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My lawn, it is nothing like this

This Tudor gatehouse tower is almost all that’s left of a huge and ancient manor house named Sissinghurst, near Cranbrook in Kent. By the Twentieth Century, even this was a ruin. In 1930, Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson bought it and much of the land around.

They were rich, aristocratic and sexually odd. Which is neither here nor there, I just thought I’d mention it; liven things up a bit.

Together they turned the grounds into one of the most popular gardens in the country. It’s a long way for us to go, but it’s our favorite National Trust site. It was too nice to stay home, so we drove out to it today.

Yep. We have reached the “walking around gardens” stage of our lives.

The garden is laid out in “rooms” — square, walled plots with a theme. The most famous is the White Garden, which is exactly what it sounds like and touched off a bit of a craze.

My favorite is the herb garden, I think. Because — herbs! I like herbs. Even if I have to pronounce the “h” here or nobody knows what I’m talking about.

Uncle B is reading the guidebook and says Vita Sackville-West opened the gardens once a year and liked them to be popular, but I imagine she’d be well and truly cheesed off at the lot of us hoi polloi eating icecreams and trudging around her nice lawns.

Somewhat embittered at her misfortune, was Vita. See, she was born here, in what is reputed to be the largest house in England. And as the only child of Lionel Edward Sackville-West, 3rd Baron Sackville, she would have inherited the lot — had she been male.

Next time you board an airplane and struggle through First Class to reach your cramped seat at the back, look into the eyes the people up front in the comfy seats and be assured they’re thinking, “dammit — it’s not fair! Why don’t I have a private jet?” 


Comment from Mark Matis
Time: April 18, 2011, 10:29 pm

Could the reason your favorite is the herb garden be related to the fungus and ointment tale from last week, perchance?


Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: April 18, 2011, 11:19 pm

I heard a joke once about British gardens.

It seems this Texan billionaire visited a business associate in England and toured his manor. The Texan was amazed by the gardens and lush lawns and asked the groundskeeper how on earth he’d gotten it that way.

The groundskeeper was very genial and helpful, he told the Texan all he knew and even sent some seeds home with the man.

The next year, the Texan visits again, and he seeks out the groundskeeper. He corners the man, frustrated and says “Look here, fella, I did everything you told me to, I watered like you said and fertilized and cared for the lawn just how you told me and it doesn’t look anything like this!”

The groundskeeper nodded and said “you did all the things I told you to?”

“What did I just say?” growled the Texan.

“Good, good,” said the groundskeeper. “Now keep doing that for 150 years.”

Comment from Mike James
Time: April 18, 2011, 11:48 pm

I recall an anecdote I read about needing a flock of sheep and four hundred years…

Comment from Pavel
Time: April 19, 2011, 1:41 am

Well, dagonit. I saw this post, and thought I would type a witty riposte about rolling the lawn for a few centuries, but I see I was beat to the punch by Messrs. Taylor and James. The way I heard it was five hundred years, so there’s that, at least. My comment would have been incrementally more humorous. 🙂

For what it’s worth, on those rare occasions when I have been able to fly first class, I just affect a Cartman voice while my fellow cattle are making their way to coach, and complain about having soooo much room, whatever will I do with it all.

Comment from Mitchell
Time: April 19, 2011, 3:11 am

There’s a “Lobelia Sackville-Baggins” joke in there somewhere but I can’t find it. That name CAN’T be a coincidence.

Gotta hand it to the Brits – y’all do gardens like nobody else. On my one trip over the pond back in the 80’s we visited Belvoir Castle (pronounced “Beaver Castle” for some reason) and the gardens were jaw-dropping gorgeous.

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: April 19, 2011, 8:40 am

Like poor Modo, the Dwarf Gardener in erry Pratchett’s Unseen University, who, after repairing a divit, remarked, > There, 500 years, and you’ll never know it happened”.

Comment from Mike C.
Time: April 19, 2011, 9:03 am

Gah, don’t remind me. Upcoming trip to Rio, and contractors ride in the back of the bus.

Comment from Mark Matis
Time: April 19, 2011, 12:07 pm

Hey Mike C.:

Whine, whine, whine. Yer goin’ to RIO, fer cripes’ sake! It’s not like you’re taking the cattle car to Coalville…

Comment from Truman North
Time: April 19, 2011, 2:21 pm

We kicked Sissinghurst’s ass in rugby on a regular basis when I played for Bethany. Good to know there’s a shitty half-assed castle attached to their shitty half-assed school.

Comment from mojo
Time: April 19, 2011, 3:27 pm

Also, the model for the Sackville-Bagginses

Comment from Silly English K-k-k-k-niggets
Time: April 19, 2011, 3:45 pm

The Castle of Guy de Lombard:

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