Take Your Pick

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.

The rose trellis being built

The rose trellis being built

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.

The Purple Border through the Library door.

The Purple Border through the Library door.

Jo Jones

12 thoughts on “Take Your Pick

  1. Congratulations! I visited Sissinghurst last week on my biennial ‘garden’ trip to the UK (& week at Great Dixter) and saw your completed project! Also noted the lovely displays of cut flowers throughout. As always the garden was looking great & will erupt in summer with fragrance & blooms. I try to alternate my visits between spring & summer as each has so much to offer, especially for an Aussie gardener who can’t grow SO many of those English garden delights. Thank you for your informative posts & photos regarding the work to maintain this incredible garden.


    • Hi George, really sorry I didn’t meet you when you visited Sissinghurst. I was looking forward to saying hello. Glad you enjoyed the garden and hopefully we will meet in 2 years time when you visit again! Helen


  2. Thanks for that. I have a brand new cutting garden this year after taking out the front lawn and everything is VERY SHORT; a bit of a let-down. Guess it is because it is so young. I need to finish scraping out the chicken coop and putting all the good-stuff on the new garden!


    • Hi Grace, don’t lose heart! New cutting gardens do need time to get established especially if you are growing perennials such as peonies. As you say plenty of well-rotted organic matter is the answer and water during dry periods. Helen


  3. M. Jones, Coming from France, we visited Sissinghurst Garden the last week-end. It was so lovelly ! we saw a sweet-pea special rose and like purple. Can you find his name ? May be Black night ? I was very surprised by the old french roses in the garden. and the rose Banks ! it’s impossible in north of France ! I hope to come back in an oher year. Thank you for your blog.


    • Hello Francoise, I think the sweet pea you saw was either ‘Beaujolais’ or ‘Midnight’ as they are both dark purple. Both of them are very nice. Glad you liked the French roses, Vita was a big fan of old roses and created a lovely collection at Sissinghurst. Helen


  4. Hi;
    I visited the garden a couple of weeks ago and loved the combination of dark pink and burgundy tulips with a dark red leaved plant (not in flower) that looked like honestly. What is it? I want to copy the combination in my own garden next spring. ;


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