Friday, 29 April 2016

A weekend in Kent, part 3 - Sissinghurst Castle

Sorry if I'm boring you with more stuff about places in Kent! I'll be back to matters closer to home tomorrow...

Sissinghurst Castle is one of those places I have wanted to visit for years. It is one that everyone has heard of, and one that gets mentioned a lot in the Gardening community as a place that everyone should visit. As it happens (not a complete coincidence), the place where we stayed was only about 10 miles from Sissinghurst, so a visit there was a Must. Being so close, we were able to get there early on Sunday morning, before it got crowded. Actually, it was not crowded at all by most standards, and I'm sure that this was partly because the weather was again bloomin' 'orrible! The temperature that morning was 5C, under dramatically leaden skies:

Sissinghurst is not really a castle any more. There was a castle there at one stage, but little of it remains. Mostly it is a very long low brick house, with all the attendant elements of a country estate - farmhouse, barns, stables, etc. (including Oast-houses of course!)

The big house, with the main entrance through the archway. The view of the tower is here obscured by the trees.

This is the tower, part of the former castle

Barn, exterior view

This barn was full of the chirping of little birds. I saw several nests up in the eaves - House Martins, I think.

Barn, interior view.

At this time of year it is necessary to look pretty carefully at the gardens to appreciate their contents, because most of them are still dormant or only just beginning to grow, but I'm afraid that the weather was so cold that we didn't linger very long at any point. In the Summer it would be very different. In April it is Tulip time, and the Sissinghurst gardens were full of Tulips of every imaginable shape size and colour:

Under the archway of the main entrance was this little selection of perfect specimens of some very special Tulips:

In normal (warmer) circumstances, we might have been tempted to go up to the viewing platform at the top of the tower, because this is where the best views of the gardens can be obtained, but we decided to leave that pleasure to some hardier souls...

Perhaps the most notable feature of the Sissinghurst gardens is that although they are fairly big, they are divided into a number of smaller, more intimate "Garden Rooms", each with its own theme. This very beautiful Salmon-pink coloured Quince definitely grabbed my attention.

I also particularly liked the many huge containers full of bulbs, such this old lead water-trough. My photo is over-exposed and doesn't capture the white of those Narcissi properly, but there's no denying the dramatic effect that such a feature can contribute to a garden.

Having retreated to the shelter of the tearoom for a warming cup of tea, Jane decided to leave me to explore the vegetable garden on my own, an understandable decision.

I was very struck by the precision and orderliness of the veg-plot. Just like mine, but on a far grander scale, I thought! Look at these lovely neat rows of Garlic.

Notice that for management and record-keeping purposes, each bed is uniquely numbered.

And a 50-metre row of Rhubarb!

Signage informs the visitor that with the aid of 12,000 wheelbarrow-loads of "home-made" compost, the Sissinghurst veg garden produced 3300 kilograms of produce last year, most of which was used in the property's own restaurant. There was ample evidence to suggest the truth of this:

Most of the veg here is grown from seed and is therefore currently at a very early stage of its life, but this meant that there was plenty of opportunity for me to observe very clearly some of the plant-support methods being used, like the wooden poles here supporting strings up which pea plants are beginning to climb:

The shorter varieties of pea were supported by flexible Hazel pea-sticks and covered by netting to keep the birds off.

This enclosure made of fine mesh supported on wooden stakes is aimed at keeping Carrot Root Fly away from the carrots. The board in the foreground informs visitors that Carrot Root Fly are low-flying insects and won't be able to get over that barrier. I just hope that Carrot Root Flies can read...

Right, now there is one more photo I want to show you. It is of a "flower arrangement" suspended from the ceiling in the exhibition centre that gives people information about Vita Sackville-West, the founder of the garden in its current form:

Impressive, eh?

My verdict on Sissinghurst: very nice indeed, but I want to see it again, in the Summer-time.


  1. Yes..go again! I've only been to the gates and walked around the path outside. Late late late my friend! But Great Dixter nearby was a triumph. Don't miss that. Adore the flower arrangment. Might make a stab at trying to do a mini version. Like you, love the orderliness of the garden. You didn't by any chance get the quince name? Brenda

    1. Bren, friends tell me they think the quince is Chaenomeles "Apple Blossom".

  2. I've actually been wanting to visit Sissinghurst for a while now too! We stayed in Kent last autumn and almost made it there, but for some reason never got to. I really wanted to go this spring to see their tulips too. Hopefully this summer, I'll get to visit!

  3. What a beautiful vegetable garden - not a weed in sight and the soil looks so rich. I have a feeling there will be lots to see and learn if you do end up visiting during the summer months.

    That's very odd about the carrot root fly - wouldn't they just consider the netting as they would a hill or cliff and go along it until they reach the top?

  4. I had to look it up, but now that I know what an oast house is, I approve. Beautiful place, and a beautiful garden.

  5. I had to look it up, but now that I know what an oast house is, I approve. Beautiful place, and a beautiful garden.

  6. If carrot flies can't fly over that mesh how do they manage to get into a small garden?

  7. It does look so cold in your pictures. It is also somewhere I have longed to visit, we have tried twice and it has been so busy that we turned away without seeing it. The bulbs and vegetable garden look fantastic. Sarah x


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