Wednesday, October 5, 2011

English Gardens-Sibylle Kreutzberger's Garden

The view of the garden from Sibylle's cottage

One of the great thrills on our trip to England this summer was to spend some time with gardening legend Sibylle Kreutzberger.  Through the kind introduction of our hosts, Gordon and Mary Hayward, we had the opportunity to take tea and visit with Sibylle in her wonderful Cotswold cottage and garden.

For more than thirty years, Sibylle, along with her friend and colleague, Pamela Schwerdt, served as head gardeners at Sissinghurst, arguably the most famous garden in the world.  They retired in 1991, and bought a small house in Gloucestershire where they developed the much admired garden shown in these photos.  Unfortunately, Pam passed away in 2009 at the age of 78. 

Sibylle Kreutzberger (in blue, third from left at table) and Pamela Schwerdt (to her right)
in an earlier interview for the BBC on the Waterperry School.  Photo courtesy of
Waterperry Gardens.

Looking down the main axis of Sibylle's garden

Early photo of Sibylle (l) and Pam (r) at Sissinghurst
by Valerie Finnis

When Sibylle and Pam left the Waterperry Scool, a "school of horticulture for ladies," in 1959 and began their tenure at Sissinghurst, gardening at a professional level was a male dominated world and, at first, it wasn't easy going for them.  In an interview in 2006, Sibylle said that "when we first went to Sissinghurst, people used to point at us as though we were baboons at the zoo." But soon, through determination and hard work along with adept hands at making striking compositions in the garden, all the men were won over, including the four male under-gardeners that worked for them at Sissinghurst.  During the height of the gardening season, Pam and Sibylle would often work in the garden for 14 hours a day.  For the first 15 years at Sissinghurst, they never took a holiday, working right through the weekends.

Sibylle's urn and cobbled circle

The legendary Vita Sackville-West, the owner of Sissinghurst, passed away in 1962 giving Sibylle and Pam a free hand in the garden for the next twenty-nine years.  It has been said by many that the often copied "Sissinghurst look" owed as much, if not more, to Sibylle and Pam as it did to Vita Sackville-West.

For more than 40 years, both Sibylle and Pam sat on committees of the Royal Horticultural Society.  They were made Associates of Honour of the RHS in 1980 and, in 2006, received the Victoria Medal of Honour, the Royal Horticultural Society's highest award.

Today, Sibylle continues to develop and maintain the beautiful Gloucestershire garden that she and Pam began together almost twenty years ago.  She is always keen to talk gardening and there's a spring in her step that belies her age.  She walks many miles on a regular basis to keep fit and, although she no longer spends 14 hours a day in the garden, as in those early years at Sissinghurst, her little jewel of a garden is proof that the artistry and horticultural savvy of this very knowledgeable plantswoman are still working overtime.

Thank you Sibylle for your wonderful hospitality and for the inspiration you give to all of us!

For more photos of Sibylle's garden, CLICK HERE.

To see more gardens in the series "English Gardens," click here.

For other Featured Gardenersclick here.


  1. Lucky you, Joe. What a treat to visit with living legend and see her garden. Thanks for a great post.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Michael! Yes, I feel truly fortunate to have been able to spend just a little time with this gracious lady!--Joe

  3. Wow. But I disagree on the "little garden" -- more like "comparatively little garden." It's brilliant. And those two made Sissinghurst the garden so often imitated by envious Americans.

  4. You're right... comparatively little. And wonderful! And, to the readers out there... you need to check out Tovah's great article, discussing the appeal and influence of Sissinghurst on American gardens, that just appeared in The Telegraph. You'll find it at:

  5. I'm so happy that Sybil is still alive and vibrant! Sorry about Pam's passing. I stayed with them several years back, and had such a great time talking about their lives, past and present! Great ladies! Thank you for posting this.......Cynthia Woodyard

    1. Hi Cynthia! Great to hear from you! Yes, she's a remarkable lady. I just heard from her several weeks ago and she's doing great. There's a nice article about her in the recent November issue of The English Garden Magazine, if you have a chance to check it out. Cheers, Joe


Thank you for your comments!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...