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A Granddaughter’s Memories

Vita Sackville-West's granddaughter Juliet Nicolson says that her grandmother's "presence still fills the garden."

The White Garden at Sissinghurst. (Pete Chapman / Wikimedia Commons)

I recently read an article in a magazine, The English Garden, where Vita Sackville-West’s granddaughter Juliet Nicolson talks about her grandmother and her grandfather, Harold Nicolson, who created the world-renowned garden at Sissinghurst in Kent, England.

Few gardens are as revered as Sissinghurst, which remains her grandparents’ greatest creative legacy. Since their deaths, the National Trust has overseen the garden. The original design is intact, with long paths often anchored by focal points and clipped yew forms shaped to carve out space from the sky. For example, in the Top Courtyard they are ovoid in shape.

The manicured evergreen plants are a foil for the frothy overflowing plantings in summer, and as well, they provide interest and structure in the winter.

The orchard and productive fruit trees were also important to Vita.

Her granddaughter said:

“I remember my grandmother, who died at 70 in 1962, secateurs tucked into the top of her laced gardening boots, striding to the garden as I ran on my six-year-old legs to catch up. With her deep voice, she was tall, terrifying, and impressive. Her presence still fills the garden, and some of her tools in the potting shed remain hanging where she left them.”

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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