Sissinghurst dreams…

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A Bagatelle urn, given to Vita by her mother, placed amongst tumbling rosemary and euphorbia, planted with Verbena ‘Sissinghurst’, Sissinghurst, June 2017

Two recent cold weather reading bouts brought me back to the hours spent at Sissinghurst at the end of June.  There is always the risk that an iconic garden can be overwhelming, disappointing or even just too hard to take in because it is so heavily visited.  There was an element of the first two possibilities in my experience, but, actually, I was not disappointed.  I realise now, looking back, that I didn’t get to grips with Harold Nicholson’s clever and thoughtful structural elements, and that I wandered, in a rather delirious fashion, round the garden without much order or thought.  So, remembering what was where required a lot of post-visit referencing of the garden map and descriptions.

So, is there a problem with garden delirium?  Actually, I don’t think so.  I do have in my mind the sense of joyful chaos, of generous planting, the excitement of meeting plants that I didn’t know, and then had to try and identify later.  I did really love the hovering sense of Vita in her garden, even down to the slightly artful arrangements of tools and equipment that had been placed so well to give the sense of a working garden.  So, probably that feeling of the love and absorption that Vita gave the garden and the place is one of the most important things to take away.

But back to the reading episodes- one, a book, the other, an article.  I had seen in the NT bookshop, the book written and compiled by Sarah Raven about Vita and her garden.  I confess to later buying it in pristine condition and half the price from Abebooks.  I really enjoyed it.  No silly worshipping here, good, honest information and a really  solid compilation of Vita’s writings about her gardening habits and practices- and an abundant sense of the garden as it is now, a mixture of history, Vita and those modern gardeners who have championed the garden since her death.  I really recommend this book.

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Looking down on the garden from the Tower, Harold’s double planted Yew Walk cutting cross the garden, Sissinghurst, June 2017

And then secondly and by pure chance, as I always check the Tory press, so important to know what the opposition is doing I reckon- a really good and interesting article 2 days ago, sadly in the luxury section of the Telegraph online.

When I look at my photographs, only a few managed to reach into the garden.  This is a visitor-numbers issue.  It was almost impossible to draw breath or take a photograph in the White Garden for example- not that people were jostling, just the amount of movement around you made it really hard to concentrate at all.  I only have hazy memories of the White Garden.  So, I took the photographs that I could rather than the ones I wanted. Ah well.

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The view through the Bishop’s Gate into the White Garden, Sissinghurst, June 2017
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The domination of the Tower, Vita’s sanctuary, Sissinghurst, June 2017
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Pruning the pleached limes to the Bacchante statue, Sissinghurst, June 2017
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Haze of hot colours, the Cottage Garden, Sissinghurst, June 2017
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The White Garden, the mysterious statue of a vestal virgin by Toma Rosandic, shrouded by the leaves of the weeping silver pear, Sissinghurst. June 2017
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Cram, cram, pots, troughs and corners, Sissinghurst, June 2017
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Harold’s Irish yews and the Cottage Garden, Sissinghurst, June 2017

There were some truly gorgeous plants as you would expect.  I have talked about the roses and some of the plants in two earlier posts, here and here, but here are some photos and links for some of the plants I have managed to identify.  Happy hunting.

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On a very wet day, a pale orange lily soaring through the Allium heads and white valerian in the White Garden, Sissinghurst, June 2017
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Berkheya purpurea, beautifully fringed, Sissinghurst, June 2017
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Cichorium intybus ‘Roseum’ in the Herb Garden, Sissinghurst, June 2017
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And the blue chicory, Cichorium intybus in the Herb Garden, Sissinghurst, June 2017
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And this is fabulous and on the list for next year, the redoubtable Pittosporum tenuifolium Purpureum, Sissinghust, June 2017

Never mind 500 miles…

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Dawn in the Sierra del Norte, Via de la Plata, Andalucia, September 2015

I have always loved that Proclaimers song.  But, although we had planned for years to do the Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabres from Seville to Santiago de Compostela, I had never fully grasped the full significance of the total distance, 1000 kilometres.  So, when we started out from Guillena, just outside Seville, on September 20th, I couldn’t really compute the fact that in 43 walking days later, plus a good handful of stopovers in beautiful places, I would be in Santiago.  In fact, I was more worried about getting to Zafra for Day 7.

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Asphodelus albus, Sierra del Norte, Via de la Plata, Andalucia, September 2015

And, as we were walking at the tailend of summer, I had imagined that the landscape would be crisped and brown with no sign of life.  But there was life.  Day 2 brought some beautiful white Asphodelus albus.  The link takes you to Brenda Jones’ useful blog on Spanish wildflowers.  She considers that this may be Asphodel ramosus.  As you can see, the bees love it.  I love the green runway markings that take the bees right to the spot, and it’s the green that suggests ‘albus’ rather than ‘ramosus’ to me, but, for sure, it is a white Asphodel.

Later, in October, in the heat of the beautful city of Merida, stuffed with the most extraordinary Roman ruins, there was a shocking pink Bougainvillea, planted on a pink wall. Stunning.  The link leads you to the redoubtable Helen Yemm on growing bougainvillea in the UK.

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Bougainvillea, Merida, Via de la Plata, October 2015

Near Merida, out on the path, there were some isolated clumps of an unknown wild scrambling plant, which looked very like the Malvastrum that I grow here in Tostat, but yellow/cream.  This was not to be seen everywhere, owing to the widespread use of herbicides to control unwanted plants in the vineyards, but it was a really beautiful plant.  I have tried to identify it, but no luck yet.

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Wild scrambler, possibly Malvaceae family, Extremadura, Via de la Plata, October 2015

Wild chicory, Cichorium intybus, was everywhere in the dry grassy edges of fields throughout Andalucia and Extremadura.  It is a stunning blue, and funnily enough, although it does have wandering tendencies, if you have a dry semi-shaded spot where you can contain it, I would give it a try. The blue shimmers through other planting- it is a weaver rather than a stand-alone.

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Cichorium intybus, Extremadura, Via de la Plata, October 2015

Throughout the walk, until we got to Galicia, think Perthshire, tall, etiolated seedheads of summer plants gone over, were everywhere against the immense sky.

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Dry seedheads against the big sky, Extremadura, Via de la Plata, October 2015

Lastly, carpets of autumn crocus, daringly tried to grow in the pathway, most of them trodden by animals, bikes and walkers, not to mention farm traffic.  In one place, and I can’t remember where, there was an amazing river of them which was protected by a fence from damage.  I think that this is Colchicum autumnale, but Brenda Jones, see above, goes for Colchicum lusitanicum.  I defer, as I am no  botanist.

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Carpet of wild crocus, Extremadura, Via de la Plata, October 2015
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Extremadura view, Via de la Plata, October 2015