Paris & London/Chelsea Flower Show
May 17-26, 2008 Tour
May 25, Day 9.
Our final day of sightseeing took us to two very important and very
Great Dixter is a charming 15th century timber-framed manor house set in one
of the most beautiful gardens in England. A passing glance at this
inspiring, romantic country house might give the impression that this has
been a grand, rambling manor since medieval times, but all is not quite how
it appears to be. Formerly known as just 'Dixter', the greatness alluded to
in its present title is more than a clue to the amazing transformation that
the original 15th century hall house underwent in the early years of the
last century. Almost from the time the first house was completed in the
1450s, it saw a succession of different owners and tenants, and probably
experienced many periods of vacancy and neglect.
Completing the whole picture was an important aspect of Lutyen's designs,
and once the residential part of the scheme had taken shape he concentrated
on the layout of the gardens, cleverly incorporating the original
outbuildings to knit all the elements together. Now well established these
fabulous gardens are a delight throughout the seasons and remain a constant
source of pleasure. Sadly Christopher Lloyd passed away a few years ago but
his head gardener is at the helm and the gardens are looking great. It has
now been taken over by a trust fund I believe.
In the afternoon, we visited Sissinghurst Gardens, one of the world's most
celebrated gardens, the creation of Vita Sackville-West and her husband Sir
Harold Nicolson. I cannot tell you now many times I have visited this garden
and it just keeps getting better and better.
Situated in the Weald of Kent is Sissinghurst Castle, once a grand
Elizabethan Manor House, now sadly only a fraction of its former size, but
still surrounded by beautiful countryside. As Kent is so often referred to
as 'the Garden of England', Sissinghurst is as equally renowed for its
splendid gardens. The history of Sissinghurst Castle has always been very
closely linked to the soil, and it was originally a medieval manor-farm.
Originally the land was owned by the De Saxingherstes, but by the middle of
the 13th century the family line had come to an end. However, the Manor had
established itself as being of local importance. Formerly moated - although
only three sides still exist, two containing water and one side having been
slightly raised to provide a grass walk - the house was sufficiently large
and comfortable enough for King Edward I to stay during the 14th century,
probably with the De Berham family. They owned Sissinghurst Castle for more
than 200 years, until Henry de Berham decided to move to another manor, and
sold his home to Thomas Baker.
After the large Victorian farmhouse was built in 1855, Sissinghurst Castle
once again went up for sale in 1928. It was to stay on the market for two
years before Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicholson, bought
it for their home. She re-opened the entrance archway, now no longer needing
to be blocked as a prison, but made few changes to the remaining buildings,
other than carrying out some careful restoration. Both V.Sackville-West and
her husband, however, completely transformed the grounds and, when they both
died, they were content in the knowledge that they had succeeded in creating
at Sissinghurst probably the most famous gardens in England.
We returned to London in the early evening, got some packing done and then
we all met for our Farewell Dinner at the hotel.
May 26, Day 10.
After breakfast, we all made our way home with some incredible memories and
new friends. Please make sure you visit
see the 2009 Chelsea Flower Show Tour featuring one hotel only and the best
of the best in English Gardens.