sissinghurst, my mum and the strength of women …

by Sharon Santoni

detail from sissinghurst gardens

I am at that stage in life where my children need me less and my mother needs me more.   Of  course with me in France, and her in the UK, we haven’t lived in the same country for very many years, but I am blessed to have my mom close enough for me to drive and spend a few days with her every month.

My Mum is a feisty character: sweet, funny,  loving and a peacemaker  but feisty nevertheless.   She is a woman who in her years, while raising a big family, also fought fiercely and successfully for educational policies in the UK.   As I observe her grow older and do everything she can to remain independent in her own home, I’m proud to see how that blend of feistiness and good humour gives her strength and joy.

detail from sissinghurst gardens

This week she is spending a few days in hospital, and I’m amused to see the nurses and doctors meet her for the first time.   She has shrunk over the years (she won’t mind me telling you that) and their first impression is of a small white haired lady who on a hospital bed looks quite fragile.   It’s not until she starts explaining – with a charming smile – which of their prescribed medications she will NOT be taking… and WHY …  that they get the measure of her.   They love her!

overview of sissinghurst gardens

One of the fun advantages of visiting with my mum is that she has the good taste to live only  a stone’s throw from Vita Sackville West’s garden at Sissinghurst. (” Ah Vita!  What a strong woman you were!  If only I could have lived as your neighbour when you were creating the gardens back in the 30’s!”)

How I would have loved to have watched the place take shape as she and her husband Harold Nicholson repurposed buildings and experimented with planting schemes until the garden came to maturity.   The 17th century buildings have evolved from pig farm, to prison for French soldiers, to a poor house and back to a farm.

Vita and Harold (you can tell how much I would have loved to have been on first name terms with them!) bought the property in the early 1930’s and opened it to the public a few years later.  Today it is world famous and attracts visitors from all over the planet, in particular to see Vita’s white garden.

And each month, as I drive past the narrow lane that leads down to Sissinghurst castle and gardens, I smile as I imagine Vita bumbling down the lane in an opened top automobile, dreaming up her next planting scheme.    She was a gifted writer, she contributed to newspapers and between you and me she would have made an outstanding blogger!

detail from sissinghurst gardens

So these few images and thoughts today are in celebration of strong minded women all over the world.    We can each do great things in our own small, or not so small, way.  And remember, there is nothing like a little feistiness to keep the world on track.

detail from sissinghurst gardens




Taste of France September 8, 2016 - 11:31 am

Best wishes to you and your mother. When mine was hospitalized after an epileptic seizure, the neurologist came in, ignored her and informed me that she could go back to her nursing home soon. I told him to speak to her, and added that before the seizure she was in an assisted living apartment and that her favorite pastime was genealogy research online. When you go to the emergency room, you rarely look good. And the elderly are immediately treated as if they have dementia. I’m glad your mother made it clear she has still has her marbles!
Thank you for the beautiful photos of Sissinghurst.
Feisty forever.

Maninder September 8, 2016 - 11:49 am

Hi Sharon . Hope your mum is better soon and back to the beautiful surroundings of her home . My mum turned 90 last month , lives on her own ( in a social system that excepts parents to live with children ) . She has a well kept house and garden , loves working on her 61 year old sewing machine . She was much loved and protected by my father . Yet she choose to live well ,independently and with dignity and let her children live their lives . To me that is strength and courage . And I am blessed to be living in the same town as her and seeing her almost every day .

Marilyn Ruberg September 8, 2016 - 12:31 pm

Bravo!! Yeah to Women everywhere. How wonderful to meet the woman who started the beautiful Gardens of Sissinghurst; through the eyes and memories of her daughter. While enjoying your blog for years, Sharon, I can see that your Mother’s strength, artistic talents,
generosity and love of life shine in you today.
I’ve enjoyed Sissinghurst, and many spectacular English gardens, as my daughter lives in England and I in America. Thank you so much for sharing your life, France, gardens and
castles, and the ever delightful Gibson and Ghetto.

Barbara Lilian September 8, 2016 - 12:37 pm

What a lovely post, In my mind I can see your mother . I hope she soon gets better & can go back to her own home. Thanks for allowing me to have a peep at Sissinghurst garden, somewhere I never managed to get to see when I lived in England. Such beautiful roses.

Kim September 8, 2016 - 12:55 pm

Love to you an your Mum. Sending warm wishes for a speedy recovery. Know she must be doing better with you by her side.

david terry September 8, 2016 - 1:12 pm

Dear Sharon,

Well, what a lovely posting….and I do expect that your mother will smile when she reads it.

As for Sissinghurst and Vita and Harold (it’s a bit cumbersome to type out “the Nicholson/Sackville-Wests”) ? This old house is filled with all too many books by or about them…..ranging from the very ploddingly pedantic, fairly recent “Vita Sackville West and the Creation of a Garden” (written by Vita’s grandaughter-in-law, I gather)……. to the considerably racier (to put the matter mildly) “Mrs. Keppel & Her Daughter” ……which concerns the rowdy, chaotic doings of Violet Trefusis……..the daughter of the married lover of Queen Victoria’s eldest son (the mother, Alice Keppel was/is the great-grandmother of Camilla Parker-Bowles, the mistress of your current Prince of Wales) and, later, the on & off, very chaos-causing lover of Vita Sackville-West……these folks DID get around, albeit in an alarmingly small circle). All in all, the second book is much more fun. It’s difficult for an American such as myself to get a grip on how incestuous this social circle was. I always give up on trying to remember the connections.

My favorite book on Sackville-West is Jane Brown’s “Vita’s Other World: A Gardening Biography of V. Sackville-West”…..particularly because the author makes it VERY CLEAR that, since everyone else is (or was at the time; the book was published in 1985) talking/writing about Vita’s sex-life, she intends to entirely drop the topic. Instead, Brown concentrates on V’s writing, gardening, and other non-gossipy accomplishments. It’s a very refreshing approach, to say the least. I hope that the book is still available, since it’s a lovely, engaging read….one of my favorite books, actually, in a house stuffed with books.

As for strong, practical, and effective women?……do yourself a favor and go to this song (written by one of my favorite singer/songwriuters, Carrie Newcomer). I took its title for one of my paintings, and I think it’s beautiful (so does every woman I’ve ever played it for)

go to:

There’s a light in the kitchen, there’s a glass on the stand
Three women round the table and they’re holding hands
They take care of the birthings, bringing food when they can
They’re easin’ the leavin’ and they’re holding hands

Love can get tangled and jumbled sometimes
You can lose your way in this world, you can lose your mind
But there’s something in which I can depend
It’s the strength in women, holding hands

Oh,The night can get lonely, so dark and wild
And life burns like a diamond..It’s unbearably hard
But it’s sweeter than honey, right from the jar

So, here’s to the women, holding hands…

Your eyes have the look of some different place
You’ve got one foot in heaven and one still in this land
So we breathe it in deep and we let it out slow
We’re all holding up up while you’re letting us go

There’s a free falling feeling… I’m lighter than air
And home burns like a beacon in your eyes
But somehow we get anchored, somehow we get by

Here’s to the women who bind the wounds tight
Here’s to the ones who sit talking half of the night
Here’s to the loves and the lives that they mend
And here’s to the strength in women holding hands

Thanks for the obviously evocative (for me, at least) posting,

David Terry

Vicky from Athens September 8, 2016 - 1:32 pm

Thank you ,David Terry, for introducing me to Carrie Newcomer and that beautiful song this morning! I’m not familiar with her or her music but I’m certainly going to get acquainted. She sounds a bit like Anne Murray I think. And the song sounded a little Celtic, don’t you think?

david terry September 8, 2016 - 1:55 pm

Yes, Vicky…..You’re quite right; Carrie does sound more than a bit like Anne Murray ——in addition to being like Murray in that both are smart, talented, and surprisingly plain-out pretty women……it somehow doesn’t seem fair that some people get the three-in-one package of being intelligent, talented, AND physically beautiful?

and, yes, the arrangement (particularly the wild, sorta-haunting flute) sounds “Celtic”. Carrie knows what she’s doing.

sincerely, David Terry (go to the “current section” on the website, and you can see my painting “Three Women”. Not surprisingly, it’s of three women, all good friends of mine, around a table at my house…..”talking half through the night”…..a line that I love. Unexpectedly enough, my second cousin bought it, and it lives in Knoxville, Tennessee these days).

Vicky from Athens September 9, 2016 - 12:04 am

David – Finally got a chance to find the “Three Women” (I paint all day on Thursdays so am mostly out of touch) and I love it! I really enjoyed looking at your site – you are one talented man! I can just see myself sitting at that table with the other ladies, solving the troubles of the world . . . or at least the troubles of the family. It really touched a note with me. But instead of being ’round the table we are sitting around a campfire. Some pretty serious discussions take place around the campfire with girlfriends. Yes, we are the girls with the grandmother faces!
Thanks again for turning me on to Carrie Newcomer!
Ah, Steven, I remember Kay Starr . . . my parents listened to her also! Go Dogs!

Steven Yancey September 8, 2016 - 7:10 pm

…….got side-tracked on your site looking for the portrait you described. Kay Starr. My parents loved Kay Starr when I was a kid. I still have the album. Somewhere. I remember the picture perfect ’50’s portrait of Miss Starr on the cover. Still have my parents, too. Thankfully. Appreciate the recall.

Vicky from Athens September 8, 2016 - 1:41 pm

Sharon, what a wonderful post today! Exquisite gardens!
You and I are lucky to have our strong, feisty mothers still with us. My mother also lives independently, still drives and has an active social life. Our families (mine and my sisters) are about to celebrate Mother’s 91st birthday at the beach next week. We’ve done this for several years . . . at last year’s celebration of her 90th Mother put on a bathing suit and sat on the beach with us. What a treat! And she looked darned good! Everyone who’s seen the pictures can’t believe she’s 90.
Hoping your mum will be back home very soon!

Our French Oasis September 8, 2016 - 1:42 pm

Very best wishes to your Mother. Having both a feisty mother and a feisty mother-in-law, I completely agree with everything you are saying, although sometimes they embarrass their grandchildren no end! Wouldn’t Vita have made a great blogger, her words, her advice, her photos, I can picture it now. You are so lucky to be able to visit Sissinghurst regularly and in different seasons.

Barbara September 8, 2016 - 2:05 pm

Oh how I love this post. Your mother sounds like mine; fiesty. I smiled at the way she would be in the hospital, teared up at other like descriptions and hear, heared to your cheer for fiesty women everywhere. And those gardens? Be still my heart.

Erna September 8, 2016 - 2:25 pm

Lovely post Sharon and great photos. All the best for your mum. I hope she will soon recover. I would love to had her in my hospital….love stong women. Xx Erna

Anne September 8, 2016 - 2:48 pm

This was a very lovely and beautiful post. I felt in tune with you as soon as I read “these days my children need me less and my mother needs me more,” as I’m exactly in that place, too. The roles are somewhat reversed now (which can be sad at times), although my mother is still very strong in her wishes and opinions. We are both blessed to still have our mothers with us. Best wishes to your mother, Sharon.

Helen Schultz September 8, 2016 - 3:28 pm

Beautiful. I will visit this garden when I next visit my daughter in the UK. Speedy recovery to your Mum xxx

Valerie in Washington DC September 8, 2016 - 3:38 pm

I’ve been a Vita fan for decades, ever since seeing a dramatization of “Portrait of a Marriage” on PBS here in the States. I’ve got Harold’s collected Diaries and Letters in 3 volumes and a number of other tomes by and about them. In fact, I’m reading Juliet Nicolson’s A House Full of Women right now. Sissinghurst is on my bucket list. Thanks so much for these exquisite photos.

Melinda September 8, 2016 - 3:40 pm

Thank you for the feast of green in the garden pictures, a reminder of what planning and tending can yield. So refreshing. And I hope your mother does well in the hospital and after she returns home.

Sharon Hall September 8, 2016 - 3:49 pm

Sharon, Thank you so much for your lovely postings. The influence of Vita-Sackville-West inspired me years ago to plant a white garden. I am still working on that white garden and I am sure that I will be for many years. It is one of the hardest gardens that I have ever tried to create.

Judy September 8, 2016 - 4:18 pm

Dear Sharon,
Hope your Mom is feeling better soon. And bravo for her fiestiness! My Mom passed away 3 years ago and her description was the same a tiny white haired lady with a feisty spirit. Treasure your Mom, as not a day goes by that I don’t miss mine.
I also happened to be a nurse who for many years had worked in Assisted Living. Too many of our not so well informed medical personnel treated our more mature adults like they were children. I certainly know that is a fallacy. I had been blessed to have been entrusted to care for some of the most amazing people. Our average age of residents we had was 89 1/2. We had 13 residents over 100, with the oldest 104 and she helped a staff member plan her vacation to Greenland. She was a world traveler and moved in to the residence when she was 100. Many of the residents actively enjoy gardening and many have articles and books on Sissinghurst and its esteemed residents. Many of which I might add that I have borrowed over the years as I too love gardening and all things English and French. Thank you as always for your wonderful posts. Judy

cynthia woodyard September 8, 2016 - 4:31 pm

So beautifully written!

Suzanne Atkin September 8, 2016 - 4:53 pm

Oh dear girls. It is so aproprate to speak of our Mothers today. My Mum’s birthday is today. She would have been 90 had she lived. Betty pasted on a very memorable day. 12/13/14. I’ll never for get it. She always hoped to pass in her sleep and so she did. I cared for her for 13 years in my home. Of course, she was equally feisty and more depressed after loosing Dad, but she was a wonderful cook. And so she taught me everything I know.
Her Mother had owned a little restaurant next to the Rock Island Train Station in Herrington, Kansas back in the twenties and thirties. Now there was a strong woman if there ever was one. Everyone loved Ruby. She made the best pies I ever tasted. She picked and canned all of the fuit for her jams and jellies and Mother said she got up at 2 o’clock in the morning to start making and baking her famous pies. She always put out a couple for the hobos to snach off the kitchen window sill. She could make anything you wanted, but her chili was the talk of the town. You’ve got to be tough to do all that and raise a child without a husband (who left her soon after my mother was born). They were Welch, from the Old Country, he used to say. Hard working horseman, (which is where I probably got my passion for horses and THAT my girls is another story) but they nearly starved to death may times after coming here. Mother was a casualty of their hardships. She eventually had to live with another family while Ruby worked the restaurants many long hours.
After World War II my Dad, a Bronze Star recipient, married Mother and together they made a wonderful life for my brother and I. Grandmum taught her to cook and we could hardly wait to get home from school to see what she had made for us to taste test that day. She was happy to stay home and care for us as I was happy to quit my job and stay home to care for her after Dad passed, as she slowly went blind from Macular Degeneration of the eyes you see.
In turn, as it goes, her mother made her strong and she made me strong. They were wonderful people and had wonderful stories to tell. I’m completely alone now without any family left so my job is to do all the family genealogy, write their stories to the best of my ability and try to make a new life for myself as I gave up everthing to care for my Daughter through bone cancer, my Father through pancreatic cancer, my Husband through intestinal cancer and my Mum. I have to start over making friends and finding something meaningful to do with my self as I probably have another twenty or thirty years to go before I see them again. I am steel as I come form steel harden in the flames of strife. That’s not to say I don’t have a soft spot in my heart for these that came before me.
Love to all of you wonderful people who inspire me weekly and to you Sharon who bring flowers and castles and old stone houses and wonderful friends and just a wonderful feel of the Old Country of France where my Father’s people came from and Paris where I was so blessed to have honeymooned for three unforgettable days.

My heart is yours,


david terry September 8, 2016 - 6:27 pm

What a lovely response, Suzanna. My paternal grandfather was Welsh, and my godfather raised Welsh mountain ponies. And, yes, my Welsh grandfather also left his wife (my grandmother) when my father was three. Welshmen don’t seem to stick around long, do they?

Best wishes to you, and thanks again for your moving (for this reader, at least) response,

david terry

Sharon Santoni September 8, 2016 - 7:23 pm

My goodness Suzanna, what an amazing story and family! I am so sorry for the sadness you must have known losing so many loved ones and today finding yourself alone
thank you for taking the time to write today

with kind wishes

Maywyn September 8, 2016 - 5:39 pm

Your Mother’s good health is in my prayers
Your beautiful post with the pink roses lifts the spirits on this late summer’s day. I look at your pictures of the garden feeling it is a place to daydream, read, have fun picnics, plant, weed and admire.

Valorie September 8, 2016 - 6:09 pm

What a beautiful post Sharon! Thank you! I will keep you and your Mom in my thoughts and prayers. Love me a feisty woman. My dear sweet Mom just passed on August 28th, at 83, from Alzheimer’s disease. Despite the ravages of this horrible disease, she never lost her strong, feisty, fighting spirit. Never!! She was also cheerful to the end but feisty. Her caregivers all dearly loved her and her spirit. I spent so much time with my Mom the past 6 and 1/2 years and even longer really. Traveling back and forth and back and forth. Bought her tons of clothes as she always like to dress nice when she was healthy. I’m so glad I did, I do not regret any of it!! Not one bit! My Mom was a gardener too, she would have loved to visit these gardens! One last gift I was able to give her was the most exquisite floral casket arrangement. They were breathtaking and had the most beautiful, heavenly scent that matched their beauty! Everyone commented on them and on how beautiful my sweet Mom looked! Savor your time with your sweet Mom, I know you will. Many blessings. x Valorie

Sharon Crigger-Stokan September 8, 2016 - 6:12 pm

This has got to be one of my favorite posts of yours. I love your description of your mom: “sweet, funny, loving and a peacemaker but feisty”. People who know me well have described me in a similar way and I often wonder how they could see me as all those things and I wondered if it (particularly the feisty part) was a good thing – at least in the eyes of others. To read your post, I can see where maybe it is ok and that one day my sons will appreciate that feisty trait in me as well. Thank you!

david terry September 8, 2016 - 6:21 pm

AN APOLOGY (or at least a radical/necessary edit) from David Terry…….

1. Techno-dummie me can’t figure out how to edit my initial response from this morning.

2. I referred to Sarah Raven’s (she is, indeed, married to Vita and Harold’s grandson) Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville West and the Creation of a Garden (pub. 2014) as: “ploddingly pedantic”.

That wasn’t very nice of me (to say the least), nor was it particularly articulate or helpful. Granted, I wrote that at 5 or so in the morning. Still?…..I should have said nothing or stated that, since a great deal of the book (which cites Vita and Raven as co-authors) comprises enormous swathes of Vita’s previously uncompiled publications (her longstanding, weekly column for The Observer being among those), the book can/could seem pedantic (to some folks). The long lists of techniques and recommended-plants wouldn’t, finally, be of much practical use to someone who didn’t happen to be living in England……but it remains that the book provides access to many of Vita’s horticulture-writings that were, until the book’s publication, unavailable. I’m sure there are tons (literally) of folks who have and will greatly appreciate the book. It’s certainly got a beautiful cover.

So, my apologies to Ms. Raven (wherever she might be these days) for glibly tossing out that “ploddingly pedantic” remark.

Just now, I’m reminded of my paternal grandmother (who was, indeed, a “strong” woman; she, as a divorced woman back when that wasn’t in the least chic, to say the least…..raised my father on her own, and she ran an orphanage for 25 or so years).

When my brother and I were young and stupid, we would regularly say that something was “BORING”. She would lower her glasses, stare at you, and declare “Don’t say ‘It’s BORING… accurate, and say ‘I’m bored by it’…..”

She was quite right. It’s one of the most useful lessons in critical technique I’ve ever learned.

Mea Culpa,

David Terry

Sharon Santoni September 8, 2016 - 7:35 pm

Hi David

thank you for your comments today, I always love to see your name pop up in my comment box , and I know that many of my readers feel the same way:)

I haven’t read the book you mention, but I think it very sweet of you to take the time to come back and apologize to Sarah Raven. I believe that she lived on the Sissinghurst estate for a while and helped the gardening team with ideas for reviving the gardens and bringing them back in closer line to Vita’s original vision.

I haven’t had an opportunity to meet her but I love the way she has infused the british public with renewed interest in gardening …. not that they had ever really lost the plot !

My favourite Vita-related volume is her collected contributions to the Observer newspaper, called In Your Garden …. a sort of blow by blow account of creating and maintaining Sissinghurst

Hope you are keeping well


david terry September 8, 2016 - 8:13 pm

Well, Sharon….I’m a lucky boy in that I was raised by women who would yank me up by the collar and tell me to recognize when you”ve done something wrong….and simply apologize.

It’s amazing how free-ing the act can be, isn’t it?

I’ll also admit to considering that Ms. Raven (she’s a doctor, I gather?) probably has the resources to hunt me down and punish me for my ill-considered, online remark concerning her book.

For now, I’m going to go back to wondering how one can edit a comment once one has already hit “Send”………


Sharon Santoni September 8, 2016 - 8:37 pm

I do believe that only I have the power to edit your comment David ….. seems like I just got a little bargaining power!


Heather in Arles September 9, 2016 - 4:29 am

How I love this exchange. For obvious reasons.

Sharon, I fear to ask you to give your Mum my best wishes, also for obvious reasons (well, one in particular) but I think it nonetheless.

With my Very Best,

Colleen Taylor September 8, 2016 - 8:12 pm

Sharon, this is such a beautiful post & I do wish your mother well. I’ve been in your situation trying to take care of my mother. The big difference was that she lived in another state & it was a difficult journey to get to. 17 awful hours with the last trip in order to get there before she passed. When she passed last year, I was with her in the last 2 weeks of her feisty life. She outlived all predictions with her heart condition. I think that feisty attitude of hers made her live longer.

Madonna September 8, 2016 - 10:32 pm

Blessings to you and your Mum. Everyday my prayer is for strength and courage. Thanks for the photos of the flowers. For some reason they feed my spirit.

Lyn September 8, 2016 - 11:13 pm

A very lovely post about a wonderful feisty mother; I also had a great mum and I miss her every day. She was also a fabulous gardener and I wish I had her help now as I try to set up a new vegetable garden.

Kay Chin September 8, 2016 - 11:24 pm

As one of the feisty old ladies I adored your description of your Mum.
I am 77 a keen gardener and Botanical Artist and as my wonderful daughter has lived and worked overseas for many years it delights me to have her home for a while.She has discovered her love of gardening and introduced me to you

Vicky from Athens September 9, 2016 - 12:12 am

Sharon- Don’t you just love it when one of your posts brings so many of us out of the woodwork to comment? Today’s post was so special as were all of the replies!
Best to you . . . Vicky

Sharon Santoni September 9, 2016 - 1:14 am

Hi Vicky, yes you are so right, it’s very touching for me

Glad to see you and David getting on so well 🙂

warmest wishes


Leah Metz September 9, 2016 - 12:45 am

Sharon, thank you for the post on Sissinshurst, I have the book written by Jane Brown, Vita’s Other World. It a gardening biography of V. Sackville-West. There are many photos of the development and growth of the gardens. I will now read this book and think of you taking your monthly drive by these lovely gardens near your mother’s home.
Wishing your mother a speedy recovery so that she can be home soon to enjoy her lovely home.

JudyMac September 9, 2016 - 3:25 am

Although I have read more than one book by or about VS-W, and happen to be currently reading the latest bio, Behind the Mask by Matthew Dennison, I have to agree with David Terry and say that Jane Brown’s Garden Biography has become a much remembered book. I loved reading it and I’m far from being what someone might call even an avid gardener, but I do have a patio garden that I try to “outfit” for the summer with something that blooms, as well as providing an attraction for the hummingbirds and greenery around the bird baths. If I ever get to England, Sissinghurst would be my choice for the garden to visit, simply because I’ve read so much about it. It would be a “must see.” Take good care of Mom. She sounds like quite a gal!

Marian from England September 9, 2016 - 12:30 pm

A lovely post Sharon. I hope your mum is home soon and carrying on her independent life. When my Dad went into hospital, he was very poorly, having had an ulcer perforate and emergency surgery to save his life. The operation was very successful. But one of your readers is right, the staff (all very young it seemed), saw this elderly man, lying back on his pillows with an oxygen mask on, looking somewhat weary and treated him as if he had dementia and had no personality. What I wanted to do was to put a photo of him over his bed, as he had been two weeks previously – lively, cheeky, chatty, active and very much compos mentis! Nurses should be trained more intensively on how to care for and approach the care of elderly people. Thankfully he returned to good health and lived a further two years of independent life at home.
Unfortunately he didn’t have the good grace to live near Sissinghurst! But we visited this year for the first time and loved it. Loved the wild meadow area outside the main entrance, it looked stunnng. Have a lovely weekend.

Carol September 9, 2016 - 2:30 pm

God bless feisty women and the people who love them! My mother was one and I am too. Feisty is the spice that adds zest to life! Hope your delightful mother recovers soon and is back home in her own space. This post moved my heart and soul. Thank you Sharon, David, and all the lovely women who shared their thoughts. Hands around the table!

maude ciardi September 9, 2016 - 4:23 pm

Thank you so much for your beautiful post. You are my favorite blog and I love everything you post. I am older ,75 yrs. old. Still working and am an artist, with a very large family. My dream is to visit you in France and stay in your cottage and do a tour. My only problem is the cost. Maybe one day it will be possible. If not I will continue to dream through your beautiful posts. Thank you for all the effort to give us such inspiration.
Maude Ciardi

Bebe September 9, 2016 - 6:54 pm

I loved Sissinghurst! The aura of the place and the woman who lived there. The White Garden, the beautiful allee of fragrant yellow azaleas (I’d never seen a yellow azalea, nor had I known of a fragrant variety). Her tower room. Magical! Thank you for this lovely report and photos.

Warm wishes to your Mother. I too am called feisty. My favorite compliment.

Andrina Treadgold September 10, 2016 - 3:42 am

Dear Sharon,
What a wonderful post; for the lovely story about your fiesty Mother who sounds very like Vita in temperament and for the banter between all the other readers. Always a joy to read your posts.
Please give your Mother a hug form us all.
Andrina xx

AFN September 10, 2016 - 6:30 pm

Sharon, as my children would attest, I too am feisty. Sometimes it’s so hard to just listen. I loved this post. I’m 74 and lost my mother several years ago. She was 89, my father followed her at 93. Your post and all comments have brought back beautiful
memories of my family. Strong, good people. They were gardeners and instilled a love of the land in their children. They too experienced some of the attitude that caretakers,
assume with older people, that they are “little children” who do not know what is best
for them. Yeah to feisty people who let the world know differently. Appreciate your beautiful post and all your blogger’s comments. Love your mother. Best to her and you.

Nadia September 11, 2016 - 2:56 pm

A beautiful post. It is tough living far away. My mother lived in South Africa and I lived in Los Angeles until she passed away last May. I now live in Dordogne. Treasure the time you have.

Kiki September 15, 2016 - 12:51 pm

Sharon, we were cut off the phone/internet/skype/etc etc for over 2 weeks and your blog is one of the first I visit now that we are ‘branchés’ once more.
This post rings a bell with me for various reasons:
I too live far from my mother (and far from Sissinghurst!) – Hero Husband and I both still have our mums and at one stage in our lives we decided that we wouldn’t move so far from them that we couldn’t, if needed, be with them within one day. We are Swiss but live in France now for more than 8.5 yrs.
Sissinghurst was one of my ‘bucket list items’ since the moment a German friend who visited us while we lived in Devon. She sent me a German translation of a gift-book with the love & life story of the couple and their garden developments. That was the 1st time I actively learned about this treasure, I read books before but no more than that. So, on one of our ‘return visits’ we do every year, we planned to visit SH and we did so on their first day of beautiful sunshine after months of miserable weather…. We were totally enchanted and vowed to do that every year after. This didn’t happen as we – since then – visit now a very elderly friend in a care-home and we can’t do both – but Sissinghurst still will be there when our now 98yrs old friend won’t be any longer!!
As for our mothers, we phone 2-3x per week resp. once every 2 wks (choose who’s calling…) and we visit for a short weekend or longer 3-5x per year. For your mum and all those in illness – may you recover soon and still be permitted to some more life in your years! I wouldn’t say my mum is feisty; maybe because I can’t totally feel the sense of feisty. I tend to think that she’s wise but with a mind of steel. She forgives everything and loves everybody. She also can never ever get a call or visit w/o making ‘remarks’…. I honestly don’t know if she fully realises the hurt she causes or if it’s just old age and the fact that for decennies she ‘had to shut up’ in vital matters. Times are changing and I don’t hold it against her. We only have one mother and we honour her, love her unconditionally, try to please her and indulge her. Thank you for this beautiful post.


Leave a Comment