A Garden Review of 2014

As this is the first blog of the new year and the first week back at work for most of us, I thought it would be fun to review the past year at Sissinghurst before setting forth on the next chapter, with all of us no doubt throwing ourselves into new, exciting garden projects. For those of you who follow our blog regularly some of this will be a familiar reminder of our blogging year but for those who need a catch-up, I’ve put a blog suggestion at the end of each month.

January 2014
The year started stormy and wet which was exactly how 2013 had finished. The wild weather wreaked havoc over most of the country causing unprecedented flooding in the Somerset Levels and many fallen trees across the country. Sissinghurst did not escape unscathed. Delos sustained two casualties with the Arbutus unedo and Morus nigra both being blown over. The mulberry tree was a sad loss but the strawberry tree was not mourned. As soon as it had been removed, we all agreed that we preferred the area without it. We continued with pruning wall shrubs and clearing the beds and borders of winter debris. https://sissinghurstcastle.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/january-blues/

February
All we remember about February is rain, rain and more rain. Many areas of the garden were flooded and the ground so completely saturated that we despaired of ever getting the garden ready for opening. Despite the rain, it was very mild and we already had suspicions that spring would be early.

The new roses arrived and were ‘heeled in’ in the nursery until the ground dried out. We tried to stay cheerful. https://sissinghurstcastle.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/finding-vitas-lost-roses/

The flooded beds 2014

The flooded beds in the White Garden 2014

March
Suddenly (and just in the nick of time) Spring arrived. We had two dry and warm weeks before opening to get everything ready. When we opened on March 15th we were ready for the public to enjoy Sissinghurst in Spring. Many bulbs were already flowering and the Lime Walk was starting to dazzle. Our new gardener, Josh joined the ranks and proved to be an interesting addition. Ex-RAF and an expert in the safe disposal of biological weapons, Josh’s new interests are now thankfully rather more bucolic. https://sissinghurstcastle.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/ready-and-waiting/

April
Spring continued to arrive ahead of time and by the end of April, the tree peonies were in flower and the tall bearded iris, Iris Melchior decided that it just couldn’t wait for May to arrive before sending forth its first flowers. All the new roses were planted which kept us busy for most of April. The Nuttery looked beautiful throughout April and May. https://sissinghurstcastle.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/the-history-of-the-nuttery/

May
Having been emptied and dug over the previous autumn and compost added in the spring, the Donkey beds were ready for planting. Troy created a planting scheme and we waited to see how everything would grow. Away from the garden, I went to Chelsea and took the opportunity to see what plants were ‘in’ as well as take far too many photos. https://sissinghurstcastle.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/planting-the-donkeys/

Troy's planting design and lists of plant species.

Troy’s planting design and lists of plant species.

June
The roses flowered and the garden looked beautiful. Jo started work on a project to assess the purple border and create a detailed record of plant performance throughout the year. https://sissinghurstcastle.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/purple-plan/

July
The main project for July was the renewal pruning of the azaleas on the bank of the Moat Walk. It was a big job, involving the removal of all the large stems of the azaleas, followed by top dressing the area with composted bark and copious watering. We wait to see what the azaleas will do this Spring but although drastic, this treatment will ultimately help the azaleas grow with increased vigour. https://sissinghurstcastle.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/the-azalea-chop/

We went on our annual day out, this year to visit the Glyndebourne gardens and then Graham Gough’s nursery Marchants Hardy Plants. Graham and Lucy very kindly gave us lunch before taking us on a tour of the nursery and garden. Full of interesting plants, it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in the area. http://www.marchantshardyplants.co.uk/

August
As July slipped effortlessly into August, our thoughts turned to the Orchard and the job of cutting the grass. Historically, we have used a sit-on mower but this year we decided to try a different more traditional method; scything. Five of us had a day’s tuition from Beth Tilston of the Scythe Association before setting forth to scythe the orchard. It was a long job but by the time we finished, I felt that I was beginning to master the art. Although time consuming, scything is a lovely occupation on a summer’s day and by the end of the day there is a feeling of tiredness and satisfaction. But what of the future? Will we be scything the whole orchard next summer? Watch this space… https://sissinghurstcastle.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/when-scything-came-to-sissinghurst/

The scything team

The scything team

September
September was a warm and lovely month. Jo wrote about her favourite flowers at this time of year; ginger lilies, and I wrote about mine; nerines. We also started another major project; the renewal of the White Garden. Stage 1 involved removing all the plants from the small beds, digging and adding compost to them. It was hard and hot work but worth it as the soil was very compacted in many of the beds. Next spring we will replant according to a planting plan that Troy has created. Our new student, Liz arrived. She’s taking part in the Historic and Botanic Gardens Bursary Scheme and will be studying at Sissinghurst for two years. https://sissinghurstcastle.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/ginger-lilies/

October
Autumn work continued with more hedge cutting, planting out the biennials, putting the dahlias and cannas into storage and planting up some of our larger pots with bulbs. https://sissinghurstcastle.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/performance-review-for-pots/

November
Rose pruning started in earnest. All the wall roses were pruned first before moving into the Rose Garden in December. https://sissinghurstcastle.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/my-favourite-things/

December
Our last project of the year began with creation of two meadow areas just outside the garden. The first, behind the shop and the other, a larger area outside the restaurant. After preparing the ground, Josh sowed the smaller area with a perennial meadow mix suitable for our soil here in Kent and based on wild flowers usually found in this area. The larger area was stripped of its grass and top soil and has been gently harrowed ready to be sown in March. The days grew darker but Christmas drew closer and celebration meals were held in The Bull in Benenden. Claire organised the Great British Mince Pie Bake- Off for the gardeners. The most hotly contested title of the year, Clemmie the Sissinghurst chef awarded the title of Star Baker to Wendy. She is still telling everyone about her triumph and is already practising for next year. https://sissinghurstcastle.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/my-top-five/

So that’s our year, here’s to many new garden adventures this year.

Happy New Year

Helen Champion

10 thoughts on “A Garden Review of 2014

  1. I exhausted just reading the year in review!! It’s amazing looking back and seeing all the highs & lows of garden life. A water logged patch one month a a blooming garden another! the joys of the garden. Well done & I will look forward to fabulous things in May!!!

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    • Yes, it’s amazing how much happens in a garden over a whole year and writing a blog is great way to remember all the different events. I really love the garden in May, everything is growing with such vigour and enthusiasm, so I think you’ve chosen the perfect time to visit. Look forward to seeing you then. Helen

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  2. For this North Carolina Sissinghurst addict, finding this blog has been a delight. This ‘end of the year’ post is outstanding. The year in the life of the garden outlined here, but think of the gardeners and how they too have changed and grown. Thank you for sharing your passion and your work.

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  3. I was lucky enough to spend a whole weekend staying at the Priest’s House overlooking the white garden in July last year (my treat to my mum for her 70th birthday). It was a magical experience being able to enjoy your beautiful gardens out of hours and share it with 3 generations of my family. I’ve just started working as an intern in the kitchen garden at Chartwell NT so will be following your blog and in particular any posts on the vegetable garden with avid interest.

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