Pamela Schwerdt (1931-2009)

Through sheer horticultural prowess Pamela Schwerdt and Sibylle Kreutzberger, her partner of 60 years (both pictured above), made the plantings at Sissinghurst world famous even after the death of the garden's charismatic owners, Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson . Read Tony Lord's informative obituary of Pamela Schwerdt, who died on September 11th, here.
"The pair contacted various gardening correspondents including Sackville-West, then writing for the Observer. She knew of nowhere but wrote again a week later to say she needed a head gardener: would Pam be interested? Pam replied 'yes, but we are two'. Sackville-West invited them to visit in mid-July. They found a garden with good bones designed by Harold and romantic and profuse planting by Vita. But there were many weeds and Sackville-West lamented that the season was over. This Pam and Sibylle saw as a challenge, and decided to take the job.
It was then unusual to have one lady head gardener: two was perhaps a first. Sibylle recalls the visiting public gawping as though they were exhibits in a zoo. Sackville-West gave them free rein to plant as they saw fit, a policy that continued after Sissinghurst passed to the National Trust in 1967."—Tony Lord
Note: the above photograph is by Valerie Finnis. For more of her wonderfully evocative portraits of the 20th-century's most famous English gardeners buy the book, Garden People: The Photographs of Valerie Finnis.
PS Thanks D, for the tip.

Pamela Schwerdt and Sibylle Kreutzberger, photographed in 2004 by Tessa Traeger / National Portrait Gallery, London.

6 comments:

deborah n said...

amazing photographs you found! so beautiful. xxd

Adam Nicolson said...

Yes, wonderful pix

Heather Taylor said...

love this post.

Gary said...

A great loss...a dear friend and mentor. Forever in my thoughts.

Quercus

Emma said...

I was a former admiring neighbour of "the girls" in our Cotwold village from '92-'95, and have only just found out about Pam's passing - am shedding a tear for this lovely strong and kind woman. God bless dear Sybille... Such a long friendship captured beautifully in these photos, thank you for posting.

Stephen Orr said...

Hello Emma,

Thank you for sharing your remembrances. I'm so happy that you had the chance to know Ms. Schwerdt.