Sissinghurst at the start of the season


I live about ten minutes’ drive away from Sissinghurst Castle.  In the last 8 years, there has probably never been more than a three-week period when I have not visited.  You might think I would get bored, but no.  There is always lots to see; constant change and flux.  Since Troy Scott-Smith took over as Head Gardener, the pace of change has picked up, with the reinstating of wildflower meadows and ponds, opening out views to the surrounding countryside, enlarging the beds in the white garden, and exciting new plantings all over the place.

Whilst I walk in the woods year-round, this was my first visit since the garden re-opened for spring.  These were my highlights for today.


The first highlight couldn’t be captured in a photo: it was the song of several robins, each trilling from a different part of the garden.  There was also the loud buzz of bees around pulmonaria and hellebores.

Ornamental Quince

This is most welcome in someone else’s garden.  I removed my own Chaeonomeles x superba this winter, having been mauled by it one too many times.  This one seems to be tame, and under control.



The rose garden at Sissinghurst is known for its ingenious ways to support roses.  The hazel hoops were a joy to see today.  If anyone knows where I can source my own supply of ‘benders’ (!) please let me know, as I would like some of my own!  The second photo is one of the many marvelous figs, trained against the walls.  You can’t beat Sissinghurst for supportive undergarments.

The Secret Garden

The cutting garden and nursery beds were open today.  Usually we get a tantalising glimpse through a half-open gate, with a rope and a sign saying ‘Private’.  Not so today!  There were neat little rows of primulas, hyacinths, daffodils, and tulips, with the hyacinths perfuming the whole area.  The two images below are ‘Miss Saigon’ and ‘Blue Delft’.  As you can see, they were fresh from the shower.

There were the trial beds of delphiniums.  Look at the muck on those!  And the gravelly protection from slugs and snails…



I have been known to say you can’t beat a common primrose, Primula vulgaris, but the cultivated varieties were looking rather lovely today.  Here’s a selection:


The Long View

I do favour close-ups, but Sissinghurst reminds me that structure and perspective are important.  I love an arch; even better a double arch; but how about a quadruple arch?  The moat was looking impressive with imposing reflections of oaks.  And the magnolia is about to burst its buds.  I thought I would capture an upwards view of the tower too.  I didn’t capture its spanking new roof, because the tower was feeling self-conscious.  I am told the glaringly bright tiles will dull down over the next few months.


The pots and containers at Sissinghurst are always glorious.  I love that the display of a few cut stems under the entrance arch.  They are held in glass cylinders on a wooden stand, with brown labels attached.  Today it was the turn of Pulmonaria ‘Boughton Blue’, Pulsatilla rubra and Primula eliator.


Also looking good in pots were Euphorbia charrachias subsp. ‘Wulfenii’, some succulents in the herb garden, tulip foliage in the large copper in the Cottage Garden, and Narcissus ‘Rip van Winkle’.  It had wet hair because of the earlier rain.

New Planting

The nuttery is in the process of being re-planted along the furthest boundary.  From what I could spy, there was epimedium, Anemone ‘Wild Swan’, Primula vulgaris, Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae, crocuses and Actaea japonica.  This is about a tenth of the planting area!


Purchases (Lack of!  Hurrah!)

You see that picture below?  That’s right!  Nothing!  I was sorely tempted in the shop by some beautiful turquoise glazed earthenware pots and a wibbly wobbly misshapen recycled glass vase, but no!  Remember? My pledge not to buy new stuff!

What is your favourite garden to visit?  Is there a garden you can visit again and again and never get bored?



65 Comments Add yours

  1. annpappas says:

    How much is the entry fee? I’d love to do a garden tour of the UK. We do not have gardens as you do but we do have National Botanical gardens, our closest being Kirstenbosch. I visited Kew a long time ago when I spent 3 months in the UK in 1986. The following is a Facebook page for photos taken at Kirstenbosch by the public:

    1. Ali says:

      It’s currently £9, Anna. We are surrounded by other lovely gardens: Great Dixter, The Salutation, Nyman’s, Emmett’s, Chartwell… Always happy to show you around!

      1. annpappas says:

        Sadly the current exchange rate is not in our favour 😦

  2. I can’t tell you how jealous I am that you live that close to Sissinghurst and host of other such fabulous gardens! I think I would just pitch a tent at Sissinghurst and camp-out 🙂 Well, maybe switch it up every other week at Great Dixter…

    1. Ali says:

      That is not a bad life plan! And offer services as an itinerant gardener?

  3. Paddy Tobin says:

    How fortunate for you to be so close to Sissinghurst and being able to visit so regularly. We have visited a few times and thoroughly enjoyed it. Many thanks for your report!

    1. Ali says:

      Ah, thanks Paddy!

  4. bcparkison says:

    Can’t think of anything more fun than to be able to come over and do a garden and castle tour. Only in my dreams.

  5. Lovely post! Our go-to garden is Trelissick, something different every time we visit. The other, even nearer is Burncoose Nursery Gardens where Camellia and Magnolia blooms fill the garden with colour from January to now and longer. 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      Ooh, lovely! So many fabulous gardens. Stevie and I have a little tent-on-the-top-of-my-mini dream of a gap year in Europe, but maybe we need a U.K. garden tour too.

  6. Clare Pooley says:

    I have only visited Sissinghurst once and that was in a former life when I lived in SE London and went with ex-parents-in-law and my eldest daughter in a pram. (She is now 32!). We took it in turns to go up the tower. I loved the garden and yearn to re-visit. I will have to get my act together and arrange a stay in Kent and Sussex.
    I have Hyacinth ‘Delft Blue’ in flower in my garden. My favourite hyacinth with its greens and blues and mauves. And the scent! We also have Narcissus ‘Rip Van Winkle’ – so pretty! Lovely post, Ali – but then all your posts are lovely, I just don’t always have time to comment. 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      Ah, thanks Clare, am so glad you enjoy them. Hope you make it back to Siss, and stop by for a cup of tea! Those are lovely choices for your garden – as you say, the scent was heavenly.

  7. jadakafuki6 says:

    wow, so beautiful ……

  8. Eliza Waters says:

    No one has gardens like the UK, sadly. Best in the world (lucky you)!

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Eliza. I love gardens everywhere!

  9. janesmudgeegarden says:

    Oh I would so much love to visit Sissinghurst! I enjoyed looking at your photos (and hope you’ll post more), so that was some compensation for being so far away. I’m particularly interested in that fig as I’ve thought about an espalier with one of mine which is still in a pot and longing to get out.

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, they are really impressive. I think they like their roots contained and in poor soil (or at least need that to fruit) so next to a wall is perfect.

  10. Wiki says:

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  11. pommepal says:

    I am so envious of you being so close to Sissinghurst and able to visit often. Thank you for sharing all this beauty with us. No gardens, public or private anywhere near where I live. Botanic gardens are the closest but interesting as they are they do not have the beauty of your heritage gardens

    1. Ali says:

      You’re right; botanical gardens sometimes lack the romance, and feel more serious and academic. Though I think some might be changing. Kew now has an amazing double border I would like to re-visit. Christchurch, NZ also had amazing herbaceous borders, I remember.

      1. pommepal says:

        Yes they tend to be a bit more clinical, but that is the nature of them. There is one garden I visit in Brisbane that has that magic. Did you see this post?

      2. Ali says:

        Thank you! I will take a look.

  12. Heyjude says:

    Ah, you live in a lovely region full of gorgeous gardens Ali. Sissinghurst is one of my favourites. We are lucky to have so many beautiful gardens in this country.

    1. Ali says:

      We are. I wish the visiting season was longer!

      1. Heyjude says:

        I know what you mean, busy trying to decide which of the NGS gardens to visit this year. So many to choose from and so many on the same dates!

  13. Caro says:

    It must be marvellous to live close to so many wonderful gardens – it’s a 2 hour drive for me. I’ve not been to Sissinghurst (yet) as I’m put off by the thought of all the crowds I’ve read about. Dixter is a big favourite of mine, also Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage (not too far from you) and I managed to get to The World Garden, Great Comp and Chartwell last summer. All really worth visiting. PS. Chaeonomeles is a beast but so lovely in flower!

    1. Ali says:

      I love Dixter too. Every year I mean to visit Derek Jarman’s cottage! I think this has to be the year!

  14. You are blessed to live near Sissinghurst. The gardens are stunning. My favourite gardens are at Glenveagh Castle a 40 minute drive away. I was lucky to work there and go back often to visit. 🌼

    1. Ali says:

      I just googled it – it looks amazing! I am hearing so much about gardens in Ireland. I may need to visit!

      1. If you do please call in for tea and cake. 🌼

      2. Ali says:

        Would love to! 😀

  15. What a beautiful place and how lucky you are that it is only 10 minutes away. I love to visit the Birmingham Botanical Gardens (Alabama US), which is very close to my house. I’ve also been meaning to take a trip to (and post about) the gardens at the Ave Maria Grotto religious center, located in a town nearby. Your post has inspired me to make that a priority!

    1. Ali says:

      I’m so glad, Terri. We sometimes forget our local (ish) treasures. There is a National Trust place less than 10 miles away I have been meaning to visit for 8 years, and I think I need to make it a priority now.

  16. We haven’t been to Sissinghurst for a while and it is lovely to see the pictures of your visit. Your question on favourite gardens is a tough one – so many to choose from. We did visit some cracking new gardens (to us) in Herefordshire last year in late summer ( ) and we will try to get back there again this year to see them at a different time of year. Well worth a visit if you are over that way.

    1. Ali says:

      That is not an area I know, so thank you for this.

  17. Chloris says:

    Oh lucky you, I would live to visit regularly. Thanks for sharing. Gravel round the delphiniums, now that’s a good idea. And the flowers displayed in glass cylinders.

    1. Ali says:

      Yes. Delphiniums are the only things I have ever lost to slugs.

  18. This post is glorious! You are well ahead of us with blooming bulbs and hellebores – actually all the plants pictured! We are still brown here in Wisconsin. You could give us a virtual tour of this garden over and over; I’d still be entranced! I can see why you never get bored! My favorite garden which I would love to visit regular is Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. Gorgeous grounds and conservatories are a feast for the eyes – as well as some older architectural structures, historically belonging to the DuPont Family of our revolutionary days. (In other words, not as old as your castle, but lovely, none the less!) Since I do not live near these gardens anymore, I haven’t visited in years. Lovely post. Thank you!

    1. Ali says:

      I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Longwood Gardens sound wonderful. The architecture adds so much.

  19. Gorgeous garden! You are lucky to live so close! One of my favorite gardens is The Oregon Garden, about an hour from where I live. A friend told me about a nearby iris garden and then there’s Swan Island Dahlias. I will explore those this year!
    Lovely post Ali!

  20. Rupali says:

    Beautiful place and so it the journal. I am eagerly waiting for proper spring in my part of world.

  21. I enjoyed seeing the beautiful plants at the Castle Gardens – Thanks!

    1. Ali says:

      You are welcome, Lea!

  22. You’ve definitely made me want to re-visit. Thanks!

    1. Ali says:

      I am glad! It is worth a few visits!

  23. Jeannie says:

    You are very blessed to be close to such a wonderful garden. I am not near anything at all, which is a blessing in disguise. Mother Nature provides free entertainment on the backroads I travel. However, when I visit the city, I drive slow and gawk at other’s gardens. I have been known to knock on someone’s door and ask permission to walk in their garden. No one has ever refused. My sons would hide in the backseat of the car horrified at their mother’s behavior.

    Thank you for sharing today, although it would have been more fun if I could have embarrassed the kids.

    Jeannie @
    Lower middle Tennessee, USA.

    1. Ali says:

      Omg! That is such a brilliant idea!

  24. Fiona says:

    What beautiful photos, I’ll have to make a point of visiting Sissinghurst.

    1. Ali says:

      Hope you do, Fiona. X

  25. Amazing! I am so jealous, in a good way, that you live near a castle. I live near the beautiful University of Kentucky Aboretum that is filled with gorgeous, native plants and kept up meticulously. I can’t wait to start walking there again!

    1. Ali says:

      It’s ok, I’ll share my castle with you! Glad you have somewhere to yomp around.

  26. Anna says:

    Oh I’m green with envy of your proximity to Sissinghurst Ali. After years and years of reading Vita
    Sackville-West’s books and infinite magazine articles about the garden I finally got there in July 2016. It was a magical visit apart from the trauma of my camera playing up. Funnily enough although they are so relatively close I’ve visited Great Dixter three times and would visit ad infinitum if I could.

  27. Anna says:

    P.S. I forgot to say – please do tell us more about your visits as the year unfolds 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      Oh, I feel your pain with the camera not working! Yes, I wil definitely post more about Sissinghurst as the season unfolds. We’re going to Dixter on Saturday too, so no doubt I will post about that!

  28. I would definitely visit Bodnant Garden in North Wales over and over again without getting bored. (Troy Scott Smith was Head Gardener there too interestingly) It’s probably my favourite of those I’ve visited, with shifting focus of interest as you move through the year. I haven’t been able to visit Sissinghurst yet but it is definitely on my to do list! #MyGloriousGardens

  29. Lucky you living so close! Such a beautiful garden and so inspiring! Thank you for sharing your lovely photos!

    1. Ali says:

      It’s a pleasure. X

  30. Oh I’m jealous too! Sissinghurst is on my list of glorious gardens to visit this year together with Kew, never been. I know right? Such a garden fan and missed out in both Sissinghurst and Kew! I would also love to go to a Giverny to see Monets garden but then my list if gardens to visit is as long as my arm!
    Lovely post as ever Ali. I love that you are linking such fabulous posts to my little linky and I look forward to reading more next month.
    Thanks for linking to #MyGloriousGardens

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