Sissinghurst Castle – Delos garden visit

Tuesday 14 June 2022

The Delos garden

Head gardener Troy Scott Smith met MPG members well before the garden opened to the public. A brief history of the Sissinghurst garden and the Delos project set the scene and we stepped forth into a full and frothy English summer garden.

As background we heard how Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson cruised the Greek islands in the summer of 1935 stopping off at Delos. Charmed by the place they returned to Kent and decided to create their own Delos. With little cash and hampered by cold wet Kentish clay, they completed the project in 1937. In 1953 Vita wrote in her diaries that “Delos was not a success so far, maybe one day it may come right.”

In 2016 research began on the historical records for Delos. Head Gardener Troy Scott Smith was the initiator and driver of the project. The Dan Pearson Studio was later commissioned to make plans to recreate the garden this time with the correct drainage and plant mix. The garden has evolved fast since completion in 2019. Helen Champion, deputy head gardener, gave our group a full account of this and commented it now seemed to be a Mediterranean garden in perpetual spring. Much learning about a new palette of plants is underway as they see what succeeds and what struggles.

Helen Champion prepares the Delos Garden for our visit

The Delos garden in early summer

As a private tour before the public arrived, we had a joyous first hour touring the rest of the garden, being wowed by the magical planting that Troy and his team have introduced and tweaked by allowing a mix of self seeders and gentle drifts, clever plant combinations.

The rose collection has been expanded to get close to the 300 varieties Vita used to grow. The resulting garden rooms have a looser and to my eye more charming look by gardening in the way they imagine Vita would have gardened.

Text: Sue Tymon

Images: Stephen Cole and Sue Tymon