October 27, 2014

Book Review: Sissinghurst. Vita Sackville-West and the Creation of a Garden

If enchantment by English gardens was ever part of your inspiration this book is definitely for you.  Vita Sackville-West, the British poet, together with her husband Harold, created the beauty of iconic British garden – Sissinghurst. Harold created the structure, Vita filled it with plantings. It doesn’t happen often that the garden outlives its creators, but today still Sissinghurst is one of the most visited and inspirational gardens in the world.

Sissinghurst is the garden that inspires many gardeners and garden designers. The book is packed with lots of information about how Sissinghurst was created, what challenges were faced and how they managed to turn weaknesses into strengths. You will find the detailed  descriptions how in the design they successfully camouflaged the exccentricities of the land, that today you can’t spot it. 

This is the book for everyone who was ever enchanted by the English gardens. 

“Sissingurst. Vita Sackville-West and the Creation of a Garden” is a selection of original articles published by Vita in gardening column in the Observer From 1946 to 1957 made by Sarah Raven, the co-author of the book, famous British gardener who is married to Vita's grandson Adam Nicolson. 

The book consists of 3 Parts:
- The People and the Place
- Vita’s Garden Themes
- The Smaller Canvas

What's important, this book consists of writings, not photos only. There are not too many colored photos of the garden, which is a plus, because you want to understand what is behind the photos, not just admire eye-candy. The author included enough amount of current photos to see its beauty, layouts and planting composition. There is many black and white historical photos of the palace and the gardens to see the work in progress.  

You could ask yourself if there is anything for you in the writings of a lady from over 50 years ago? I firmly confirm that you will find lots of tips and practical advice. Just to give you a sample of the writing: “Too severe formality is almost as repellant as lack of any” or “Eremurus which looks like a cathedral spire flushed warm in the sunset”.

You may also learn about Vita’s preferences not only about plants, but also about the renovation of Sissinghurst and her own possessions: “Vita allowed her possessions to age, skills to wear, wood to darken, terracotta to chip and fail. (…) Her possessions must grow old with her. She must be surrounded by evidence of time (…)”. 

What I find especially useful is the index of plants, shrubs and trees at the end of the book, very helpful in daily work, if I would like to get back and make sure about certain plants.  

My rating: 10 out of 10 stars

This book is one of the best gardening books ever – and for good reason. It’s a must read for those starting a garden or dreaming about English garden.

Get your copy of Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville-West and the Creation of a Garden

Have you read any great gardening books? Give your recommendations with your reasons why in comments below. Looking forward to discovering some great gardening books.

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2014
Pages: 382
Available here: Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville-West and the Creation of a Garden
ISBN: 978-1-250-06005-1

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