Sunday, December 7, 2014

SISSINGHURST, Book review and giveaway

Are you dreaming about curling up on a chilly winter's day with a great gardening book? Then here is your chance. I am giving away a copy of this new book about the iconic British garden, Sissinghurst. Details at the end of this post.


When Vita Sackville-West first visited Sissinghurst it was love at first sight. She wasn't deterred by the crumbling buildings and walls, all that remained of a former Elizabethan Hunting palace. She turned to her then 12 year old son and said, 'I think we shall be happy in this place' and so she was. From May 1930 until 1962 she and her husband, Harold Nicolson, designed and planted the gardens at Sissinghurst castle.


The garden has an incredible history, and who better to tell the story than Sarah Raven who is married to the Nicolson's grandson. With access to all the writings, personal photographs of the Nicholsons and having lived at Sissingurst, Sarah is eminently equipped to tell the story of this garden. She shares the story with Vita herself whose writings are also included in the book.
I was surprised when the book arrived to find it a rather chunky 6"x 9" So much easier to handle than the usual books about gardens. Divided into 3 major parts and amply illustrated with family photos of  the garden through time, it is easy to see that Vita fulfilled her dream. A dream which is now in the care of the National Trust.
 Sarah Raven called upon the many writings of Vita, who wrote gardening columns in the Observer newspaper and Country Life magazine, her own garden journals and letters to Harold about the garden. The book is divided into 3 major sections.

Part 1 is about The People and the Place.
Part 2 Vita's Garden Themes. Descriptions of the roses and other plantings in the garden are to be found here as well as planting on walls, pruning, shrubs and seasonal advice.
Part 3 The Smaller Canvas. The seasons of painterly plants, cutting gardens and containers for indoors and out.
She has advice that I might well take myself. 'I advise every gardener to go around his garden now-and make notes of what he thinks he ought to remove and of what he wants to plant later on.'
How I loved to read about her style of gardening, not unlike my own. ' She also liked the abundance self sowing gave you, the miraculous appearance suddenly of of many hundreds of Californian poppies in the cracks of the Lime Walk paths which she banned the gardeners from weeding out' 'It was to be hospitable to wildlings'

My photo of the gardens from the tower, 2004
I requested the book to review partly because I have visited Sissinghurst on two occasions at which time I knew only a little of the history or of the making of the garden. I now feel equipped for a return visit. Whether on not you have the chance to visit this garden you will enjoy reading the story of how it came to be as well as the practical gardening information included in the book.

Vita Sackville-West was born in 1892 at Knole in Kent. She was an award winning poet, garden writer and published 12 novels. She died at Sissinghurst in 1962
Sarah Raven has written many books on gardening, cooking, flower arranging as well as gardening programs on TV. She runs her own cookery school at her nearby farm.

The book is published in the USA by St Martin's Press, New York.

If you would like the chance to win this book then please leave a comment on this posting. I will choose the winner by random number  and announce the winner on the evening of December 14th. Please leave information on where you can be reached in the comment. Offer open to US residents only.
UPDATE.  THE WINNER OF THE RANDOM BOOK DRAWING IS TEXAS DEB. CONGRATULATIONS.

19 comments:

  1. I love the "hospitable to wildings" statement. My carefully planned front bed of ornamental grasses became host to wildings of hollyhocks, nicotiana sylvestris, and malva. I didn't have the heart to pull them. Lucky you having been to Sissinghurst!

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  2. This place has been on my wish list for a very long time. Maybe next visit... Anyway, I'd love to read it. I also had no idea that Sarah Raven was married to their grandson!

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  3. One day I will get there - it's on my list of Must Visit places. The book sounds wonderful. If I'm lucky enough to win, you can message me on Facebook.

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  4. I'd love to win, and visit. Thank you for the chance!

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  5. My first introduction to English gardens and gardening was a beautiful coffee table book about Sissinghurst my grandfather - a German translator of English and great anglophile - bought me when I was nine or ten, probably in hopes of stoking an interest in the English language and things British. I endlessly perused that book until it was almost in tatters. I have yet to actually manage to visit Sissinghurst, but due to all that childhood reading I often find myself noting its pervasive influence in gardens elsewhere.

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  6. Wow, I'd love to visit a garden like that. So pretty and so much history!

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  7. Visiting this garden is on my bucket list. I love her style.

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  8. Wouldn't it be grand to visit this garden. Next best thing would be to read the book. Thanks for the review, which is always helpful with selecting books. I enjoy your blog ever so much.

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  9. Gardens like Sissinghurst, which I've only seen in photos, are simultaneously intimidating and inspirational. However, it's always helpful to have an opportunity to learn from the obstacles experienced gardeners have encountered and overcome with such flair.

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  10. I've just finished reading Marty Wingate's novel The Red Book of Primrose House where the protagonist, who is from Dallas, moves to England and restores historic gardens. Even though it's fiction, there is a lot of real history that I found interesting as it relates to ancient gardens there. I'd love to read a book about an actual garden with history like Sissinghurst. Thanks for the book review!
    melodym1222@yahoo.com

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  11. "Wildlings" - what a great term to apply to self seeded plants. I am a total sucker for volunteer seedlings and have deep respect for what I consider reminders of the persistence of life. During the course of a growing season, I've let many a "weed" get close to maturity out of respect for its tenacity, before taking it over to compost.

    You are kind to share your own experiences in the spaces of Sissinghurst which seem so opposite of anything we could or even would attempt in our Central Texas climate. And then I look again at your photos and see how your inspiration comes a long way but in good form, translating the love for plants and plantings that knows few boundaries.

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  12. I had no idea she was also a novelist, too! Thank you for sharing this review and a chance to win a copy. I have a terrible weakness for gardening books, nearly as bad as the habit of gardening itself. bliss0248@gmail.com.

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  13. look at those hedges! I don't know why it always surprises me so to see garden hedges like that. I was just as astounded by the hedges at Versailles.

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  14. What an amazing place. I hope to visit it one day...

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  15. Beautiful garden and book! I'd like to be included in the drawing. Thanks! (Jamie P., cyberjmep@gmail.com).

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  16. Beautiful garden and book! I'd like to be included in the drawing. Thanks! (Jamie P., cyberjmep@gmail.com.)

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  17. How do they get the hedges so perfectly absolutely straight?!? If only I could do that!

    Gem of a place, would love to see it in person one day, in the meantime the book would be lovely.

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  18. Oh, I just love that word 'wildlings'. Those are usually the best part of a garden! Sissinghurst sounds like a beautiful garden with so much history!

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  19. I already have 2 books about Sissinghurst but I don't have this one. I would love to have it!

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