After many years spent living in Persia, poet and novelist Vita Sackville-West and her husband, the diplomat and critic Harold Nicolson, purchased the Sissinghurst Castle in 1930. The castle, located in Kent, England, was in a state of disrepair, but intensive renovation returned it to its former grandeur. While the repairs were being made, Vita, who was the subject of Virginia Woolf's novel "Orlando," designed and planted what became one of the world's most famous gardens, a tightly structured yet lush array of flowers and foliage that has served as a source of inspiration for subsequent generations of gardeners. One gardener who was particularly stimulated by Vita's example is Dianne Wallace, and the grounds surrounding her East Hampton home capture some of that beauty.
Dianne hadn't had much interest in gardening prior to purchasing her house in 1990 -- most of her gardening experience came from growing radishes and morning glories in flowerpots and windowboxes in her New York City apartment -- but once she began designing the grounds around her house, she discovered her hidden talent. From Dianne's door, a bluestone path leads through containers of flowers blooming in blue and white and lends a view to parterres that create an axis of greens. Further on, pear trees appoint a shaded dining area, and the stone path becomes crooked, intimating the planned wildness of euphorbia, Angelica gigas, and rhododendron to come. A cottage garden has an even less formal feel, alive with delphinium, white yarrow, and lamb's ear. There's also a hawthorne allee, a rose garden with wattle fencing, an 80-year-old apple tree, and, as a centerpiece, a dramatic statue of Diana, goddess of the hunt, stretching her bow.