Planting ‘The Donkeys’

Last October I wrote about the borders situated by the historic buildings in the front entrance to the garden, otherwise known as ‘The Donkeys.’

The front of Sissinghurst showing the Donkey beds edged with box.

The front of Sissinghurst showing the Donkey beds edged with box.

Troy, the head gardener wanted to replace both areas with a new mixed herbaceous planting scheme, to better reflect the Sissinghurst style of planting which has become so intrinsic to the success and charm of the garden Vita and Harold created.

These borders will also include some re introductions of roses Vita admired, and that for one reason or another had become lost over the last few decades. Other new additions include a lovely lilac coloured Wisteria floribunda ‘Macrobotrys,’  already flowering well, which will look beautiful trained along the Elizabethan brickwork.

Wisteria floribunda 'Macrobotrys'

Wisteria floribunda ‘Macrobotrys’

Now winter ground preparation and all the necessary soil improvements have been completed, it is at last time for the planting process to begin. Initially, an interesting array of upturned pots, canes and canes which were deliberately bent or placed at obtuse angles helped Troy mark out the final position of each plant on his planting design.
There have, of course been some amendments to the original planting list and even the more recent planting plan has had some changes made to it. This is because either, the choice of flower colour was not quite right or, as in other cases, good specimens could not be sourced. Small crosses above some of the images on the final plan mean those plants have since been removed from the list, or replaced with different varieties.

Troy's planting design and lists of plant species.

Troy’s planting design and lists of plant species.

One note on the penultimate list says “all paeonies under planted with muscari/tulip/crocus. One batch has gladiolus.” I mention the paeonies in particular, because several people have said how well they are flowering in the garden at the moment. So do take a look while they are still at their peak.

Looking back at the list, this planting instruction could be referring to the pale pink flowers of Paeonia lactifolia ‘Solange’, or maybe ‘Myrtle Gentry’ and perhaps Paeonia lactifolia ‘Pillow Talk,’ all of which have large double flowers, often requiring support from hazel pea sticks, to keep them upright. The gladiolus mentioned is the species ‘byzantinus’ and is more modest than the giant cultivated forms you see in flower arrangements. It gives a fuchsia pink dart of colour in mid-summer and is slender enough to grow between other plants, which need more room. We have several small groups dotted along the front of the Purple border in the top courtyard, the first walled area you see when approaching the tower.

Other plants species seen elsewhere in the garden which are echoed in these new borders are perennial favourites like bearded iris, Lilium regale, the Madonna lily, the white, late summer mist of gypsophilla, mid-season flowering campanulas, delphiniums, lupins and phlox. There are one or two groups of Yucca gloriosa ‘Nobilis’ too, which once established will produce showy pale yellow flowering spikes and create a noticeable impact. At one time we did  have some living at the bottom of the rose garden, planted with a flowering kale called Crambe cordifolia, that formed a huge white cloud similar in appearance to gypsophyllia. Here, they are planted next to Dictamnus albus var. purpureus, Limonium platyphyllum ‘Violetta’ and Berkheya purpurea. Eventually, some of the planting will be changed according to how well other plants develop. For example, the new roses will take several years to gain their full potential and may demand more space to breath.

So, the planting scheme seems to share most in common with the top courtyard and rose garden. It will take time to truly blossom. I look forward to showing you more from the Donkey beds later on in the year.

Gardener Jo


6 thoughts on “Planting ‘The Donkeys’

  1. We visited for the first time this week, Sissinghurst. The gardens ”blew me away”! I have never seen gardens so beautiful. Every angle, every corner turned, the more I became lost for words! Well done to the team who make that happen.
    I came across Eau de Cologne mint, such an over-whelming aroma, but none in your shop. Any chance of some soon?!


    • Thanks so much for your kind comments Helena. Really pleased you loved the garden. I’m not sure about the mint, I’ll ask Emma, our propagator, when I see her on Tuesday and get back to you. Helen (gardener)


    • Hi Helena, our propagator, Emma, says that she will growing some of the Eau de Cologne mint very soon and it should be ready by the end of June. If you are making a special visit to buy some, you can always phone our plant shop to check that they have some before coming. Hope that helps. Helen


  2. We also visited for the first time this weekend. The garden was absolutely beautiful, so many colours and aspects. Took back some ideas for my garden. Wish you were just around the corner, would nip in for some plants! 🙂 Have you ever thought about selling them online?


  3. Pingback: A Garden Review of 2014 | SISSINGHURST GARDEN

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