Flower Power at Sissinghurst

Another year has passed since the flower season comes into full bloom. Shows have come and gone and finally I have found the desire to explore again. The rose season is on and at home my Fantin Latour is now at it’s best, and has somehow managed to avoid the deer that parade in the local park and sneak in through the forest behind us. Roserie de L’Hay is the first to flower and is an absolute stalwart and no bugs or black spot get to it. It forms a reliable backbone to the garden in our now semi-shade garden. It has reached about 7 foot tall with no feeding at all throughout the last ten years. Felicia isn’t quite as good this year oddly but Constance Spry has done well and has a wonderful original musky smell and one has climbed into the ivy and avoided deer damage. My more recent Charles de Mills rose is netted to avoid the damage but is now partially exposed and yet it seems to be flowering well after only two years. A good rose will grow fast.

With this in mind, it was to the rose garden at Sissinghurst I thought of, as several summers have passed when I chose to give it a miss. It was about time I went. Although it was a hot day and likely to be crowded, it had to be done.

On arrival I was pleasantly surprised that there was no timed ticket entrance, so straight in and the garden wasn’t too busy…but before I even walked under the arch I saw that a doorway led into a new room. There was a small exhibition about the roses but on entering you saw a beautiful old Tudor style window, a room I had never seen before. This made up for closure of the South Cottage in summer. Most exciting! Next I saw another area new to me, the vegetable working area backing onto the Victorian farm within a few feet of the main building. It made a large attractive area where much of the behind-the-scenes work takes place.

The brickwork was, as always, beautiful with a rich Venetian pink. The rose garden was powering ahead in all its’ glory. Celestial rose, (from 1750), was doing much better that mine in full sun. Huge great peonies, large chunks of Ammi Majus, as at Perch Hill, and an impressive swathe of Astrantia. The white garden was lovely but perhaps not quite as effective in high summer in spite of glorious white delphiniums. It might look better in August, except of course that the luscious Rosa Mulliganii will be over. I have given mine a severe prune as it grows eight foot a year, be warned! But in the considerable heat, the really refreshing part was the cottage garden, with a yellow iris making a real statement in this slightly shady corner.

South cottage with yellow iris.

Verbascums were dotted all over, which look very impressive, but I’ve always veered away from plants that are likely to blow over without support. My foxgloves have done well and here they were everywhere. The herb garden was a well designed and fairly quiet. Inside the now permanently open library and sitting room, I managed to take some snaps of a few books that were in the large family collection. I found a few Agatha Christie’s, not in good condition, but nevertheless worth noting the novels that the Nicolson family reviewed. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, Lord Edgware Dies and Ordeal by Innocence. None in jackets as I assume most were sent without. The coloured persian or Italian glass made good use of the modest light that could sparkle in through small leaded windows. Lunch beckoned after walking round the meadow and along the moat. A shady outhouse was perfect.

Then into the cafe, which is still badly designed and too small for an eager queue of customers, sitting upstairs was quiet with a good view. Finally I found a new area the vegetable garden, a large field converted into rows of fruit and vegetables, very impressive but reminded me of my childhood dominated by fruit and vegetable garden maintenance. For me, it’s always the flowers that win my heart.

Herb garden with verbascum.