Quotes by Vita Sackville-West on Gardens and Gardening

Some Flowers by Vita Sackville-West

Vita Sackville-West (1892 – 1962), the British author best known for All Passion Spent and The Edwardians was nearly equally known for her passion for gardening and garden design. The gardens at her ancestral home, Sissinghurst, are masterful. Though she considered herself an amateur, she remains a respected name in garden design.

She had a voice that was at once authoritative yet never bossy, often acknowledging that the garden can become the master of its caretaker, rather than the other way around. Something that always comes through is her passion for gardens, gardening, and beauty in bloom. According to The Telegraph in a recent appraisal of Vita’s gardening legacy:

“Self-taught, experimental, romantic but also ruthless in her approach, she was the ultimate amateur genius. Her gardening appears quintessentially “English,” one reason for Vita’s continuing international renown, particularly among American gardeners. It is not a modern vision, but as anyone who has read Vita’s gardening journalism will know, her thirsty relish for plants, for new discoveries and fresh introductions, would have imposed a degree of modernity on any garden she created.”

After becoming renowned as a novelist and a member of the vaunted Bloomsbury circle that included her dear friend Virginia Woolf, Vita made a name as a horticulturist. She wrote a weekly column on gardening in The Observer from 1946 to 1957. Sissinghurst, located in the Weald of Kent, England, continues to be one of the most visited public gardens in the world. See information on how to visit at the end of this post. Until you can get there, enjoy these quotes by Vita Sackville-West on gardens and gardening  — they’re wonderful metaphors for life itself!


“I like muddling things up; and if a herb looks nice in a border, then why not grow it there? Why not grow anything anywhere so long as it looks right where it is? That is, surely, the art of gardening.”


“There is always something else to do. A gardener should have nine times as many lives as a cat.”


“If only one were as good a gardener in practice as one is in theory, what a garden one would create!”


Sissinghurst Castle Garden

Photo: Tony Hisgett


“Every garden-maker should be an artist along his own lines. That is the only possible way to create a garden, irrespective of size or wealth.”


“The farmer and the gardener are both busy, the gardener perhaps the more excitable of the two, for he is more of the amateur, concerned with the creation of beauty rather than with the providing of food. Gardening is a luxury occupation; an ornament, not a necessity, of life.”


“The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done before.”


Sissinghurst by Vita Sackville-West and Sarah Raven

Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville-West and the Creation of a Garden
by Vita Sackville-West and Sarah Raven on Amazon


“… No gardener would be a gardener if he did not live in hope.”


“A good start in life is as important to plants as it is to children: they must develop strong roots in a congenial soil, otherwise they will never make the growth that will serve them richly according to their needs in their adult life.”


“It always seemed to me that the herbaceous peony is the very epitome of June. Larger than any rose, it has something of the cabbage rose’s voluminous quality; and when it finally drops from the vase, it sheds its petticoats with a bump on the table, all in an intact heap, much as a rose will suddenly fall, making us look up from our book or conversation, to notice for one moment the death of what had still appeared to be a living beauty.”


“The more one gardens, the more one learns; And the more one learns, the more one realizes how little one knows.”


“Successful gardening is not necessarily a question of wealth, it is a question of love, taste, and knowledge.”


The Garden by Vita Sackville-West

Vita Sackville-West’s books on gardening on Amazon


“For the last 40 years of my life I have broken my back, my fingernails, and sometimes my heart, in the practical pursuit of my favourite occupation.”


“I am trying to make a grey, green, and white garden. This is an experiment which I ardently hope may be successful, though I doubt it. . . . All the same, I cannot help hoping that the great ghostly barn owl will sweep silently across a pale garden, next summer, in the twilight — the pale garden that I am now planting, under the first flakes of snow.”


“I like generosity wherever I find it, whether in gardens or elsewhere. I hate to see things scrimp and scrubby. Even the smallest garden can be prodigal within its limitations.”


‘Gardening is surely an ideal profession for the woman who likes it. The work is not so heavy as to put too great a strain on her physical capacity; and in the more expert branches the possibilities and range of interest is really unlimited.”


Portrait of a Marriage - Vita Sackville-West Harold Nicolson

You might also enjoy: Portrait of a Marriage


Visit Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens

Biddenden Road
Near Cranbrook TN17 2AB UK
Website: Sissingurst Castle Garden 

From Visit Kent UKVita Sackville-West, the notable poet and writer, began the transforming of Sissinghurst Castle in the 1930s with her diplomat and author husband, Harold Nicolson. Harold’s architectural planning of the garden rooms and the colorful, abundant planting in the gardens by Vita, reflect the romance and intimacy of her poems and writings.

Sissinghurst Castle was the backdrop for a diverse history, from the astonishing time as a prison in the 1700s to being a home to the women’s land army. It was also a family home to some fascinating people who lived here or came to stay. Today you can take in the ruined architecture of the extensive original buildings, vast panoramic views from the top of the Tower, the current working farm and the 450-acre wider estate along with Vita and Harold’s gardens.


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