Hidcote Manor is a famous English garden hidden down a narrow country lane near Chipping Camden in the Cotswolds. It was created by the American, Lawrence Johnston. The estate, comprising the house and 287 acres (116 hectares) of farmland was purchased for him by his mother, Mrs Gertrude Winthrop in 1907. It took Lawrence Johnson some 20 years to create this garden and he collected plants from all over the world to do so. He was a keen gardener and it is evident to the visitor that this garden was created with great thought and love. Of course, Lawrence Johnson had the benefit of a benefactor in his mother. The garden was gifted to the National Trust in 1948 who have maintained it ever since and shared it with the world.
We visited the garden halfway through our 10 days in England and it was definitely one of the garden highlights, this is praise indeed in a Country where the plethora of stunning gardens is hard to believe.
Like many of the grand houses and gardens created in a bygone era, it is lovingly maintained by the National Trust. I cannot stress strongly enough what a fantastic organisation this is, if you are planning a garden tour in the United Kingdom I would strongly recommend taking out a membership, it will give you free access to so many wonderful properties. For more details click here.
I would suggest arriving early in the day before the masses descend upon Hidcote Manor. I would advocate travelling by car, (it is quite remote) with enough space for those choice plants that you cannot resist, the plant shop is very well stocked with good quality plants which can be seen in the garden and they are not too expensive.
It is entirely up to you how much time you spend in the garden but in my opinion, a garden such as this should not be rushed, allow your soul to soak up the many wonders that Hidcote Manor has to offer. I think that a minimum of half a day is required, you can break your visit by having a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the cafe.
For me Hidcote Manor is a mixture of classic garden design and quirky intimate garden rooms. The National Trust have been very respectful of the gardens original design and much of the original paving still exists (watch your footing in these areas) along with many of the original plantings. I’m a lover of classic, timeless garden design and Hidcote Manor has this by the sack load. There are so many beautifully designed garden rooms with long narrow beds, back edged with superb Yew hedging leading the eye forward to a sneak preview of another garden or a panoramic view of the cotswolds.
Hidcote Manor is not all formal design with straight lines and neatly clipped hedges, there are wonderful herbaceous borders and intimate meandering paths, the romance of which can steal your heart.
One of the many herbaceous borders at Hidcote, it has a good depth with interest at ground and at eye level.
Pictured above, original paving laid down by Lawrence Johnston.
There are some grand statements in this garden, like the pond for example. The pond is classically beautiful with an understated water feature in the middle. So often an ornamental pond like this is overwhelmed by the sheer size of the fountain but not here and Lawrence Johnston has added an enticing view across this pond to the next garden. This is a tantilising garden window, framed by two hedges, drawing the visitor forwards to the next delight that Lawrence Johnston has in store for us. To be honest it is these small subtle touches that really inspired me at Hidcote Manor.
These glorious delphiniums were over 6 feet tall and the most fantastic shade of blue. If you want to grow delphiniums like this you can buy seed from Larkspur Nursery
Delphinium seedlings are prone to damping off, so remember to cover the seed trays with vermiculite or fine grit after you have sown the seeds and do not over water them. Once the seedlings are big enough a weekly dose of liquidised tomato feed in the water will help them to establish more leaves and a healthier crown
The steps at the end of this herbaceous border help to define the natural end of the border and act as a focal point for the entrance to the next garden room.
For me this is evocative of romantic summer days, where you can sit and read undisturbed by either people or the hot summer sun. It was pertinent when it was created and even more so today in our world of stress and over crowded spaces. What a wonderful thought, being able to sit here alone immersed in ones thoughts or a good book.
A perfect place for a glass of wine (white, dry and definitely not Chardonnay). I imagine 2 ladies sat here in years gone by discussing Mr Rochester or Mr Darcy.
I like this idea,which extends the classic design of the garden by framing the doorway with hedges, many people consider the garden an extension of the house but this flips it around and make the house an extension of he garden. I’m not sure that entirely works but it’s a very interesting idea.
For me a quintessentially English scene with statuesque trees and horses. The clever design trick here is that the end of the garden (in the foreground) melts effortlessly in the countryside. There is, however, a wall that prevents the sheep and horses from entering the garden. You can only see the wall when you are standing on top of it, I think that this is just brilliantly clever.
As ever, we came away inspired and determined to tweak some of the features of Hidcote Manor to fit our own garden. I use the term tweak because every garden is and should be different, just imagine if every garden looked he same, wouldn’t that make for a boring world. I also realised how blessed we were to have been able to see this garden and I thought how lucky we were that people like Lawrence Johnston, Gertrude Jekyll, Vita Sackville-West and many others had the resolve and natural ability to create such wonderful gardens. I really value my memberships of the National Trust and the Royal Horticultural Society without whose work these wonderful places would fall into disarray and be lost forever. Now that’s a very sad thought indeed.
We are back home now in the Black Forest and my normal routine of weeding, watering and dead heading has resumed. I say ‘normal routine’ but this is simply not true as no 2 days are ever the same when you are a gardener, however, I feel blessed that I am able to envelope myself in something as wonderful and rewarding as gardening.
My final thought is this. Gardening for me is about 2 things, committment and acceptance. Firstly, committment because you have to commit yourself to a garden and it is an open-ended committement. A flower bed doesn’t stay weed free and those roses will not stay looking as beautiful as the day that you bought them unless you put the time in. Secondly, acceptance, you have to accept that things will go wrong and you just have to dust off the dirt and start again. Once you have mastered these two concepts then you will be rewarded by thankful plants, a beautiful place to live, an abundance of wildlife and a very grateful planet.
We’ve just made our selection of David Austin roses for next year and they will be available to view on our website shortly. Why not join our mailing list and be notified of what is happening in the Moosbach Garden.
The Moosbach Garden team wish you many happy hours gardening.