VIRGINIA WOOLF’S GARDEN
The story of the garden at Monk’s House
published by Jacqui Small
The author spent ten years as a tenant at Monks House in Rodmell, East Sussex, a small village virtually untouched by time since Virgina and Leonard Woolf lived there. She has compiled a fascinating book drawing on the letters and diaries of Virginia and Leonard Woolf with atmospheric archive photographs of them in the garden.
Leonard was a keen horticulturalist with a taste for bright colours and exotic plants, and a passion for cactus plants. Not for him the tasteful swathe of plants in threes, fives and sevens, weaving throughout a border, he bought single plants one of a colour that took his fancy, and filled the borders with annuals, he was particularly fond of zinnias.
There are tantilising glimpses of their married life at Rodmell through quotations and the enjoyment and pleasure the garden gave to them and their visitors. Virginia was not a hands on gardener, and left most of it to Leonard, but understood his passion, as she wandered from the house to her writing room where she wrote most of her books, saying ‘we are safe in our garden and it is the most I can do to get Leonard to leave it.’
Over the years, Leonard built brick paths, bought a field and incorporated it into the garden growing vegetables during the war. There was an existing orchard, and the apples were stored above Virginia’s original writing room.
After Virginia's tragic death during the war, Leonard stayed on and eventually found someone to share the garden with. Trekkie Parsons was married, but it was all handled in that delightful Bllomsbury way. Trekkie inherited the house, and left it to Sussex University along with the archive, and it is now run by the National Trust.
We visited Monk’s house when it was first opened, and I remember even though it had been recently opened and the house and gardens restored, being impressed by Leonard’s vison and execution of the layout, with weaving brick paths leading into different aspects..
Through Caroline Arber’s photographs,the plans and charming embroidery pictures, the garden once again came to life when Caroline Zoob and her husband were tenants.
This book will intrigue followers of the Bloomsbury group, with the fascinating glimpses into the marriage of Virgina and Leonard Woolf.
The house and garden are open until 26 October 2014 see sidebar.