You probably already have a book (or two) on Sissinghurst, but believe me, this is the one you want on your bookshelf. Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville-West and the Creation of a Garden (St. Martin's Press, 2014) is written by Sarah Raven, who is married to Vita Sackville West's grandson, Adam Nicolson, and whose family has lived at Sissinghurst.
Raven intersperses her own observations about contemporary Sissinghurst with Vita's original garden writings dating back to the 1940's and 50's. She creates a magnificent portrait, through time, of one of the world's most famous gardens. Raven tells the story of the garden in Vita's own words -- most of them just as relevant today as they were several decades ago. As Sara notes, Vita gardened in the "maximalist, not minimalist, way." And as Vita herself said, "Always exaggerate rather than stint ... masses are more effective than mingies." The book is filled with beautiful historic photos of Vita, her husband Harold Nicolson, who designed the layout, along with photos of the garden today. It's one of the most charming garden stories you'll ever read, and it leaves you with a true understanding of how this magnificent landscape was created and why it's still relevant today.
Sissinghurst, of course, is one of the gardens included in this lovely survey of British gardens by author George Plumptre, journalist and chief executive of Britain's National Gardens Scheme since 2010. In The English Country House Garden (Frances Lincoln Ltd 2014), Plumptre takes a look at 25 of the most influential English country house gardens, but it's not only the most familiar ones, like Sissinghurst, Great Dixter and Hidcote. It includes country house gardens designed by current landscape designers like Piet Oudolf, Tom Stuart-Smith and and Dan Pearson. It's a large format book, with stunning photos of these gardens today. If you're not British, you've likely not heard of many of these landscapes, and the book is a welcome addition for anyone planning a visit to the country. Most of these gardens are part of the National Gardens Scheme, so buy the book, check the schedule, and go to see some of the most stunning gardens open today.
Finally, British Gardens in Time: The Greatest Garden Makers from Capability Brown to Christopher Lloyd (Frances Lincoln Ltd 2014) takes a long look at the history of four of Britain's most iconic gardens: Stowe, Buddulph Grange, Nymans and Great Dixter, and the designers who created them. As noted in a foreword by Chris Beardshaw, gardens not only give us a view of the "nuances of personality" of the creator, but they also give us a view of cultural and artistic trends, political and philosophical ideas, and they often represent the social structure of the times and hierarchical class systems. The book is a fascinating portrait of the gardens' creators, their passion for particular plants, and the way in which contemporary history influenced their designs. It's illustrated beautifully with contemporary photos, along with historic photos and drawings. It's a book that will definitely deepen your understanding of the history of British gardening. And FYI, the book is based on a BBC series of the same name -- probably available on DVD.