The garden is a beautiful showcase of the Arts and Crafts style, built upon the remnants of a medieval manor. Back in the 1930s, the key elements of the garden were laid out by Harold Nicolson, a seasoned diplomat and author.
But it was Harold's wife, Vita Sackville-West, a talented poet and garden writer, who breathed life into Sissinghurst with her plant selections. She embraced the role of an 'artist-gardener', with her exceptional planting design skills illuminating the garden.
What really sets Sissinghurst Castle Garden apart is how it effectively channelled and passed on Gertrude Jekyll's design philosophy to its countless visitors. The heart of Sissinghurst, its White Garden, is celebrated as an outstanding and influential representation of Jekyll's innovative concept of colour themes in garden design.
"The gardener should follow the true artist, however modestly, in their love for things as they are, in delight in the natural form and beauty of flowers and trees, if we are to be free from barren geometry and if our gardens are ever to be pictures."
— William Robinson
Let's delve into the key design principles that make Sissinghurst exceptional, offering insights that can be applied to your own garden.
Vita Sackville-West approached colour with great thoughtfulness. In The White Garden, for instance, she restricted the palette to shades of white, green, grey, and silver, resulting in a fresh contrast to the more colourful areas of the garden. By limiting the colour range, she emphasised the importance of shapes, textures, and forms to create interest and drama.
When thinking about colour in your garden, three things to ask yourself are:
- What colours do you love?
- What colours go well together?
- Consider colours that go well with your house's brick and path materials.
By observing plant combinations, you can determine if the colours work well together. Stay true to your design concept, and you can't go wrong.
Paths, focal points, and plants serve as guides, directing the eye through a garden. Vertical lines created by trees and shrubs, along with horizontal lines formed by paths and hedges, help draw attention and provide a sense of direction. Sissinghurst offers excellent examples of using these lines to lead visitors through the garden.
Incorporating a variety of textures is crucial for creating an engaging garden. Combining elements with fine and coarse textures helps define different areas and visually breaks up space. Consider grouping plants together to create picturesque scenes.
Repeating colours, textures, and plants brings together your garden design. Consistent design elements create unity and guide the visitor's gaze across the garden. Sissinghurst does this beautifully, from the use of colour, texture or planting in the garden.
Whether the first buds are growing in spring or the last leaves are falling from the trees, the gardens are stunning whatever the season. Think about your space and what you can plant to give your garden interest for as many months as possible throughout the year.
Sissinghurst showcases exceptional demonstrations of colour, line, texture, and repetition in garden design. We might not all have the sprawling garden that Vita had when creating her garden, but her blueprint for a well-considered garden is something we can all learn from.