Spring at Sissinghurst

I thought I would pay a visit to Sissinghurst to appreciate the early spring plantings. Would you like to come along?

hazel, coming into leaf

There are always a few pots displayed at the entrance. Today it was the turn of these hoop petticoat daffodils.

When I am photographing plants, I often favour my macro lens in order to capture the details of flowers. Today I made a conscious decision to use a different lens (14-42mm) in order to capture the bigger picture. I enjoyed playing around with angles so that I could capture detail in the foreground, but give a sense of space and perspective in the background.

This is flowering quince in the top courtyard. I love the warm apricot colouring with the weathered Tudor bricks as a backdrop.

Chaenomeles (flowering quince)

I always admire the planting in the stone troughs. This is Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’, which featured in my post ‘A Certain Flair’.

Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’

These daffodils smelled awful! I know that paperwhite daffodils can have an unpleasant smell to some people. I wonder if this variety also affects people differently?

I always enjoy the structure of Sissinghurst. The brickwork, the wooden windows and doors, the steps covered with moss. They are the perfect staging for pots and planting.

This gate, which leads into the rose garden, is like an entrance to paradise. I know that I am going to enjoy whatever is on the other side.

Today it was the curves of the fig trained up the wall…

A carpet of Ipheon uniflorum

Ipheion uniflorum

And Scilla siberica and Euphorbia myrsinites edging the path. This is a perfect combination for shallow soil which will dry out in summer. Both plants are drought-tolerant.

Scilla siberica and Euphorbia myrsinites

The gardeners leave the gate open into the nursery beds. There is a magic carpet of primulas. I do love a rainbow.

The cherry blossom has took a battering last week. Fortunately this one hung on through the high winds.

This is the way to grow pulmonaria: a thick, shag-pile carpet. There are no gaps in between, and there is just an unbroken pattern of flower.

The Lime Walk is glorious throughout spring. The first things to capture my attention were the pots of flowering quince. I love the startling colour against the stark, bare hedge behind.

And then the grouped plantings of spring bulbs. Here are Leucojum (snowflakes).

And here are scilla (possibly Scilla hyacinthoides – thanks Chloris!)

You really have to crouch down to fully appreciate the smaller spring flowers. Here are scilla again, with Anemone blanda (windflower).

Occasionally, a single speciment will catch your eye. I love the colour of this muscari (grape hyacinth). The structure of the sealed petals always fascinates me. These will burst open at the ends to form little flowerlets the shape of tiny bloomers.

At the end of the spring walk is a view into the nuttery. The arching branches of hazel remind me of the cloisters of a cathedral.

The nuttery had to wait. I took this turn into the cottage garden. Admiring the casual smattering of primroses by the gate.

The budding leaves of peonies always fascinates me. I think tree peonies are my very favourite, because they are at head height. You can see the flower bud cuddled up within a duvet of leaves. It is a perfect nest.

The cottage garden was filled with fragrance today. It was bouncing off the sun-warmed walls of the South Cottage.

The wallflowers will add to the bouquet over the next week or so.

I am happy to report that these daffodils smelt lovely.

This is a lovely planting of Erythronium (dog’s tooth violet) and Eranthus hyemalis (winter aconite). The shadows of the leaves look like little hands!

Anemone blanda (windflower) reappeared here. They are looking out onto the orchard, which is full of daffodils.

The path to the orchard was closed today, so I doubled back to the nuttery. The hellebores are still looking lovely.

Many of the flowers have now been pollinated. The anthers have fallen away, leaving five swollen lobes of the ovary (you can see more about the structure of a hellebore in this post).

I took this picture in the herb garden for those who enjoy succulents. I haven’t been bitten by this particular bug yet, but I’m sure my time will come. I find with gardening that you can be bumbling along, enjoying your thing, not particularly noticing a whole group of plants and then bam! you notice them in someone else’s garden and you are obsessed by them.

I love this oak tree. I love all oak trees, but I especially this one because it throws its reflection into the moat and reminds us that gardens are all very nice, but nature is awe-inspiring. This line of oaks has the same effect on me as entering a cathedral and looking up to the heavens.

This is the view up to the tower.

Magnolias, like all spring blossom, require a blue sky to show their splendour.

Magnolia blossom is so fleeting! But I did enjoy looking at the structure of the flower. Unlike most of our garden flowers, magnolias evolved before flying insects. They were originally pollinated by beetles. Their carpels (the female parts of the flower which comprises the stigma, style and ovaries) are extremely tough, to protect them from damage by beetles. You can see the carpel (after the petals have dropped) in the photo below. The carpel is about the size of my little finger, and is indeed tough!

I would usually end my little walk by going through the White Garden and into the Delos, but you don’t want to see what’s going on there at the moment! Let’s just say, you can see a lot of Wealden clay and a JCB. Instead, I made my way back up to the top courtyard to admire the hyacinths in pots.

And the hyacinths in the purple border.

I hope to report on the progress of the Delos towards the end of the year. The Delos is being redesigned by Dan Pearson, and the vision is that it will reflect Vita and Harold’s dream of a Mediterranean Garden.

I hope that you enjoyed this little sunny skip around Sissinghurst. I will be back in my own garden for the next post. I am hoping to have a little festival of tulips starting very soon. You will be the first to know!

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70 Comments Add yours

  1. I enjoyed strolling with you around the springing gardens of Sissinghurst and viewing the flowers up close. Thank you for inviting me!

    1. Marieke says:

      Thank you very much. I always love reading your experiences either at your home or at Sussinghurst. ๐Ÿ’—

      1. Thank you Marieke; that is lovely to hear.

  2. Chloris says:

    What a treat to enjoy a spring visit to Sissinghurst. I know what you mean about the smell of Narcissus ‘Hawera’, it is a bit musky. I remember the nuttery used to be carpeted with primroses. Camassias don’t bloom yet, the blue flowers are probably Scilla hyacinthioides. I am looking forward to seeing Delos when it is finished. Your photos are as usual wonderful. Great post.

    1. Ooh, thanks, Chloris, I will update!

    2. The primroses in the nuttery became infected with a virus, sadly, but they may eventually be reintroduced.

      1. Chloris says:

        I have read that they get primrose virus if grown too long in one place. Funny that the wild ones in the ditches don’t ever suffer from this.

      2. Yes, isn’t it? I guess cultivated varieties are not necessarily the most resilient. Carol Klein always advocates sticking with species, doesn’t she?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Lovely walk and again I’m still in my nightie. ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ‘

    1. The best way to walk around a garden!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the walk and again ..I’m still in my nightie. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ˜€๐ŸŒพ

    1. I harbour a secret ambition to wander around Sissinghurst in pyjamas and wellies!

  5. Ms. Liz says:

    Lovely to see your colourful and detailed photos, thanks!

  6. Thank you for taking us with you. Such spectacular gardens, i love the layout particularly. I really was struck by the wind flower and its whimsy appeal.๐Ÿ’—

    1. It is a whimsical flower! That is the perfect description!

  7. Kath says:

    Ali so enjoyed reading your blog .Would love to visit but very far from Scotland.

    1. I am delighted you enjoyed it from afar!

  8. Lawson says:

    Thanks for posting. Lovely to see so much in bloom at this time of the year.

    1. Yes, there are lots of little gems, arenโ€™t there?

  9. Thank you for the lovely walk around Sissinghurst – and the beautiful photos. If I recall correctly, Troy, the Head Gardener at Bodnant moved down there to take up the post of Head Gardener.

    1. He did, and he has done a wonderful job over the last few years. He is moving on in the summer…

    2. Cathy says:

      How lovely to join you and see these early spring flowers against the bare bones and all the lovely brickwork. I am especially thrilled to see that thick carpet of pulmonaria – how lovely is that?!

      1. It is gorgeous, isn’t it? Sissinghurst have the space for it!

      2. Cathy says:

        Indeed they have – it is a few years since I have been and a return visit would be good. We must have crammed at least a dozen properties and gardens into a long w/e when we went last time!

  10. susurrus says:

    I loved coming along!

  11. This is beautiful!!!

  12. Gorgeous photos, Ali! I love the succulent garden, the hazel arch, the single grape hyacinth, and magnolia are always a favorite. Thanks!

    1. I am glad you enjoyed them – there is so much to appreciate in this garden.

      1. There definitely seems to be! I would be a frequent visitor as well!

  13. bcparkison says:

    Old brick,stone troughs and leaded glass windows….What could be better?Add primrose and all the Spring flowers and you have a wonderful visit. I’m not into succulents myself but the crafting world sure is. Almost every company that makes stamps has a bucket of succulent stamps.
    some day I would love to visit in real.

    1. Itโ€™s funny how there are plant and design trends, isnโ€™t it? It is definitely a garden to visit if you are ever in Kent!

  14. Beautiful pics…beautiful subjects! I especially love the purple flowers. If I had it my way, my house would be surrounded by purples… ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I have a penchant for purple too! Such a versatile colour!

  15. Once again….inspiring! Thanks for taking me along with you! Are you a self-taught photographer? I’ve been thinking about how I might explore the art of photography…a class or just some old fashioned experimentation? Looking forward to the tulips!!!! I love pink tulips!

    1. Yes, very self-taught! I have started reading the manual a couple of times, and got a photography book for Christmas, and managed a paragraph each time! There is endless fun in playing, and it really encourages me to look at everything closer, from different angles, in different conditions… highly recommend it!!

      1. Well, you are an inspiration!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Thankyou Ali, I really enjoyed my walk around this beautiful garden…

    1. Thank you for coming along!

  17. Heyjude says:

    I don’t think I have visited Sissinghurst this early in the year, so thank you for taking me along with you. I would love to go for real, but it is a very long way away now. Anyway, you take the sort of photos I like, so I don’t think I have missed anything at all! Those Ipheion look fab. My little pot has been flowering for weeks so I am going to buy more for next year, maybe the blue ones.

    1. They are a lovely spring bulb arenโ€™t they? We are going to be holidaying in Cornwall for a week, Jude! Which gardens are top of your list? The family are restricting me to one or two!!

      1. Heyjude says:

        Cornish gardens are best in spring. When are you visiting the county? St Michael’s Mount is very different with lots of South African plants and Agaves etc. Tremenheere is also different and planted with southern hemisphere species, but they are both a long way west. The Lost Gardens of Heligan is always wonderful and your girls might enjoy the Eden Project though that it expensive to visit.

      2. We’ll be there in August. Helligan is top of my list – I last visited in 2001, before I was a gardener! I think my step-daughter will enjoy Eden as she likes foliage!!

      3. Heyjude says:

        There is an amazing treetop walk in the Eden Project too. Be prepared for crowds though, August is bursting down here.

      4. Heyjude says:

        It is, if you like heights. There is a zip wire next to the grounds too.

  18. Oh I enjoyed that. I havenโ€™t been to sissinghurst for years. Now that I know Dan P is doing a new part I shall but in my diary to go back.

    1. You will notice lots of changes if you haven’t been for a while. Troy Scott Smith (Head Gardener until July) has made lots of changes too. It has been interesting to watch it unfold.

      1. Yes I have heard really good things about the work Scott smith has done. I understand the garden has been transformed and he has put a breath of life back into the planting.

  19. Ann Mackay says:

    Your lovely photographs have made this ‘visit’ to Sissinghurst a real treat – thank you for bringing me with you! Now I must plan a visit in real life – haven’t been there for years.

    1. If you do, a paired visit with Dixter is worth it. You can compare Sissinghurst’s National Trustiness with Dixter’s rebellion!

      1. Ann Mackay says:

        Back in about 2004 I did just that…was studying HND photography the and having awonderful time! ๐Ÿ™‚ Must do it again!

      2. That sounds like the best kind of day!

      3. Ann Mackay says:

        Garden visits are the best kind of days – as well as good days in our own gardens, of course! ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Cathy says:

    You are so lucky to live near this garden Ali. Thanks for sharing your recent visit. Aren’t those Pulmonaria amazing?! And I had just ONE on my list… I need to rethink! LOL!

    1. It is lovely to see lots of pulmonaria together, isn’t it? They self-seed readily for me, but I don’t have the space for such a gorgeous display of them. That’s why I love visiting large gardens where they can go for different effects.

  21. Ali, I love the variety of pictures in your posts. I love how you captured buildings, walls, different flowers all over the place and bare branches. Also, I really enjoyed your camera playfulness. I love the pictures with the sharp foreground and muted background.

    1. I have really enjoyed playing with that in my photos, Shelly. I am learning by trial and error, and it is lots of fun!

  22. Oh I would love to visit Sissinghurst in the spring Ali but seeing it through your eyes is the next best thing ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for taking us along too. I’ve read very recently that the head gardener there has left which seems most sad.

    1. I think he is staying until July, but yes, it is sad, because I think he has a clear vision, and his time seems somewhat curtailed before he has completed some of the projects. I assume the overall vision will be continued, but the new head gardener will no doubt want to edit and make their mark too. I guess it shows that a garden never stays the same: it is constantly evolving.

  23. Beautiful flowers and stunning photos. You really have a knack of capturing the essence. Thanks for taking us on the tour with you ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thank you Martin; I think my photos have definitely improved when I compare them to last year!

  24. I would die to visit such a lovely historic garden. How blessed you are to have so many gardens in your country, and all within relatively easy distance. Since I will never get there, I thank you immensely for giving me a tour. Your photos are beautiful!

  25. Jewels says:

    Sooo lovely, thanks for sharing, Ali! โค

    1. Itโ€™s a pleasure! โค๏ธ

  26. Brian Skeys says:

    It is a long time since we visited, thank you for the tour.

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