A week away

Spending time in other gardens allows us to learn different skills and see different methods of horticulture. This past week we spent 5 days at Sissinghurst Castle Garden. The historic garden of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, Sissinghurst is now managed by the National Trust and is well known for its exceptional horticulture.

Rose arbor in the white garden

Rose arbor in the white garden

View from the tower

View from the tower

The tower which is open to visitors and provides a full around view of the garden

The tower which is open to visitors and provides a full around view of the garden

The rose garden

The rose garden

Cottage garden

Cottage garden

The garden team at Sissinghurst was incredibly welcoming. We began our visit by walking around the garden with Troy, the head gardener. He shared with us the reasoning behind the aspects of each space. Each area of the garden has a history and a future plan that will help to conserve its authenticity. Troy had true vision for the garden that balances historical accuracies with modern day limitations.

An example of a change being made to return the garden to an original feel was the cutback of the hornbeam hedge bordering a field. The grass area behind the hedge was put in to allow tractor access to the garden. We learned how to prune the hedge back so that the fence could be moved into the hedge. The hedge will then grow back to its original width, hiding the fence and allowing the grass to be returned to field, as it was historically.

Tim leaving his mark on Sissinghurst Garden

Tim leaving his mark on Sissinghurst Garden

The hedge pruning in progress. You can see where the hedge came out to the grass and how much was removed from the top. In typical hedge pruning, only one side would be cut back hard in a year. Since this is a special project, two sides were cut (top and side) and the hedge will just need special attention such as watering to ensure its survival

The hedge pruning in progress. You can see where the hedge came out to the grass and how much was removed from the top. In typical hedge pruning, only one side would be cut back hard in a year. Since this is a special project, two sides were cut (top and side) and the hedge will just need special attention such as watering to ensure its survival

Here Tim cuts the final (!!) branch of the hedge

Here Tim cuts the final (!!) branch of the hedge

With roses being such a feature of Sissinghurst, we were glad to be able to work with the collection. With the roses in peak bloom, lots of deadheading needed to take place to keep them looking their best and we were able to be a part of this process. We also learned about general care of the roses and about the different types of roses. Branches of climbing roses must be bent downward each year in order for peak bloom to occur. The tip of the stem must never be below the branching point, though, or that tip will die.

When deadheading the roses, correct pruning will result in a better display overall. Since some of these blossoms are still nice, the spent blooms should be removed to where they branch off

When deadheading the roses, correct pruning will result in a better display overall. Since some of these blossoms are still nice, the spent blooms should be removed to where they branch off

Since all of the blossoms are finished on this branch, it should be cut down to a leaf. An example is where I am holding the stem

Since all of the blossoms are finished on this branch, it should be cut down to a leaf. An example is where I am holding the stem

Roses everywhere. Beautiful

Roses everywhere. Beautiful

Throughout the week, we worked with Claire, a gardener who is the longest standing member of the Sissinghurst team with 18 years of service. She was a great mentor and advocate for lifelong learning. We assisted her with an ongoing project with the historic bearded irises in the garden. Over time, the irises had become crowded and weak. We dug sections of them up and divided them. Some of these were placed back in their beds, some of them were transferred to the nursery to be grown on in stock beds, and some were potted up to be finished out and sold at the plant center. In the end, all of these plants will be much stronger than they were.

Irises as they look when dug from the ground. The best time of year to move irises is following their blooming period, before the foliage declines

Irises as they look when dug from the ground. The best time of year to move irises is following their blooming period, before the foliage declines

When moving irises, remove the top portion of foliage and try to salvage as much of the rhizome and roots as possible. These should then be planted in well drained soil with the top of the rhizome remaining above the soil and exposed to the sunlight.

When moving irises, remove the top portion of foliage and try to salvage as much of the rhizome and roots as possible. These should then be planted in well drained soil with the top of the rhizome remaining above the soil and exposed to the sunlight.

A sampling of the irises before they were removed. Here, they were being crowded out and needed to be rescued

A sampling of the irises before they were removed. Here, they were being crowded out and needed to be rescued

Planting the irises in the nursery beds. Here they will be grown as stock plants to replace in the garden

Planting the irises in the nursery beds. Here they will be grown as stock plants to replace in the garden

The stock bed plantings of irises

The stock bed plantings of irises

The irises that were left over after both plantings were potted up for sale in the plant center. Sissinghurst has two garden members in the nursery and produces all the plants used in the garden and many plants to be sold to the public

The irises that were left over after both plantings were potted up for sale in the plant center. Sissinghurst has two garden members in the nursery and produces all the plants used in the garden and many plants to be sold to the public

Here are a couple other projects that we carried out at Sissinghurst…

One morning we replanted these urns. While the violas growing in them were healthy, they drew too much attention took away from the borders behind them

One morning we replanted these urns. While the violas growing in them were healthy, they drew too much attention took away from the borders behind them

The urns following replanting. With a more subtle selection of helichrysum, the beds beyond are returned to being the focal point

The urns following replanting. With a more subtle selection of helichrysum, the beds beyond are returned to being the focal point

We spent time pleaching the lime trees. Pleaching is the training of trees to hold a certain shape...basically hedges on stilts. These were planted in the seventies (replacing trees originally planted) and are well grown in. They would have been trained on wires until the branches on the trees were long enough to be grafted together. Once the correct shape is achieved, they are cut back yearly to this form

We spent time pleaching the lime trees. Pleaching is the training of trees to hold a certain shape…basically hedges on stilts. These were planted in the seventies (replacing trees originally planted) and are well grown in. They would have been trained on wires until the branches on the trees were long enough to be grafted together. Once the correct shape is achieved, they are cut back yearly to this form

Halfway through the pleaching

Halfway through the pleaching

Sissinighurst was our first placement and we learned far more than can be shared in a single post. True understanding comes from doing and we were quickly a part of the team. Its quite interesting how much you can miss a group of people after only knowing them for a week! We are happy to be back at Hidcote, but will always have fond memories of Sissinghurst.

 

 

2 comments

  1. Pingback: Sunday Clippings | Plinth et al.

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