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