Some weeks have passed since head propagator, Emma wrote about the new projects underway in the nursery area. She displayed some photographs of the new cut flower garden in its infant stages when ground works were still ongoing and much work was still to be done.
For those of you who missed it, this project created a newly developed ‘behind the scenes’ area of the Nursery, designed by Head Gardener, Troy to provide borders for cut flowers, trial beds for new plants and growing space for Nursery stock plants.As well as serving a valuable functional purpose, it has also been created in a style that reflects the Sissinghurst ‘spirit of place’ and much thought has been given to making it an attractive space.
Now, all the landscaping work is all complete. The paths have been turfed and gravelled. The beds, borders and impressive ‘rustic’ dividing fence are all in place. You can see the transformation from the tower and also through an enticing view from the rose garden gate.
Roses have been planted and sweet peas and peonies are all in position. Other annuals have also been bedded out in neat rows by garden volunteers to help bulk up well needed cutting material.
All this aside, due to the nature of creating brand new planting areas and borders, there have been far fewer cut flowers to harvest and occasionally I have been forced to pillage blooms from inside the garden itself in order to have enough flowers to fill all the necessary vases in the library and tower.
Arrangements are replaced throughout the open season once or twice a week depending on the time of year and how much the relative temperature affects the longevity of the displays. The vases are checked daily and replaced or topped up with water as necessary.
My particular favourites to pick, as they last well and create a striking impact, are Iris species, sweet rocket, tulips and peonies. Foliage is useful too. Euphorbia polychroma in particular lasts well and adds a vivid, lime green splash of colour in spring.
Here are a few examples of arrangements I have made so far this year.
Until now, our area for cultivating cut flowers was limited. Most available spaces were reserved for growing biennials such as foxgloves or wall flowers. One of the benefits that I hope this new larger cut flower garden will fulfil is to allow more space to produce a wider range of flowers and provide a better choice of blooms over a longer growing season. This will be especially welcome during early spring and late summer.
Traditionally, the reason flower arrangements have come to be such important feature of the overall presentation of the interiors at Sissinghurst is to reflect Vita’s love of plants. She is known to have plucked individual flower specimens to study, sometimes taking them into the sanctuary of her tower room to scrutinise more closely. This is why the Library and significantly, Vita’s writing room are still decorated with small arrangements and naturalistic floral displays that appear to have been handpicked by Vita herself.
Often, evidence of Vita’s plant observations appeared in her own gardening books, or resulted in interesting new plant combinations which she experimented with around the garden. Philippa Nicolson’s ‘V. Sackville- West’s Garden book’ containing a collection of Vita’s writing, has many examples of this, like the following extract below;
“So I try effects, picking flowers elsewhere, rather in a way that one makes a flower arrangement in the house, sticking them into the ground and then standing back to observe the harmony.”
The cut flower area will continue to collect additional plant specimens, require maintenance and many more hours of work to aid its development and fulfil its function.
But in the meantime here’s a recent picture of the beautiful purple border, from which I had to steel some very useful wall flowers called ‘Ruby Gem’ earlier in the year to help fill out some vases. Indeed, it is not just a good biennial for spring borders; it also makes a jolly good cut flower too.