Saturday, March 7, 2009


    Ask me what my favorite thing to do beside gardening and I will tell you "visiting gardens" local gardens on tour, gardens of friends, botanical gardens, world famous gardens and gardens in books and magazines. I even consider that I am visiting my own garden as first thing in the morning I do the tour to see what might have changed over night. When we travel I research to see if we are going to be passing nearby a garden. If so it is sure to be visited. Of all the gardens I have visited my favorites are those whose design incorporate several garden rooms.

Several years ago we were invited to a wedding in the south of England. This offered the opportunity to visit two of the great gardens of England; Great Dixter and Sissinghurst.

Great Dixter, located in East Sussex, was the home of the great English gardener and garden writer Christopher Lloyd, until his death in 2006. His father, Nathanial Lloyd, had purchased the house in 1910 but the house dated back to the 15th century. Nathanial also owned a similar house in Kent which he moved to Great Dixter where Edwin Lutyens combined the two to create the house that we see today. They both worked on the design of the garden but his son Christopher was responsible for making the gardens famous. In the style of the Arts and Crafts the gardens envelope the house.

It was a perfect June summer's day as we waited for the gates of Great Dixter to open.The pathway leading to the house is flanked on either side by a meadow.

Our visit included a tour of the house and we waited by this exuberant display of pots at the front door.

I was fascinated these hens and chicks growing on the low corner of the roof. In England and Scotland they are known as house leeks and were planted on the roofs of cottages because they were thought to ward of lightening strikes as well as demons.

In the distance the oast houses can be seen. They were built around 1890 for the purpose of drying the hops grown in the nearby fields. 

To the right of the porch all the structure is original to the house. It was built in the Tudor style.

Even the smallest English garden might have a sunken garden, designed primarily to protect the more delicate plants from harsh weather.
The following day we visited Sissinghurst in the nearby county of Kent.

Purchased by Vita Sackville -West and her husband Harold Nicholson in May 1930. The buildings were a ruined shell and the gardens a mass of tangled briars. The Nicholsons, as they were known, felt the need to move from their cottage in Sevenoaks Weald because the next door property was sold to someone who proceeded to farm chickens in an intensive manner. They fell in love with Sissinghurst at first sight. Vita came from one of the wealthiest families in England, the Sackvilles, whose grand estate Knole was rumoured to have a bedroom for every day of the year. When her father, Lord Sackville, died the estate was left to Lord Sackville's brother in order to carry on the family name. Vita felt cheated and never went there again.
Sissinghurst was never rebuilt to its former glory but the gardens, designed by Harold, and planted by Vita attest to their skill as gardeners. Eight years later the gardens went on public show for the first time, as part of the Nurse's Fund which today is known as National Gardens Scheme.
May of the following photographs were taken from the tower which Vita used as her writing study.

The white garden.

The golden border.

The herb garden. I waited ages fro someone to vacate the bench so that I could just sit and enjoy the sights and smells of the garden.

Below are several views of the grounds from the tower.

A truly magnificent garden of rooms.

In April I will be visiting two gardens in the Austin area as the Garden Bloggers of Austin meet to visit the gardens of Jill Nokes and Renee Studebaker. I can't wait.


  1. Great pics of gorgeous, unattainable English gardens. ;-)

    Are you going to Chicago Spring Fling, Jenny? There will be numerous garden tours.

  2. Jenny, what a treat on a blustery Sunday morning!!

    Walking through it with you, everything lush and green. Absolutely gorgeous. Give us notice next time you come over and we will line up our favourites for you in the Midlands.
    ("soryings".I find that I start using the verification words).

  3. Jenny, I love your pictures and prose, both. How you describe these gardens makes me want to book a tour right now, to see these gardens in person.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  4. "Oh, to be in England in the summertime." Thank you for your photos. Can't wait to see the Austin gardens. I do love Austin so much.~~Dee

  5. Great overhead shots. The opportunity to take those is so rare.

  6. You're living the dream. Thanks for the tours. I hope to someday see them in person.

  7. Beautiful gardens. They are 180 degrees in looks and content from my desert garden, and I love them! I too like to see 'garden rooms' in gardens. I've seen some great ideas on tours--some gardens are tiny, but they've managed to have a two or three 'rooms' in their limited spaces. Our garden tours begin soon also, and I'm really excited!

  8. Oh, wow, I had no idea that the house at Great Dixter is so old! It's really interesting to see perspectives on both these gardens that are different from the same old shots in all of the coffee table books.

  9. You look so at ease in those gardens, Jenny! They're so green...not like Texas at all.

    I've never been to anything like Sissinghurst or Great Dixter, but in the Western Suburbs of Chicago was able to visit Trudi Temple's garden a number of times. She worked on it section by section over the years, and had it divided into rooms, including a dance floor where she held parties. The garden was on the Victory Garden TV show and the book about her life and the garden is pretty wonderful. It's a decade since I was there - wonder if she still lets garden clubs in on tours? I really wish I could show you this place! She is a very hands-on gardener like you are.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  10. Thanks everyone for coming along to Great Dixter and Sissinghurst. Annie, I have never heard of Trudi Temple but it sounds as though her garden is really a wonder to visit. I must look out for the book. There are lots of lovely gardens out there and I am always grateful for people who are willing to put their gardens on tour. They inspire others to grow and plants. Judging by the 900 people who visited our garden when it was on the Wildflower Tour it is something people really love to do be they gardeners or not.

  11. wow...nice photos.
    Thank you for posting this.I would have waited just to sit and enjoy this magic place too

    Best regards

  12. That place looks adorable! Thanks to nature and garden furniture, huge exterior spaces such as this one can automatically achieve an appealing image.