Eden on London’s Doorstep
“The Garden of England,” fertile Kent lives up to its affectionate nickname—in May its apple orchards in blossom are an unforgettable sight. Its most renowned garden and one of the most beloved (and in a nation besotted with gardens, the competition is tough) is Sissinghurst, created by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, her diplomat husband. Sackville-West— Bloomsbury writer, journalist, and famed eccentric—added inspired gardener to her list of talents when she created these spectacular gardens in the 1930s around the great Elizabethan manor where she and Nicolson lived. (At the same time, she became the contributing gardening columnist for the Observer.)
She designed a series of gardens within gardens, each one devoted to a particular theme revolving around a family of plants or a single color. Most famous, and imitated around the world to this day, is her White Garden, which reaches its zenith in June. June and July are glorious in the Rose Garden, whose old Bourbon, centifolia, and moss roses are world-renowned.
The Herb Garden is full of both the familiar and the exotic throughout the summer, while the Cottage Garden filled with thousands of bulbs is at its best in the fall. Despite day visitors who take advantage of Sissinghurst’s relative proximity to London, the gardens are still an oasis of serenity and beauty.