My first visit to Sissinghurst, the former home of Vita Sackville-West, was during an autumn (you can read about it here). I was stunned by the beauty of the gardens and the surrounding Kent countryside then, but I’d always wanted to return in the summer when the roses would be in bloom.
A few weeks ago in June, I finally made it back, when the gardens looked at their very best. Lupins, peonies and foxgloves jostled for attention, and the air was heavy with the scent of roses, which tumbled over the pinky-brown brick walls, curved picturesquely around lattice windows and grew with bushy abandon along footpaths. Sissinghurst is famed for its roses, as Vita loved them, especially old varieties, and if you’re a lover of flowers than the Sissinghurst Castle Gardens simply must not be missed!
I found a shady nook to sit and read a new book – Vita and Virginia – which describes the complicated relationship between the two women. Virginia was a frequent visitor to Sissinghurst, and photographs of her are scattered about Vita’s incredible writing room, situated in the Elizabethan tower house that looms above the garden.
Sadly, I could only peer through some iron gates to see into the room on my way up the tower, but it looks the most glorious space, with book-lined walls, a big desk and many of Vita’s personal knick-knacks on display.
If you’re feeling fit, then it’s well worth the climb to the top of the tower to take in the extraordinary views of the gardens laid out below and the beautiful rolling fields and woods stretching to the horizon.
Vita, recalling her emotions on first seeing Sissinghurst, wrote that the house and land ‘caught instantly at my heart and my imagination. I saw what might be made of it. It was Sleeping Beauty’s castle.’
There certainly is an air of enchantment that hovers over the place; it’s easy to imagine figures from the past sprawling across the neatly trimmed lawns with their rugs and deckchairs, or leaning out of a window to admire the view.
When Vita and her husband Harold first bought Sissinghurst in 1930, it was in ruins and uninhabitable. They transformed the buildings and grounds into a place of wonder and beauty, and I feel so grateful to have been able to sit in their cherished garden and breath in the rose-perfumed air on a warm June day in 2018.