Home We Love Vita Sackville-West’s Timeless Sissinghurst Garden

Vita Sackville-West’s Timeless Sissinghurst Garden

When the outdoors erupts in a riot of green leaves, fluffy moss, and rainbow-hued flowers, there are few pastimes we get a bigger kick out of than ogling the eye candy of the world’s most spectacular gardens. Today we’re taking our inspiration from the famed gardens at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, England, the former haunt of acclaimed poet, journalist, garden designer, and all-around woman of many talents Vita Sackville-West.

Sissginhurst Garden 6 NPTL Jonathan Buckley

The gardens of Sissinghurst Castle (photo © NPTL/Jonathan Buckley)


Sissinghurst Castle Garden

The gardens of Sissinghurst Castle (photo © NPTL/Jonathan Buckley)


Sissinghurst was originally built, by a gentleman farmer and his family, as a Medieval manor house with a three-armed moat. While only two of the moats—and none of the house—remain, the property was returned to glory in the 1500s by politician Sir John Baker. Sir John’s son, Richard Baker, built the incredible tower and front range of the house—which still exist today—plus a Tudor prodigy house on the grounds. The estate stayed in the Baker family for several generations, before falling into derelict conditions in the mid-1700s.


Left in the trust of the Admiralty’s Sick and Hurt Board (we’re not sure we want to know what that is, exactly), Sissinghurst Castle was converted to a prison camp during the Seven Years’ War in the mid-eighteenth century. As many as 3,000 French sailors were held captive here. It was, by all accounts, a harrowing and ugly time, in stark contrast to the beauty of the place. By the end of the war in 1763, the sailors had fought back, burning and vandalizing the castle, and looting the architectural details from the home’s doorways, windows, and fireplaces. In the late eighteenth century, a suspicious fire razed the house so completely that it became easy for anyone to scurry away with pieces of the foundation.


Sissinghurst passed through more hands, serving as everything from a home for farm laborers and a women’s land army, until it was purchased in 1930 by Vita and her husband, diplomat Harold Nicolson. They were inspired by the grand ambience of the castle to create the elaborate gardens. Harold did the architectural planning of the various garden rooms, while Vita was the brains behind the massive variety of the plantings. She even documented the process in weekly columns in the London Observer, many of which were later collected into Vita Sackville West’s Sissinghurst: The Creation of a Garden

The Rose Garden in June at Sissinghurst Castle Garden, near Cranbrook, Kent

The gardens of Sissinghurst Castle (photo © NPTL/Jonathan Buckley)


Sissinghurst Garden 4 NPTL Jonathan Buckley

The gardens of Sissinghurst Castle (photo © NPTL/Jonathan Buckley)



Vita and Harold opened Sissinghurst to the public in 1938, and it has since become one of the most visited and renowned gardens in England. The property is now owned and maintained by the National Trust of the U.K., which meticulously follows Vita’s plans for perfectly trimmed hedges and trees; wild-looking, color-drenched plants and flowers that are anything but wild; and a rose garden so breathtaking, it’s almost unearthly.

Sissinghurst Garden 5 NPTL Jonathan Buckley

The gardens of Sissinghurst Castle (photo © NPTL/Jonathan Buckley)



We may never know all the specifics of Sissinghurt’s somewhat checkered history, but we do know this: the beauty and majesty of these visionary spaces will serve as gardening inspiration for decades to come.

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