Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Garden Life of the Day

After a morning tour of Vita Sackville-West's childhood home, Knole House, we traveled to Sissinghurst Castle home of Vita and husband Harold Nicolson where we spent a lovely afternoon wandering at leisure through the beautiful "rooms" of the Sissinghurst Garden .

A sixteenth century tower, and other buildings, with the most famous twentieth century garden in England. Sissinghurst garden is a prime example of the Arts and Crafts style. The garden was made on the site of a medieval manor and some structures survive. Harold Nicolson, a diplomat and author, laid down the main lines of the Sissinghurst design in the 1930s. Vita Sackville-West, a poet, a garden writer and Harold's wife, took responsibility for the planting at Sissinghurst garden. She worked as an 'artist-gardener'. Her planting design was brilliant. The historical importance of Sissinghurst Castle Garden comes from its role in transmitting Gertrude Jekyll's design philosophy to a host of visitors. The most famous and influential feature of Sissinghurst is the White Garden. It exemplified and popularised Jekyll's idea of using colour themes in planting design. -

Garden features shown here from above and from within: The white garden, the cottage garden and cottage, the orchard, the lime walk, the yew walk, the rose garden and yew rondel.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Best Hide and Seek House Ever

Knole House, the childhood home of Vita Sackville-West, is a country estate with an intriguing history of ownership that includes the Archbishop of Canterbury, King Henry VIII and the fascinating Vita herself.

Vita Sackville-West's work 'Knole and the Sackvilles' is one of the classics on English country houses, and her good friend, Virginia Woolf, wrote 'Orlando' largely based on the history of the house and family. - The Heritage Trail

The house was built by Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, between 1456 and 1486, on the site of an earlier house belonging to James Fiennes, the Lord Say and Sele who was executed after the victory of Jack Cade's rebels at the Battle of Solefields. On Bourchier's death, the house was bequeathed to the See of Canterbury — Sir Thomas More appeared in revels there at the court of John Morton — and in subsequent years it continued to be enlarged, with the addition of a new large courtyard, now known as Green Court, and a new entrance tower. In 1538 the house was taken from Archbishop Thomas Cranmer by King Henry VIII along with Otford Palace.

In 1566, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, it came into the possession of her cousin Thomas Sackville whose descendants the Earls and Dukes of Dorset and Barons Sackville have lived there since 1603 (the intervening years saw the house let to the Lennard family). Most notably, these include writer Vita Sackville-West (her Knole and the Sackvilles, published 1922, is regarded as a classic in the literature of English country houses); her friend and lover Virginia Woolf wrote the novel Orlando drawing on the history of the house and Sackville-West's ancestors. The then laws of primogeniture prevented Sackville-West herself from inheriting Knole upon the death of her father Lionel (1867–1930), the 3rd Lord Sackville, and the estate and title passed to her uncle Charles (1870–1962). - Wikipedia

After leaving the deer park one passes through the Green Court and then the Stone Court before entering the interior through a truly great great room. Contained within the many other rooms one finds a rare collection of Stuart furniture, tapestries, paintings, and intricately detailed woodwork throughout, especially on the Italianate main stairway and the fireplace in the Great Chamber. Sorry, no photos allowed.

Knole is an English country house in the town of Sevenoaks in west Kent, surrounded by a 1,000-acre (4.0 km2) deer park. One of England's largest houses, it is reputed to be a calendar house, having 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and 7 courtyards. It is remarkable in England for the degree to which its early 17th-century appearance is preserved, particularly in the case of the state rooms: the exteriors and interiors of many houses of this period, such as Clandon Park in Surrey, were dramatically altered later on. The surrounding deer park is also a remarkable survivor, having changed little over the past 400 years except for the loss of over 70% of its trees in the Great Storm of 1987. - Wikipedia (When asked, our guide admitted that the calendar house idea is perhaps stretched a bit. Only one of those numbers is exactly true. The 7 courtyards perhaps?)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bloomin' Lovely

At Bloom's of Bressingham known for their island bed garden style and the introduction of over 200 perennial cultivars.

Perhaps you have a few plants that got their start at Bloom's in your garden.

1920s – Dianthus ‘Oakington’
1930s – Phlox ‘Oakington Blue Eyes’
1950s – Achillea ‘Moonshine’, Heucherella ‘Bridget Bloom’, Heuchera Bressingham hybrids
1960s – Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, Geranium ‘Ballerina’, Kniphofia ‘Bressingham Comet’
1970s - Astilbe ‘Sprite’ (1994 PPA Perennial Plant of the Year), Phlox ‘Eva Cullum’
1980s – Leucanthemum ‘Snowcap’, Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’, Phlox ‘Franz Schubert’, Achillea ‘Anthea’
1990s – Lavandula ‘Blue Cushion’, Polemonium ‘Brise d’Anjou’
2000s – Geranium ‘Rozanne’ (2008 PPA Perennial Plant of the Year), Campanula ‘Blue Waterfall’

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Perrenial Portraits

The Beth Chatto Gardens date back only to 1960 when Beth and Andrew Chatto turned an overgrown rural property into the lush display gardens and thriving nursery found there today.

Walking the grounds one travels through the gravel garden, down to the water garden, through the woodland area and scree garden, and finally to the nursery full of wonderful perennial specimens.

Many of the same plants seemed to pop up at every garden we visited. For reasons of hardiness or personal taste those much seen, popular perennials are not so prevalent in gardens in our area. Perhaps it is time to branch out and give some of the zone appropriate ones a try. Sea holly, or Erygium, for example was in nearly every garden on our tour. It provides a lovely architectural structure for more delicate companion plants in a garden bed.

Bergenia in xeriscaping. Look at this very healthy crop here in the gravel garden. Who knew it would work so well in a dry situation? The gravel garden has never been artificially watered since its creation in 1991 except in the case of establishing new plants.

Persicarias are prevalent all through English gardens. The only one familiar to us is known as an invasive field weed, which likely accounts for its lack of popularity in gardens in the US. Cultivated varieties are truly lovely enmasse as found here pond-side.

Gunnera. Love it. Probably not going to happen here in zone 4, but we would grow it if we could. Like this guy. Impressive, eh?

Hmm.. some one did not get the memo about purple loosestrife. Do not try this at home. Really! If you are ever in doubt when trying to identify this naughty invasive look for the square stems which distinguish purple loosestrife from its benign look alikes such as fireweed. And to be fair...we did not look closely enough to see if this plant was indeed loosestrife, but thought we would sneak in a PSA about it because, as always we want you to be careful out there.

Clever nurserymen or women display plants-for-sale in combinations that would never occur to us, yet look truly stunning. We are very susceptible to the power of suggestion.

Ms. Chatto's personal succulent collection. Wonderful, but not for sale.

Beth Chatto. A remarkable woman with a very green thumb.