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Vita And Harold’s Garden

Vita Sackville-West's planting philosophy : "Cram, cram, cram, every chink and cranny.”

Sissinghurst Gardens. (Tony Hisgett / Wikimedia Commons)

Sissinghurst is one of the most well-known gardens in the world. Vita Sackville-West and her diplomat husband, Harold Nicolson, were married in 1913. In 1930, a Victorian farmhouse became available and the property included picturesque ruins and a brick tower built in 1563. Vita fell in love with it so they bought it and then spent three years clearing the property.

They set about making a five-acre garden. Harold designed small, geometrical room gardens opening off long walkways. The design was linear.

Vita chose the plants, and they were crammed into every piece of spare soil. Each garden room had a profusion of specimens that spilled from their beds onto the paths or trailed down from above. In June, her perfumed roses bloomed over hazel canes shaped to form oval cages. In high summer, the Purple Border bloomed with lupines.

By 1951, the famous and much-copied White Garden was completed, and everywhere roses and clematis scrambled over the mellow brick walls. For 14 years, Vita wrote a weekly garden article for The Observer newspaper.

Her garden—the one she designed with Harold—was magical.

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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