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Wednesday, April 22, 2009


See comments at the very end!

1)  THE NICOLSON FAMILY, UPDATE -  according t0 
commenter Flo, who has watched the BBC4TV 8-part series

 comment by Bee Drunken.

With the reminder, OH TO BE, a short poem by my friend, Rinkly Rimes, blogging in Australia today, I recalled that I had shot these photographs (selected formal views of Sissinghurst Garden) in 1976c.  It was early spring,  so that the 'design'  (bones of the garden) was clearly marked before the abundance of flowers would soften the precisely close cut hedges containing as many as ten smaller gardens within the whole.

The Vestal Virgin,  guardian of the four larger beds of flowers in the White Garden, is now housed in the Library.  The statue is a lead casting from the walnut original by Rosandic.

 Vita wrote a little poem for her -

How slender, simple, shy, divinely chaste,
 She wilting stood,
Her suppleness at pause, by leisure graced,
In robes archiac by the chiseled woo'd,
That smoothly flowed around her waist,
And all her figured traced,
And at her feet in fluid ripples broke.

Thought to be A. R. Powys's wall, dividing Vita's flowers from the vegetables.  Powys was an indefatigable garden designer/advisor to the Nicolsons.  Vita did not share Gertrude Jekyll's fashion for mixing vegetables and flowers.  Jekyll was a famed garden restorer at the time. 

UPDATE:  Since posting this information, I have learned from blogger Flo that Adam and wife, Sarah,  are moving back to Sissinghurst to plant a vegetable garden, according to Parts 1 and 2 of a BBC planned series on Sissinghurst.  To see comment, click where indicated below.  My reply follows.    

In front of the Priest's House, quartered beds edged in box, each of which hold different kinds of white flower.  

The Moat Walk

A partial view of the Rondel, on the right, showing how Harold adjusted the classical device of a circle within a square.  Closely clipped dark yew hedges make up the Rondel circle.


       Sissinghurst, a property of the National Trust since 1967, was created in the 1930s by Vita Sackville West and Sir Harold Nicolson.  They had two sons, Benedict and Nigel. Vita died in 1962 in a room at Priest's House overlooking the White Garden.  When Harold died in 1968, their son, Sir Nigel Nicolson lived on in Sissinghurst until 2004, when he died. 
      THEN AND NOW - like watching our own children and grandchildren, inherit or refuse, the fruits of parental interests!  

      Today, it is the home of Nigel's daughter, writer Juliet Nicolson, her two daughters, and her long time partner Charles Anson.  She has two other daughters from an earlier marriage who live in London and visit.

      Benedict, CBE CVO, was Editor of the renowned Burlington Magazine.  It is said he refused to be involved with his family interests* preferring to be an art historian.    He died, suddenly, in London in 1978.  He left a daughter, Vanessa, who (last known in 1990) lives in a cottage near the Castle.  

      Juliet, Adam and Rebecca Nicolson, Vita and Harold's grandchildren, continue to be involved in the publishing industry.  I hear that, currently, there are plans, albeit controversial, to add a vegetable garden to supply the very popular restaurant.  An estimated 180,000 visitors from all over the world pay to see the gardens each year.  

       *SISSINGHURST, Portrait of a Garden, by Jane Brown, with forward by Nigel Nicolson, colour photographs by John Miller, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, in 1990.  Not only does it discuss the making of the garden, it also alludes to the trials and tribulations of the families involved and why the garden became the property of the National Trust.

    For those who love gardens, this book is something to drool over, if you can't visit the garden itself.    Sissinghurst is always on my agenda to revisit when I go to see my family in Kent.   


  1. There was a program on BBC4 recently about Adam Nicolson moving back into Sissinghurst and his plans to make a new vegetable garden. It was great watching. I loved Sissinghurst when I visited it last year and intend to go back lots this year as it is just down the road. It hasn't changed all that much since 1976!

  2. Thanks for the update! I wish I could have seen those BBC programs on Sissinghurst. I believe that an 8-part series was planned on BBC4 TV, beginning in February 22. Is that over now, I wonder. I had learned about this from the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain. I am hoping that we will see them here, eventually. I am glad that I recalled that Vita didn't like to mix vegetables and flowers - I take it that Adam and Sarah have overruled mixed feelings about their plans?

  3. I, too, had a happy time at Sissinghurst, but I found it to be smaller than I had expected. Sometimes pictures in ones mind let one down.

  4. It was the 8 part series that I watched, it was really good. Adam and Sarah were keen to get back to some of the traditions that Vita and Harold had installed such as having live stock and growing vegetables but as the house is looked after by the National Trust they had to run everything past them. It made very good television so I hope you get a chance to see it!

  5. Thank you for the update, Flo. I am quite jealous!

  6. Margaret - How fascinating to see these pictures! Last May Bank Holiday, a friend and I watched Portrait of a Marriage and we vowed that we would visit Sissinghurst this year. We were just talking about it yesterday.

    May in England always gets my gardening juices going. I'm about to go to Wisley for the day, actually.

  7. Hi Bee - Isn't it interesting that the mother of Violet Trefusis, one of the the two daughters of Mrs. George Kepple, famed mistress of Edward V11, is also the great maternal grandmother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, second wife of Charles, Prince of Wales. Violet (married Denys Trefusis) and Vita Sackville West, (married to Harold Nicolson) had a passionate relationship that led to Vita's son, Nigel, writing about his mother's affaire in PORTRAIT OF A MARRIAGE, after she died. Wikipedia documents the story, I wonder how many realise the relatedness of the past to the present.

  8. Oh, silly me. I was at Sissinghurst while on a trip to England. 13-year old me did not get out of the car. I've since watched and read Portrait of a Marriage and the older me would definitely appreciate it now.

  9. Does anyone know if a book to be published in the fall, "The White Garden: A Novel by Virginia Woolf" by Stephanie Barron (it's on, has anything to do with Sissinghurst, white gardens, or Virginia Woolf?

  10. Curious. I will look into it! I would like to know about that, too. Thanks for asking. Back soon.