overlooked, seemed all the more precious and inspiring.
Speaking of the usually overlooked: Do you know what this is? I ventured over to our little wild garden and found this seed plant. Perhaps you could tell me what it is called? It looked to be something coveted for bouquets of another time, perhaps it would have been used as a country wedding bouquet with baby’s breath and wild geranium. It was beautiful to me, although just a weed no doubt; forgotten and humbled by the more popular, somewhat like the books I read. The little seeds that shoot off the stems are variegated red, pink and green. If you know what it is called I would love to know.
I could feel what it must have been like for Vita to see Sissinghurst for the first time. I too have fallen in love with my own grand ideas, falling in love with dilapidated or thrown away objects of our history. Thrown aside and forgotten because they’re not in style or popular, and the owners haven’t the mind to be inspired by what they could make from the rubble.
Vita was inspired by the history of Sissinghurst, and its dilapidation did not deter her in the least. At first sight, the seed of what she could create was planted in her mind and she was lucky enough to make it a reality, thus creating her legacy…somewhat like the grand authors of classics whose prose stands the test of time.