So this is it – off to see the Bishop in Kent

Loved the Bish who presided over a long confirmation service in a very plain Edwardian Church.  We are  deep in Kent.  A bit of  a long one before the promised cuppa and cake back at my old school.  Lady in front, dressed to kill in fabulous pink coat with nails and specs matching,  was studying her criminal law text book.  I devoured the service sheet.  Kill a little time with the confirmand names : 4 Charlottes, 4 Sophies (well one Sophia actually) 4 sharing the pull between Georgina and the more modern Georgia.  Then with 2 Olivias and 2 Isabellas that snaffles over 30%.

But I digress, this is all about gardens isn’t it?  Now on the scrunchy gravel outside the old school,  I’m feeling a bit uneasy and out of touch with my former teenage psyche, too many years ago to say.   The quest of the golden bed becomes an handy distraction:  An island bed,  very 1970s with a load of dull shrubs.  Oh, and a commerative plaque to a head girl – not her death you understand, but recording her planting of a tree.  Very dull and the rhododendrons are lowering in the wings.

By contrast, a visit to Sissinghurst before the church service, was a Mozart symphony.  It was fabulous.  There are two tricks to remember for visiting a famous garden. 1.  Pick an overcast (preferably rainy) day and 2. get there ready and queueing up at the ticket office before opening time.   Be prepared to charge in like a Grand National mount.  You will buy valuable moments to see the place alone  without other people’s second hand comments.  Drink it all  in. The un-cut silence of the breeze, the clattering of leaves and  bird song.  Plus no annoying extras in your garden snaps.

Early May and Sissinghurst gardens look truly lovely with  a huge palette of green and all that anticipation to gasp for.  Top things to look at right now: the  opportunity to see grade 1 artwork in  old shrub rose training before it all gets too leafy,  the riot of bulbs under the pleached lime walk and fabulous ground-cover in the nut grove and under the magnolias (peonies, pulmonarias, ferns, solomens seal and various cranesbills) Last.  the polite restraint of the battalinii Bronze Charm tulips in the raised troughs.

Sissinghurst is all about good bone structure, lines of precisely clipped yew hedging, fabulous paving and those mellow brick buildings.  The planting is not far behind this ten out of ten excellence and I ran out of ink, marking down planting combinations in my notebook.  Just a taster,  camassia in front of a cotinus just breaking into leaf.

I have been visiting this  garden on and off  since I got out of that school, mentioned above.  Never has it looked quite so kempt  and enticing.