England’s Finest Gardens & Chelsea Flower Show 2009
May 19th – 27th, 2009

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

On our last day after breakfast we headed out on a full day excursion to Sissinghurst Castle Gardens and Great Dixter in the Weald of Kent, where some of the most romantic gardens have been created and a truly fitting end to our England’s Finest Gardens tour.

Sissinghurst's garden was created in the 1930s by Vita Sackville-West, poet and gardening writer, and her husband Harold Nicolson, author and diplomat. Sackville-West was a writer on the fringes of the Bloomsbury group who found her greatest popularity in the weekly columns she contributed as gardening correspondent of The Observer, which incidentally – for she never touted it – made her own garden famous. Sissinghurst's garden is one of the best-loved in the whole of the United Kingdom, drawing visitors from all over the world. The garden itself is designed as a series of "rooms", each with a different character of colour and/or theme, divided by high clipped hedges and pink brick walls. The gardens are set off by a tall tower of pale pink brick which captivated Vita when she first saw Sissinghurst; she wrote some 20 books in the Tower room and it remained her sanctum until her death age 70. If you want, you can climb the curved staircase and see what her writing room looked like as they have kept it to look as though she had just stepped out of the office to go look at a new plant or welcome a visitor.

Great Dixter's internationally renowned garden was created by one of Britain's most celebrated 20th century gardeners, Christopher Lloyd, the gardening writer and television personality known as "Christo", who died two years ago. The 57-acre estate, with its Grade I-listed, medieval timber-framed house, was bought by his father, Nathaniel Lloyd, in 1910, at which time it had virtually no garden whatsoever. The younger Lloyd transformed it into one of the most profusely planted sites in the land, its flower beds and borders complemented by ornamental hedges, an orchard and a wildflower meadow.

The future of Great Dixter, the medieval estate which has come to epitomize the English country garden, is to be guaranteed now by a multimillion-pound lottery award aimed at conserving one of the country's most remarkable displays of flowers and plants. The East Sussex grounds have been earmarked for a £4m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which will go towards a £7m project to secure its floral treasures for the nation. I can still see Christopher walking along one of the pathways in his bright green shirt and carrying a huge trug with his little dachshunds following close by. You will enjoy going through his house and seeing his office. It was never open while he was alive because he was usually in there writing.

We enjoyed a Farewell dinner at our hotel this evening, so those who are leaving early in the morning, will have time to pack. It was truly a wonderful tour, I was blessed to have such a good group who were all passionate about everything they saw and experienced.


  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row