Sissinghurst in Mid-May
From March through to July the garden looks at its most striking, the light is at its most intense and the colours are at their most saturated. The peak month is May and the mood at Sissinghurst is one of exuberance and joy, there is a garden party, in its truest sense, in full swing and it’s not to be missed.
As soon as you enter the mood is set; a border planted entirely with the intense shades of rich purple blends perfectly with the colour of the surrounding protective brick walls. As you explore further one encounters the Rose Garden with plants full of promise of what’s to come in a few weeks.
Further still and the Cottage Garden in colours of sunshine confronts your senses. The intense vermillion-red of Tulips crackle against the golden mounds of Euphorbia, Kniphofia erupts at intervals through a hazy gauze of luminous blood-red poppies and Trollius whose soft yellow flowers sit amongst its foliage like the finest of Belgian chocolates.
There are dozens of other perennials as well such as Iris, Fennel, Verbascum and Thalictrum all of which have been added to the mix to inject colour accents and an erotic charge through the predominantly harmonizing scheme. Knitting this Rousseauesque planting together is the indispensable Aquilegia canadensis, whose red and yellow coloured flowers punctuate the air like a swarm of hovering flies.
The Garden, in particularly the Moat Walk is shrouded in a web of Wisteria in May, a perennial joy of the early summer garden, deliciously scented and often carrying a light second crop of blossom in August. The longest flowers are that of W. floribunda, but W. sinensis has the best fragrance. Prune in February to short spurs and then simply remove the long wispy extension growth in summer. Birds can sometimes nip off the early buds; black cotton stretched over the growth should deter all but the most determined of these pests.
Top 5 plants out now in the garden:
The moment of flowering is brief but glorious and one that should be savoured; they come and go in less than a week; or as Christopher Lloyd described it, ‘at its ravishing best for about four hours’.
Native to Britain and liking retentive, rich soils with dappled shade this is an excellent choice for naturalising in shrub borders or thin grassland.
Aesculus x neglecta Erythroblastos
A spectacular slow growing chestnut from the SE United States, introduced in 1935. Its leaves are an eye catching prawn pink in colour when juvenile, but fade to yellow-green later.
Polygonatum x hybridum
A plant that seems to epitomise May, there is nothing more lovely than the arching sprays of pendant green-tipped waxy flowers, especially if planted above eye level.
The bold rugged chestnut like leaves of this perennial are only half the story, later panicles of creamy white or pink flowers emerge lasting well into autumn, when finally the whole plant collapses in a blaze of colour.
Top 5 things to do this week in the garden
- Sow hardy annuals where they are to flower if not already done so.
- Prune all Montana, alpina and macropetala type Clematis now.
- Start thinking about which biennials you want to grow next year as sowing will start soon.
- Stake, stake and stake again, the effort made now on staking perennials will be rewarded later.
- Cut back to ground many perennials that have flowered such as Aquilegia, Geranium, Pulmonaria etc.
Troy Scott Smith (Head Gardener)