Getting Real



How comforting – Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson had plant casualties. They were like the rest of us, after all. This amusing revelation comes thanks to The National Trust’s renewed efforts to restore some of the ebullience and gay abandon that Sissinghurst’s creators strived for when they were alive. Sissinghurst is getting real, and with that comes exciting changes to the garden’s layout, planting and attitude to visitors.

The South Cottage (below), in which the couple lived and Harold wrote, is open to the public for the first time this year. The rooms remain much as they would have known them, and are still enjoyed by their descendents every June. Harold’s description in 1933 reveals his affection for the building:

The sitting-room is lovely except that the opening is too big. My bedroom, w.c. and bathroom are divine. The primroses are superb. Dine. Bed. Rebecca curled up beside me. Home.*

* Rebecca was a wire-haired terrier.

In the kitchen-cum-flower room Vita tended sick plants. Those that didn’t respond favourably to her minstrations found their labels tossed into an old tomato box. Perhaps this is why Christopher Lloyd, at nearby Great Dixter, hated plant labels so much. They reminded him of miniature gravestones.

I suspect we all have a ‘box of the dead’. Mine’s an old propagator lid. What’s yours?


The Cottage Garden, Sissinghurst, May 2014