I treated myself to two gardening books for my Christmas present:. Natural Selection by Dan Pearson and Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville-West and The Creation of a Garden by Sarah Raven & Vita Sackville-“You might think that the garden writing of a woman in the 1930s, 40s and 50s would have little relevance now, that her aesthetic would not work today, that fashions would have changed too much, that garden design and the plants available would not work today, that fashions would have changed too much, that garden design and the plants available would have moved on too far, but none of that is true” Sarah Raven I beg to differ.
Sarah Raven is married to Adam Nicolson, grandson of Vita and Harold. When his father Nigel became ill and died in 2004, Sarah and Adam moved to Sissinghurst. “…now a gardener, and as someone passionately interested in the beauty of what’s around me. I’m lucky to have spent ten years of my life entwined with Vita and Sissinghurst.” The book reveals in great detail, Vita’s making of the garden, plant choices, favorite combinations, growing techniques, the creating of new gardens, etc. Not being a garden historian, I found little in this book of interest, but I love the endpapers in the book (pictured below).
The current head gardener at Sissinghurst, Troy Scott-Smith is giving a lecture at the New York Botanical Garden: Revitalizing Sissinghurst on January 31. 2018. I am looking forward to seeing how a legacy so bound up in English gardening royalty can be re-imagined in 2018. In addition, Sarah Raven is giving one of the Wave Hill Horticulture lectures in New York on February 21 entitled The Cutting Garden.
The English invasion continues with Dan Pearson giving a lecture at Plant-o-rama at the end of January. Natural Selection is a group of articles Dan Pearson wrote for The Observer over a period of ten years. Again, there is a wealth of plant knowledge in this book, some of which applies to plants we can grow in the US, but most important is the writing. The prose are exquisite.
“Geraldine was one those people who enters your life to open a door. In her case it was a door that was as real as it was metaphorical, and it was always left ajar.”
“It would be difficult to let this moment pass without sharing my delight in the blossom season, for it is a moment that places you very firmly in the here and now. Darkness replaced by light, inertia with movement, monochrome with the first smatterings of colour and then the gathering tide of life.” – Dan Pearson
“Imagine walking from bright light into a cool and dappled tunnel of greenery with its sense of mystery and intrigue and the feeling of a safety and protection. Shade provides contrast and punctuation in a space and animates the ground plane, which alters from moment to moment.” – Dan Pearson
“I will leave the leaves where they fall in the beds and take a lesson from how things naturally occur. Get down on your hands and knees and you will see that many of the fallen leaves are upended in the soil. This is where earthworms are pulling them into their burrows and where they will be converted into humus to improve the soil for next year.” – Dan Pearson
“I have long been interested in the idea of the garden providing sanctuary’ for when it sings, a garden will have the power to transport and to lead you to a place that is magical. It can transcend its surroundings or conversely allow you time in to them, to draw your eye to a view or your ear to the sound of a stream.” – Dan Pearson