Hidcote in Gloucestershire is one of the great gardens of England. I have seen pictures in many books and it has featured on many TV programmes but I haven’t ever visited, until last Sunday.
Perhaps not choosing the best of times, following the monsoon downpours on Friday, we were still enchanted.

The garden surrounds a beautiful Cotswold manor house, not in the grand style, but a lovely big family house. It was bought by Gertrude Winthrop, an American widow in 1907 and developed as a garden by her son Lawrence Johnson mostly from the end of World War 1 and onwards. The garden is famously divided into a series of “rooms” each with its own character. Although by English domestic standards it is a large garden, it does feel very much like a garden that could be recreated on a smaller scale, as I know many people have done, and which is why I guess it remains so very popular.

Sunday afternoons would normally see the garden full of visitors, but it was quite quiet. The roads were partially flooded….

……. as we drove here-so much of Gloucestershire is under water that our tourist visit, on reflection, seemed a little flippant. The staff at Hidcote said they had closed at noon on Friday as the weather had been so bad. Putting a positive spin on the rain, at least the garden was green and luxuriant, if a little battered, and we were able to enjoy it in relative peace. Several areas were off limits to protect the grass and because paths were slippery or dangerous, but there were still plenty of lovely things to see.

From the manor house one of the first “rooms” is the Old Garden, seen above. In full summer flower the lilies were towering to above 6 feet in height. We walked through the white garden, which was lovely but the poor light and the effects of the rain means I will leave you to picture it in its full glory, and not spoil your imagination..so moving on to the Upper stream garden, we paused whilst Rob took art shots of a giant blue hosts (mmmmm slug food..) and I contented myself with the steps…

…….with those delightful ferns and with this lovely tiled panel of St. George. I took this one for my son ,whose birthday falls on April 23rd, St. George’s Day (and of course Shakespeare’s birthday). The panel is fixed to a wall inside a lovely thatched sitting area.

A little further on we reached the wilder parts of the garden, and Hidcote has a wonderful example of a Ha Ha .A Ha-ha is a ditch designed to keep cattle, and especially deer, in (or out) of a particular piece of land – an alternative to a wall, fence or hedge that does not interrupt the view.Here is the view out over the adjacent farmland from the Hidcote side, (you can just make out the line of stones along the top of the Ha Ha)…

…and those woolly bleaters are excluded by this. ….

The drop down is about 5 feet, enough to deter sheep and cattle certainly. And a great way of preserving your view. And speaking of views, I love these long borders with their clipped box trees and hedges.

The cloud has given the pictures a greyish cast, but there was plenty of colour. I thought this dahlia was especially zingy….

..as was this fabulous Dahlia/Day lily combination.

Two of the areas I particularly liked were the red border, seen below , inaccessible because the grass was very very wet.

…..and the beautiful hot planting in Mrs Winthrop’s garden, where there were palm trees and other sun lovers.

The glorious yellow and purple tangle below is in front of the plant house and features swathes of my favourite Verbena bonariensis, tall airy, delicate purple flowers between the yellow Argyranthemum and lilies.

I was intrigued to read that there are no plans, no plant list and no diaries kept by Lawrence Johnson. He was such a private man and this was his private garden. And it retains that lovely feeling of being a man’s personal passion and retreat, as I feel on a tiny scale my own garden is. I expect many of you feel the same.

More pictures and descriptions of the garden, with sunshine, can be found here and there are numerous Internet references to Hidcote. I fully intend to return so in due course, there will be more pictures.


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