The Hon Victoria Mary Sackville-West, Lady Nicolson, CH (9 March 1892 – 2 June 1962), best known as Vita Sackville-West, was an English author, poet and gardener. Known for her exuberant aristocratic life, her passionate affair with Virginia Woolf led to one of the most groundbreaking works in women's literature. A diary entry dated 5th October 1927, captures the moment of Orlando's conception - "..and instantly the usual exciting devices enter my mind: a biography beginning in the year 1500 and continuing to the present day, called Orlando: Vita; only with a change about from one sex to the other" (excerpt from her diary published posthumously by her husband Leonard Woolf).
The resulting novel was declared by Sackville-West's son as "the longest and most charming love-letter in literature"
Vita's love of the poetic could be found in her description of (in my opinion) one of the most beautiful, delicate and interesting plants that unfurl their gentle petals at this time of year - The Snake's Head Fritillary. Quoted by her as 'a sinister little flower, in the mournful colour of decay...' it brings to mind the story that Fritillaria were growing near Christ's crucifixion, leading them to hang their heads in sorrow which they still do today.