Sunday, June 17, 2012

Creating a Gothic Twilight Garden (With Some Slight Modifications)

While skimming through a book on Vita Sackville-West this week, the insomniac  stumbled upon a few paragraphs referencing her Twilight Garden at Sissinghurst. It seemed like an excellent idea for people who are not terribly fond of the sun and who prefer to do their garden viewing from somewhere shaded or, better still, in the evening when the sun has vanished and the risk of perishing from the heat is thereby greatly minimized. Apparently, Vita's inspiration for a Twilight Garden was partly due to the fact that she also was a Night Owl, much preferring to be about in the Dusk and Darkness. She was inspired by “white lilies seen by twilight or moonlight gleaming under the shadow of a thick wood, and enchanted by white field daisies that turned luminescent in the summer dusk”, these concepts eventually resulting in the creation of her all-white garden.

Sissinghurst: The White Garden
Weeping Pear behind Statue - Unsuitable for Zone 3B

Sissinghurst: The White Garden
Iceberg Roses in Background - Unsuitable for Zone 3B

The idea of a garden composed exclusively of white flowers was intriguing, but as the biography didn't give much detail it was decided to order another book entitled The Twilight Garden  to expand one's knowledge on the subject. Now on the off-chance you haven't already surmised from the insomniac's  incessant whining about snow, more snow, early frosts, lack of anything remotely resembling Spring, blah-blah-blah, the Gothic Mansion is situated in Plant Hardiness Zone 3B, having an average annual minimum temperature of -34.5 to -37.2 degrees Celsius (-30 to -35 Fahrenheit). Roughly translated, this means very few plants will thrive here, making the creation of any sort of respectable garden, Twilight or otherwise, quite difficult. And out of one hundred and twenty-three pages of floral recommendations in The Twilight Garden, only TWO pages were suitable for Zone 3B - Sweet Rocket and Day Lilies. Since Sweet Rocket pretty much grows like a weed and the grounds surrounding the Gothic Mansion are already overrun with the both of them, the book did not provide quite the inspiration one was hoping for.

At this point, one came to the rather sudden realization that a change in direction was required, and the inclusion of black plants would be necessary unless one felt like coming up with a completely new idea for this week's post, which one didn't. Fortunately, also included in the order was another book called Black Plants, and with names like Dracula Orchid, Bat Flower and Voodoo Lily, how could one not be intrigued? Unhappily, none of those plants are suitable for Zone 3B, either.

Dracula Orchid

Voodoo Lily

Bat Flower

But despite a few unfriendly Zone 3B offerings, much more inspiration was obtained from this book, and even though the insomniac  and her gardener (more commonly referred to as the long-suffering spouse) are inclined to avoid purchasing annuals (due to the cost) and also anything not specifically suited to Zone 3B (due to the disappointment), the following suggestions will certainly be attempted in the near future.

Black Cornflower

Chocolate Delphinium

Even though one seldom purchases annuals, as it seems hardly worthwhile for a mere two month's worth of enjoyment, the insomniac  has decided to make an exception for these next two, as she thinks they would look quite funereal displayed in a black urn, a few of which just happen to be available in the Attic. Quite the coincidence, eh?

Black and White Minstrels' Carnation

Penny Black Baby Blue Eyes

The best of both worlds, a white plant with black leaves and described as “a vigorous deciduous shrub, hardy to cold”, which pretty much guarantees its inclusion in next year's  garden.

Black Lace Elderberry

At this point, since one has already pretty much abandoned the whole Twilight Garden idea by including black plants, it seemed there could be no harm in adding a smidgen of purple, as well. So now that the Twilight Garden has been slightly modified to include white plus black plus purple, let's just call it a Half Mourning Garden and be done with it, shall we? It really is difficult for the insomniac  to stick to one theme, whether it be an all-white garden or a blog post with a single subject ...

Sissinghurst: Iron Gates with Columbines and Iris
Both suitable for Zone 3B

White with a Smidgen of Purple

This fall, the insomniac  is planning to order these lilies from Breck's as they are sure to flourish, as long as the flower beds have been enclosed in some very attractive chicken wire to keep the rabbits from consuming them. Just one more obstacle to overcome in the creation of a respectable Mourning Garden, as if the whole Zone 3B thing weren't enough.

Night Flyer Lily
Tuxedo Lily Mixture

Olina Tango Lily

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams ... and should anyone be interested in a barely glanced-at copy of The Twilight Garden, please contact the insomniac  and she'll gladly send it to you. Goodnight, my pretties.


    Vita's Other World, A Gardening Biography of V. Sackville-West, Jane Brown
    Black Plants, 75 Striking Choices for the Garden, Paul Bonine
    The Twilight Garden, Lia Leendertz

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