The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Harold's Enclosures

Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson's Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent, England is a great example of structure enclosing textures and flowers. They began making the garden in the 1930's. The design was built around the existing walls and dilapidated buildings. Harold added more brick walls and hedges of yew, box and hornbeam. He described his aim as "a combination of expectation and surprise" or a "succession of intimacies". I took these photographs from the top of the tower where Vita did her writing. Although Vita's plantings are the more famous, Harold's structure makes the garden special. Some gardens have beautiful plants and other gardens have excellent bones but a select few have both. For me, the most satisfying gardens have a strong and well thought out structure and distinctive plants grown in an environment that makes them happy.


  1. I fully expect to see hedges, in Peterborough, that are as well maintained as the hedges pictured above.

  2. That rondel at Sissinghurst always grabs me. I have a very wild garden without much structure. It's in the woods, with a mid-sixties house, so appropriate to the place. I've added structure with stone walls, but still want something more formal for contrast, to add a strong organizing element. I just ordered some English hornbeams to grow into two square columns. Possibly more to come if these are successful.

  3. James,
    The hornbeams sound like a great idea. The yew columns in Piet Oudolf's newly renovated perennial borders might have a similar effect to what you are after. My garden is in a small town lot which lends itself (I think)to a more formal arrangement. Getting it right in a wooded location is a much bigger challenge. I'll be interested to see what you decide to do.



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