ISSUE 35  |  The Last Gasp of Summer

Vita’s Sunset Garden

August 30, 2012 12:30 PM

BY Kendra Wilson

The Cottage Garden at Sissinghurst contains no white. It faces west and is full of opulent color and rich scent: a place to sit at the end of the day, while watching the sun go down.

Sissinghurst Castle is not really a castle but the ruins of one. The tower, where Vita Sackville-West had a study, is castle-like, but the rest of the buildings are low and long, with a few cottages and barns dotted around. Vita and her husband Harold Nicolson used one building for eating, another for keeping the children and nanny—at a safe distance—and the South Cottage. This small Elizabethan dwelling housed a cut flower room on the ground floor (sink, stone floor), a tiny sitting room, and bedrooms for the grownups above. The "sunset garden" begins by the front door of South Cottage.

Photographs by Kendra Wilson for Gardenista.

Above: Roses 'round the door… South Cottage with Harold's garden chair. Vita and Harold liked to keep pots around the area where they sat, for scent and moveable color. Lemon verbena was a particular favorite, to be crushed between the fingers while reading.

Above: All the garden rooms were created for living in, outdoors; this was a place to sit before dusk and the white garden was somewhere to eat at night, with the flowers still visible, and still sending out scent. Lilium superbum is $14 per bulb, from Keeping It Green. See also J. Parker Dutch Bulbs, in the UK.

Above: Achillea filipendulina 'Gold Plate' is $8.99 per plant from High Country Gardens; giant cone-shaped Irish yews in the background.

Above: Palest orange daylilies. For a really good selection in the UK visit The Nursery Further Afield.

Above: Rough stone and brick path flanked by hemerocallis and hosta.

Above: Hemerocallis 'Stafford' is £7.99 apiece from Crocus.

Above: Imperata Cylindrica Rubra is £8.99 apiece from Crocus.

Above: Helenium Moerheim Beauty is $5.99 per plant from Roots & Rhizomes.

Above: Crocosmia masoniorum Rowallane Yellow. Available from Holden Clough Nursery, £6.50

Above: Kniphofia Royal Standard is £7.99 per plant from Crocus.

Above: Vita and Harold did a lot of traveling, with Harold's diplomatic work as an excuse. They collected many things including a donkey, Abdul, shipped over from Morocco. More prosaically, perhaps, they also collected colorful glass. In the deep window sills of South Cottage, the warm, translucent hues work perfectly with the idea of a sunset garden.

Above: The tower in the background of the Cottage Garden; helianthus in the foreground among daylilies.