The Rose Garden. Sissinghurst.

The rose garden at Sissinghurst is famous not just because of the wonderful roses but for the way the roses are complemented by the colours and textures of what is grown with them. Vita was never particularly interested in growing them with foliage but with other flowers which look good with them and extend the season too.
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I first saw this wonderful garden many years ago and was inspired to grow old fashioned roses on hazel benders in the way they are done here.
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The roses in the photograph show how it is done but ideally they should clothe the sticks and break out in flowers all the way down the stem.

Vita wrote lyrically about old fashioned roses in her book: ‘In Your Garden ‘ She was captivated by the scent and beautiful form of the Damasks, the Gallicas,  the Hybrid Perpetuals and the Bourbons and also the romance and history.  She was particularly keen on the Bourbons and they are indeed very beautiful and have inherited all the scent of their Damask parents. I followed Vita’s example and planted many of these old roses with romantic names. The trouble is that many of the Bourbons and Hybrid Perpetuals are incredibly beautiful and fragrant but are plagued with black spot.  I am sure that if Vita was alive today she would plant David Austin roses as well as the old fashioned ones.
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Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’ is a very healthy Gallica which doesn’t seem to be susceptible to blackspot.
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I forgot to check the label but I think this is the lovely moss rose ‘William Lobb’ I am not sure who William Lobb was but I love the antiquey shade of this rose which usually seems to be very healthy.
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Clematis look fabulous with roses. This Clematis texensis looks like ‘Etoile Rose’ to me.

I’m not sure but I think  the next  clematis is Clematis venosa violacea.  It looks great with the roses and with Iris laevigata ‘Rose Queen’.

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As well as Clematis there are Sweet Peas climbing up pyramids. I loved this one growing with the elegant Stipa gigantea.
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There are one or two yellow flowers in the rose garden which I thought strike a jarring note. But the persil white of this gorgeous Filipendula hexapelata is lovely.
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A lovely white flowering shrub complements the roses too. It is the summer flowering Viburnum x hilleri.
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It is important to have strong verticals with all this froth and there are plenty of gorgeous delphiniums. I love this tall Thalictrum too.
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The next plant is the lovely Francoa sonchifolia which is easy from seed. I don’t know what other people feel about the  Alchemilla mollis. I am not keen on the yellow here.
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Much more satisfying in my eyes is the gorgeous Stachys macrantha. I saw it here for the first time years ago and tried to grow it. It never did very well, I think it needs quite a bit of moisture.
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Lilium regale looks wonderful with roses. It needs to be well fed to keep going year after year but it is very quick and easy from seed. Don’t you love the little Osteospermum  ‘Whirligig’ at its feet?
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Vita’s favourite Allium was Allium albo- pilosum which we now call ‘Christophii’. It looks lovely planted in a  froth like this. Vita said: ‘the general effect is of a vast mauve-and-green cobweb quivering with its own lightness and buoyancy.’
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I think I must be the only person to dislike the hackneyed use of little box hedges to imprison flower beds. I think the days of this one are numbered as it has the dreaded box blight. I think it looks awful.
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The dainty Angel’s Fishing Rod; Dierama grown with the green Ballota acetabulosa and the Verbascum makes a much prettier, softer edge to the bed.
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I’ll finish with a Salvia and a Penstemon, both new to me.
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I think this Penstemon is gorgeous and so unusual. It might be difficult to track down though. It hasn’t even got a name, just a collection number. Penstemon PC & H.148.
The lovely soft pink Salvia is definitely on my wants list. It is Salvia greggii ‘Stormy Pink’.
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My present garden is mature with fully grown shrubs and trees. I no longer have a blank canvas to create a rose garden as I did before. Roses have to be crammed in wherever I can find a spot. Perhaps its just as well, those hazel benders need replacing regularly and the roses retrained. It is a prickly and time consuming job looking after everything. One needs space and ideally a team of fairy workers to care for it all whilst you sleep.

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50 Responses to The Rose Garden. Sissinghurst.

  1. croftgarden says:

    thank you for the walk round the rose garden. It gave me some new ideas for plants to try. You’re not alone with the hatred of box hedges.

  2. Chloris says:

    Some of these plants were new to me Christine. I particularly love the white Filipendula and the Salvia. Did the Salvia cuttings I sent you take? I was worried that they would dry out in the post.

  3. bittster says:

    What a beautiful show of color, I can see how this garden would inspire you to add a rose garden or two! What a lovely froth of white the filipendula is and ‘easy from seed’ is just what I needed to hear about the lilies…. I have a pot full of seedlings and was hoping it won’t be 8 years before I see a bloom 🙂
    I love the little box hedges, but live in the land of lopsided azalea meatballs and pointless yew cubes so my perspective is different. A purposeful border of box is a refreshing highlight amongst endless mulch beds. There’s word of box blight here too and I’m hoping that living in the middle of a horticultural desert will offer some protection.

    • Chloris says:

      Lilium regale is quick and easy from seed unlike some of the others. I have some young plants that I sowed last year and I am hoping that they will flower next year.
      I love box balls and pointless cubes or pyramids. Any shape really. What I don’ t like to see is a box hedge keeping all the flowers imprisoned in a bed. But then I have an untidy mind.

  4. Pauline says:

    The accompanying plants certainly add to the rose garden. I’m with you in that if everything else is in the pink,purple, blue side of the colour chart, then the yellow jars. The Regal lilies look so beautiful with the roses, they pick up the purple on the outside of the lilies. Lovely photos, thanks.

  5. gardenfancyblog says:

    Sissinghurst is at the top of the list of gardens I want to visit when I finally get over to England (I have a long list, which might take months to make a dent in…), so thanks for giving me this lovely armchair visit to tide me over in the meantime! What beautiful roses you have captured in your photos, Chloris — I can almost smell them from here. It looks like you chose the most beautiful time to visit this famous garden.
    Oh, and your note made me curious, so I Googled and found on Wikipedia:

    “William Lobb (1809 – 3 May 1864) was a Cornish plant collector, employed by Veitch Nurseries of Exeter, who was responsible for the commercial introduction to England of Araucaria araucana (the “Monkey-Puzzle” tree) from Chile and the massive Sequoiadendron giganteum (“Wellingtonia”) from North America.
    “He and his brother, Thomas Lobb, were the first collectors to be sent out by the Veitch nursery business, with the primary commercial aim of obtaining new species and large quantities of seed.His introductions of the Monkey-Puzzle tree, “Wellingtonia” and many other conifers to Europe earned him the sobriquet “messenger of the big tree”. In addition to his arboreal introductions, he also introduced many garden shrubs and greenhouse plants to Victorian Europe, including Desfontainia spinosa and Berberis darwinii, which are still grown today.”

    Very interesting botanical history! Thanks for the tour AND the chance to educate myself. -Beth

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you for your nice comment and for checking this out Beth. I really feel I should have known about William Lobb. He was clearly an important figure in the horticultural world so it is nice that he has a rose named after him.

  6. Debra says:

    Oh! I haven’t seen Dierama in ages. I love the scent of the old fashioned roses and sweet peas. That must have been a true delight.

    • Chloris says:

      It is a special garden and one with such an interesting history. Vita Sackville West was larger than life and she and her husband Harold Nicholson made an amazing team when it came to garden design.
      I love Dierama and it is very easy from seed.

  7. jenhumm116 says:

    Chloris, what a lovely post, and yet how extraordinary that on my visit to Sissinghurst a week ago I photographed such different things! I was put under serious time pressure by the menfolk and think I missed the rose garden all together – what a tragedy!
    I love the verbascum/dierama combination. That’s the verbascum I have just coming into flower, it would be lovely to add the dierama at the front of the bed – better than those fox and cubs that are taking over!

  8. Chloris says:

    I know Jenny we only missed each other there by a few days. I looked at your post just minutes before I wrote my first post about Sissinghurst last Thursday. I was careful not to use photos of the same plants as you! What a pity that you missed the rose garden it was looking fabulous.

  9. If ever there was a more timely post! I’ve just made up my mind to grow roses in the front garden and what a very useful post. The first image is gorgeous and although my garden is a mere fraction of the size, this is the effect I’m hoping for but with a different colour scheme.
    I must catch up with your other posts on Sissinghurst for more inspiration. Thanks for posting Chloris.

  10. It is a few years since I last visited Sissinghurst and i enjoyed reading about your visit. I especially enjoyed the quote you included from Vita SW about the allium. Great inspiration. Thanks. D.

  11. Chloris says:

    Thank you, Doris. Do you have any of her books? They are the sort to read over and over again.

  12. Robbie says:

    Oh thank you for the tour, just splendid! I love the combination of colors and how carefree it all skips along as you took us through the gardens. It never looks “contrived”…but as if they were there next to each other from day one! I don’t have the space for roses, so I just haave to enjoy those that do have the space for a lot of roses etc.
    I agee with you the days of the boxwood edging need to pass! It is just overused by too many people + you can edge with more interesting plants….

    • Chloris says:

      I’ m glad you enjoyed it Robbie. This garden is very special, the only trouble is that it is always full of hordes of people which makes photographing and enjoying it difficult.

  13. Cathy says:

    So glad you could share this with us Chloris. The roses are gorgeous, but I was struck more by some of the other plants… the white Verbascums for example, and that last Salvia. Very inspiring!

    • Chloris says:

      I think it is the quality of the rest of the planting which makes the roses look so good. There are so many fabulous plants and all grown to perfection.

  14. pbmgarden says:

    This was a great tour Chloris. I’m going to have to take the time to find a book about Vita and Sissinghurst to learn more about her style.

    • Chloris says:

      Vita wrote the gardening column for The Observer for years and these columns were put into books ‘In your Garden’ and ‘ In your Garden Again’. Her son wrote a biography The Portrait of a Marriage’ .which is quite startling in the details about her life. You wonder how she found time to garden.

  15. Beautiful flowers, beautiful photos. Thank you!

  16. Lovely roses. I wish I could be there to smell the fragrance. And you are not the only one to dislike boxwood hedges, I feel the same way.

    • Chloris says:

      I remember you wrote about Sissinghurst but I think you were there in late summer when the garden had a very different look. The roses would have been over by then.

  17. Jane Brewer says:

    How beautiful! I could just smell the roses and it took me straight back to the wonderful fullness of Sissinghurst in June.Such beautiful photographs and lovely to have all the names. I grew some Penstemon from seed this year and am very encouraged to see that they have done really well in my alkaline clay soil and they are moderately drought resistant too. Roses also do well in the Algarve, although they are over their best now. May your garden fairies work for you always whilst you sleep.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Jane. You need some garden fairies yourself to help you moving heavy hen coops round your garden. Very strong fairies with bulging muscles.
      I’ ve never tried growing penstemons from seed, do you get interesting variations?

  18. How absolutely stunning! That has to be the best way to grow and show roses, mixed with complementary perennials. Interesting way of growing them over hazel hoops. I now know where Arne Maynard got the idea from. He was growing his roses that way in his Chelsea garden last year. Obviously, his wasn’t an original idea!
    Moving on to the “box debate”! Here am I trying to create box hedges! In my defence, I am using them, not to contain flowers, but fruit bushes. I’m trying make our “allotment” look attractive in its own right, similar to a potager. Otherwise, my hedges will be used to create divisions and backdrops in the garden, and topiarised box balls to punctuate some of my borders. Am I forgiven?! 😉

    • Chloris says:

      I think box hedges are perfect for a potager which by its nature is formal. You don’ t want to see your cabbages looking as if they are about to tumble out of their beds and sprint off down the garden to join your delphiniums. I like formality amongst the veg. So much so that I have trouble picking lettuces because it spoils the pattern.
      But I don’ t like box imprisoning my flowers.
      I like box balls and topiary is fun but please don’ t put your flowers in cages. But that’ s just me, thank goodness that we can express ourselves just how we like in our own gardens.

  19. P.s. I’ve taken a few notes too. The black spot resistant “Charles de Mills”, the pure white Filipendula, and the Viburnum x hilleri, which I’ve found out is also scented. Thank you. Chloris!

  20. Chloris says:

    I didn’ t realise the Viburnum was scented I didn’ t sniff it but it is very pretty. I was mad on the Filipendula, I nearly fell into the flower bed trying to read the label which was obscured.

  21. Flighty says:

    A lovely post and wonderful pictures. Your last sentence made me smile. xx

  22. Anna says:

    I’ve really enjoyed both your posts about Sissinghurst Chloris. It remains the garden that I would like to visit more than any other. I was hoping that it might happen this year to celebrate big birthday but it looks like it will be September time if it happens. What do you think about the timing? I’ve visited Great Dixter in September but they are such different gardens. Oh for some of those fairy workers 🙂

    • Chloris says:

      I’ m sure there will still be lots to see in September but I think its very best time is June or Springtime. It’ s not like Great Dixter with the wonderful exotic garden.. Still it’ s always worth a visit.
      I really need those fairy workers just now. Just for a week or two.

  23. mrsdaffodil says:

    Fantastic tour. The roses! The clematis! Really, I must visit Sissinghurst. It looks like your timing is perfect.

  24. rusty duck says:

    Glorious. I treat roses in much the same way.. mixed in with other planting. In the SW we constantly fight against blackspot and the plants get leggy where I have to remove the leaves. They need a bit of cover to protect their modesty. I found a good application for a low box hedge on a garden visit today, although it too had blight so my interpretation would need to use something else. I’ll post a pic later in the week.

    • Chloris says:

      I agree roses do need something to hide their stems, they look awful grown in beds by themselves. That’s why they look so good at Sissinghurst.
      Well, I am intrigued to see your picture of a box hedge put to good use. Is it to preserve the modesty of roses with ugly legs?

  25. Your photos are so amazing. I went back and fourth 3 or 4 times to look for plants I couldn’t identify and thought would look nice in my garden. My growing conditions are pretty similar to this garden.

  26. Have to agree with your opinion of the Alchemilla mollis. Chartreuse has its place, but this isn’t it.

    • Chloris says:

      There was more yellow, Thermopsis, I think which really jarred. I don’ t know why they did that. I don’ t think it was there last time I was there. Still everything else is wonderful. Apart from the manky box hedge of course.

  27. Cathy says:

    There are some great combinations there, Chloris, and your post has sparked a lot of interest – blogging is such a good way to pick up ideas and inspiration, gaining knowledge all the way. I have been gaining pleasure from watching the blossom develop on what I realise now is a filipendula. I had forgotten what it was and the label is buried in the undergrowth, but I will make a point of checking it out now – the flowers are so soft and tactile. Watch out for it in a vase on a Monday!

  28. Chloris says:

    I have a lovely pink Filipendula by the pond, Venusta I think, but I have never seen this gorgeous white one before. I didn’ t even realise it was a Filipendula at first. My friend and I crooned over it for ages before we spotted the label hidden away. It doesn’t t look anything like the wild Filpendula: Meadowsweet which is in all the ditches round here at the moment.

  29. I absolutely loathe little boxwood hedges. I have to fight the urge not to grab the pruners and carve out an escape route for all the detainees inside. I much prefer to garden and color outside the lines. I love the flipendula, too. I wish I had a moist, sunny spot for it. Gorgeous garden!

  30. Chloris says:

    I’ m glad I’ m not the only one who loathes box hedges. A horrible sort of horticultural control freakery imprisoning all your plants like that.

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