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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?” 

April 18, 2011 — 9:45 pm
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