Moving on from food to flowers, we took a day trip from London to Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s home, and to Sissinghurst, one of the most renowned gardens in England. Sissinghurst is known for its White Garden, and it was lucky coincidence that we happened to be there just as it was beginning to bloom. A green thumb must be part of the collective English consciousness, because everywhere we went there were gorgeous flowers – like these at the flower stand outside Liberty of London (see below).
Churchill’s home is just as it was when he lived there, a medieval-era house that he purchased without his wife’s knowledge. She came to love it eventually and turned an expert hand to the gardens. The World War II memorabilia and Churchill’s paintings are well worth the visit, and the gardens and grounds make it a pleasant place for a picnic. If you go, don’t miss the Butterfly House. Winston Churchill was fascinated by butterflies, and he created a butterfly house, which is still kept populated by butterfly larvae and pupae today. The mature butterflies are released into the garden each summer, where plant species attractive to butterflies are grown.
Then on to Sissinghurst, the work of famed garden designer Vita Sackville-West. Sissinghurst is a garden in the ruin of a great Elizabethan house. The gardens are divided into rooms and allees, including – among many others – a rose garden, a cottage garden, a nuttery, a moat walk, and, of course, the famous White Garden. Some of the roses were more than six inches in diameter; it made me realize what a rose could look like if given optimal weather conditions and the best care. Growing roses in the humidity of Washington is an exercise in frustration, but it’s good to know that somewhere they are thriving magnificently.