England’s Earlier Spring

PG  22-23

Photo: Sue Snell

CHARLESTON in Sussex, England, home to members of the unconventional Bloomsbury group from 1916 until 1978, has never been primarily about the gardens. It’s better known for the creativity of its interiors, painted and decorated with a free, childlike hand, and the scandalous spouse-swapping lifestyle of its inhabitants. a freewheeling group that circled around the artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell.

A new book, The Garden at Charleston by Sue Snell (Frances Lincoln, $30), reminded me of  a whirlwind two-day road trip I undertook with my friend Diana in very early April a couple of years ago to visit Sissinghurst, Great Dixter, Charleston, and Nymans, in that order.

The gardens at Charleston, under an acre, are often overlooked, but they are beautiful in that effortless English-garden way — neither formal nor informal, with stone walls of great character, verdant cloud-pruned hedges, flowering fruit trees, and perennial bulbs that have been naturalizing for decades.


Photo: me

Springtime in England will be well underway a few short weeks from now, while we in the Northeast U.S. are still enduring mud season. Charleston opens to visitors the last week of March, and it’s not at all a bad time to take a transatlantic jaunt, before our own active garden season gets going.

Photo: Sue Snell

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