#MyGloriousGardens: Virginia Woolf’s Monks House Garden

Today, I am featuring my second post on Virginia Woolf’s garden, Monks House. If you missed my first post, it is HERE.  In letters to friends Virginia said, “ The point of Monks House is the garden. I shan’t tell you, for you must come and sit there on the lawn with me, or stroll in the apple orchard, or pick—-there are cherries, plums, pears, figs, together with all the vegetables. This is going to be the pride of our hearts I warn you.”

But, first we must go down “The Street” to get to the cottage. This is the main street in Rodmell! It is a one lane road from the pub on the corner, to the old mill at the end. Monks House is near the old mill.

On the Way to Monk’s House, Sussex, UK
On the Way to Monk’s House, Sussex, UK
On the Way to Monk’s House, Sussex, UK
On the Way to Monk’s House, Sussex, UK
On the Way to Monk’s House, Sussex, UK

Here we are in the garden at Monk’s House. It so so peaceful here!

Monks House and Garden, Sussex, UK
Monk’s House, Sussex, UK
Monk’s House, Sussex, UK
The Gardens at Monks House, Sussex, UK
Leonard’s Greenhouse at Monks Hill

Many of the details of day to day life found in Virginia’s diary include the gardens. (Note the writing from her diary displayed on the chalkboard in front of the glasshouse that is being reconstructed in the yard.)

By 1928, after expanding their plot, Virginia felt they had really started to “dig in.”

The Gardens at Monks House, UK
Monk’s House, Sussex, UK
Monk’s House, Sussex, UK
The Gardens at Monks House, UK

So the Woolfs spent their days comfortably, with Virginia writing in her room or in the lodge, and entertaining many of their Bloomsbury friends, while Leonard became an expert gardener.  Virginia often commented the garden was the third person in their marriage. For Leonard tending and developing the garden was totally absorbing. Virginia found peace and tranquility in the garden which helped her mental state of mind, and walking to her lodge every morning was part of her creative routine.

The Gardens at Monks House, Sussex, UK
The  Vegetable Gardens at Monks House, Sussex, UK
The Vegetable Gardens at Monks House, Sussex, UK
The Vegetable Gardens at Monks House, Sussex, UK

The vegetable garden was so productive, that when the Woolfs were in London they would have a hamper sent to them every week to keep them supplied. The excess produce was sent to the Women’s Institute market.  Home Fires on BBC’s Masterpiece Theatre is a good start to learning about the Women’s Institute and a very good movie about how one of the women’s group chose to raise money is portrayed in Calendar Girls. It is one of my favorite movies.

The Italian Garden at Monks House, Sussex, UK
The Italian Garden at Monks House, Sussex, UK

In 1933, following the publication of Flush (Virginia’s biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel named Flush) they were able to make additions to their garden.  Upon returning from a trip to Tuscany in the same year, work started on an Italian garden by adding plants, pavings and walkways to various parts of the garden.  Virginia’s contribution was to buy pots, urns, and a statue.

Eventually as the garden grew Leonard employed a gardener, Percy Bartholomew,  who would live in one of the cottages near the property that the Woolfs had bought when they purchased Monk’s House. Although their garden was small and unpretentious compared to that of some of their friends, notably Vita Sackville-West, the delightfully small, informal garden is what made it so special. Leonard was so engrossed in gardening that in 1941 he founded the Rodmell Horticultural Society. I wondered if it included everyone in the village, because it is a very small place! Maybe it was his Bloomsbury Group!  See you in the garden next week!

Won’t you join in the Garden Challenge hosted at #MyGloriousGardens? I think it will be inspiring to see all the other gardens and what you are doing in yours too!

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh it’s gorgeous! Beautiful post as always, Cady! I love the Italian Garden in particular as I’m interested in creating something similar in the old house garden although I’m still playing around with ideas at this stage!
    She must have taken such inspiration from their garden and found it, indeed,very peaceful. It looks quite large. How big would you say it is in it’s entirety?
    Thank you so much for keeping the #MyGloriousGardens going. I feel you are my champion at the moment as I’m bogged down with “end of school year” things!! You must link these lovely posts up early July my lovely.
    Have a super Sunday. Xxx

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    1. The original property that they bought was the old, old cottage with 3/4 acre that stretched between the stone walls from the original monk’s lodgings to the church. This is where they had their gardens. You can see the church in the backyard. Now the church is part of the school property and you can hear the laughter of children on the other side of the wall, which I think Virginia would have loved and hated at times! They eventually bought more property and tore down another wall to get an unobstructed view of the South Downs. I think that property is large. But no gardens there! Views only! Of all the cottages and gardens I have visited this is the one I could live in! I have posted my gardens to your latest #MyGloriousGardens page, but when you are back I will re-post them to the new link. Just a suggestion, on the weeks you are busy why not post a few photos of flowers and such…..just to keep folks in the habit of linking and to keep the link going. You can do these a head of time and schedule for weeks you are busy and not available. Just my two cents worth!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah thank you! Yes, its a tricky one! I’m here today trying to catch up as I like to reply to everyone.
        I put this post of yours on my Facebook page.
        I will set up the linky end of next week hopefully! Thank you Cady. x
        I went to a gorgeous garden today……just writing it up!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. New blog post….oh Cady…you MUST visit here…..

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  2. Beautiful place. The gardens look so inviting.

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    1. My favorite of all the gardens I have visited!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for introducing us to such a lovely garden. I love all the cottage style planting. 😊

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    1. You and I think a like! The small cottage with a small garden is just my thing!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes and it’s easy maintenance😉

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