Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History by Adam Nicolson - review by Tim Richardson

Tim Richardson

Heritage Horticulture

Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History


HarperPress 400pp £20

Halfway through this singular book I misread the phrase 'the historical soil' of Sissinghurst as 'the hysterical soil' – an understandable assumption to make, perhaps, because by this time the story had become a nightmarish journey into the neurotically beating heart of an historically compromised and jealously fought-over corner of England.

Adam Nicolson is the grandson of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, who together made the celebrated Kentish garden that today, under the auspices of the National Trust, attracts several hundred thousand visitors each season. Nicolson was brought up there, sees it as home and clearly feels passionately about it still: 'I do not own it but it is my place', he declares on Page One.

This book, with its misleadingly bland title, is ostensibly the story of his attempts to reintroduce an agricultural aspect to the Sissinghurst estate – its farm was disbanded in the 1970s – by means of 'the detail and business' of arable farming, animal husbandry and large-scale kitchen gardening. The truth

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