Friday, February 3, 2012

Introducing Miss V. Sackville-West

I've had enough of January which is fortunate since we're now into February. However,  I'm fed up with February already and it's only just started. If any garden bloggers have been struggling with their blogs, you are not alone. Today I have a guest writer to help me out: the lovely Miss Sackville-West.

"January 18th, 1953
Not for the first time I find myself at a loss to know what to write about. January is a dead season, when one cannot get out to do anything active in the garden, so one is reduced to studying catalogues under the lamp and thereby being induced to order far more plants or seeds than one ought to."

I love her book In Your Garden Again, which was her second gardening book. I have to admit that she scares the living daylights out of me. I imagine her marching around with her secateurs ready to chop the heads off any flowers that aren't quite up to standard. She doesn't hold back with her views, "I hate, hate, hate American Pillar and her sweetly pink companion Perkins." She's talking about roses. Often irritated by one thing or another this makes for very entertaining reading. The following entry, about children in the garden, is hilarious:

 "February 17, 1952

So humble is the Humble Plant, so bashful, that a mere touch of the finger or a puff of breath blown across it will cause it to collapse instantly into a woebegone heap, like the once popular Ally Sloper. One grows it purely for the purpose of amusing the children. The normal child, if not an insufferable prig, thoroughly enjoys being unkind to something; so here is a harmless outlet for this instinct in the human young. Shrieks of delight are evoked, enhanced by the sadistic pleasure of doing it over and over again. 'Let's go back and see if it has sat up yet.' It probably has, for it seems to be endowed with endless patience under such mischievous persecution."

There are richly painted illustrations by the botanical illustrator Frederick W. Smith, from his book The Florists Museum: A register of the Newest and Most Beautiful Varieties of Flowers, published 1837. Miss Sackville-West has a wealth of knowledge to share. She writes at length about my favourite flower, roses. As well as making me laugh her book has lots of gardening tips, often delivered in a way that makes me feel I've been told off and should go and sit in the corner.

"January 25th, 1953

May I add, to correct what seems to be a misapprehension on the part of many people, that roses can still safely be planted up to the beginning or middle of March."



  1. I'm with you on hating January, and she's right about ordering too many seeds. I do it every year! Roll on spring :)

  2. Sounds like a fun and informative read, I will have to keep an eye out for it in my local library..........did she have children of her own I wonder.

  3. Cearly not someone who holds back on their views! Describing a child as an insufferable prig made me laugh out loud!

  4. Well, consider yourself told! I think February is my worst month as it's always so cold and I hate being cold. I don't think this February is going to be any different either, snow's forecast for tomorrow evening.

  5. What beautiful illustrations. I have seen a few programmes about her and she certainly lead a colourful life. She did have children, in fact Sarah Raven, the gardener is married to Sackville West's grandson, the author Adam Nicolson. I know what you mean about February. I don't usually mind it but I think the weather is getting me down. It is so cold and I can't get out and do all the things I need to do.

  6. Hi! I don`t like cold, but yesterday was my son`s birthday :o) So I love February, sorry :o) But I agree that it`s very dificult time for any creations. In Russia we have - 25 dgr C by now! Brr.. too cold for me :o)
    Warmest wishes from Russia :o)

  7. By all accounts she was a formidable woman, but she knew her stuff, so who's going to argue with her.

  8. You too Serendipity? I haven't ordered ANY this year but I have quite a lot left from last year's order.

    Definitely worth requesting in your library Lily.

    Me too June :D

    I think I would quite like some snow Jo. Though I know for some it's their worst nightmare.

    I didn't know that Wellywoman, interesting. I'm keen to read Portrait of a Marriage which contains her memoir.

    How many people have thought about having a plant in the garden that is perfect for children to thrash?! Brilliant and funny. How much time do we spend trying to prevent children from being little horrors.

    Aw, happy birthday for your wee boy Natalia!! My son (4) brought a little friend home from school yesterday and I was so entertained by them both, wee boys are adorable. -25 is really good reason for staying indoors! Stay cosy.

    Certainly not me Elaine :D

    Hope you're all having a lovely weekend in spite it being February and freezing. X

  9. I have some of Vita's books compiled from her newspaper column. I'm always drawn to the covers.Interesting woman and dynasty. My dream would be to stay at sissinghurst ( you can, you can) so that i can have a private view of the garden...
    Stay toasty...


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