I'm delighted to have had the opportunity to curate this exhibition at Sissinghurst. It is free to visitors of this world-famous garden and runs from 5 May until 21 October. Highlights include a beautiful suffrage banner embroidered by Gertrude Jekyll and one of Vita Sackville-West's own garden notes which, we believe, has never been publically displayed before.
One of the pleasures of giving talks on Gardening Women is having the chance to talk to people afterwards and hear their own stories and memories. After a recent talk I gave at the Guildford Literary Festival, I was delighted when a lovely lady came up to me to say that she had a copy of The Hon. Frances Wolseley's Gardening for Women inscribed by Chrystabel Procter. Chrystabel went on from Wolseley's Glynde College to become Head Gardener at Girton College at Cambridge. I have written about her experiences there in the late 1930s and during the Second World War in Gardening Women, including her battles with the dons who insisted on stripping the garden for flower arrangements in their rooms.
So it was a double thrill when I received these photographs of the book showing not only Chrystabel's name inscribed at the front in ink, but also several comments that had been pencilled in to the text. While we can't be positive they were written by Chrystabel, the writing is similar enough to think we can be confident they are. Scroll down to read her comments on Gertrude Jekyll, women not having the strength to garden seriously alongside some pretty non-PC language on 'native gardeners' in South Africa, and the lack of holiday time for all gardeners. Gail is lucky to own such a little treasure and I thank her for sharing it with us.