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Sprouting wisdom

Jan./Feb. 2016 California Bountiful magazine

Gardening advice to grow from





Advice: "At this time of the year, there are plants to be scrapped. I feel sure that one of the secrets of good gardening is always to remove, ruthlessly, any plant one doesn't like. Heartbreaking though it may be to chop down a tree one planted years ago, it is the right thing to do if that tree is now getting in the way and keeping the sun off of something else that needs it. And so with everything: Scrap what does not satisfy, and replace it with something that will."—Vita Sackville-West (Sissinghurst Castle, England)

My take: I bought "V. Sackville-West's Garden Book" more than 20 years ago, and I still refer to it today. It is a compilation of many of her "Observer" garden columns. She dispensed advice and wrote about her favorite flowers and plants as though she were sitting and talking across the table. Her writings are as timely today as they were when she wrote them, from 1947 until 1961, just over a year before she died. The columns are organized by month, so you can pull out the book, go to January and read what she says you ought to be doing or planting or learning.

Sackville-West (1892-1962) grew up in an estate called Knole in England. The house alone covered 5 acres. When her parents died, she did not inherit the estate since women weren't allowed to inherit land at that time. She and her husband, Harold Nicholson, eventually bought a run-down castle called Sissinghurst. They transformed it into a world-renowned garden. Sackville-West is probably most famous for her white garden—a garden of white flowers with silver and gray foliage. She followed her own advice: She'd give a plant a year, and if it still displeased her (for example, it didn't grow well, it was in the wrong place, etc.), she took it out and replaced it with something she liked. It's hard to remove a plant that has been there for years, but sometimes it just has to be done.


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