Hidcote Manor: the National Trust’s ‘first garden’ (Gloucestershire)

Hidcote was the first property that the National Trust acquired for its garden.

This explains why the house is merely used by the NT as a passage into the garden and tenants occupy the rest.

The cash desk is in the hallway through the door shown between the signs.  Visitors are asked to turn immediately left.  There is a small sitting room/study.  There’s then another door (set in a neoclassical facade) out into the garden.

That’s it for the house.

Reason to visit: to take inspiration from an early 20th century garden and see what you too could create (granted with the aid of an army of gardeners) out of fields.

The sitting room - the only room on show in the house

On to the garden.

Lawrence Johnston was an American that didn’t really get on with others, including those he patronised to collect plants (he insisted on going with them, which allegedly they’d have rather he didn’t).  His mother bought the house and he got on with the gardening.

It was about 1907.  The house was at that time surrounded by fields.

Johnston then spent 41 years on the creation of Hidcote before retiring to France, where he had another garden housing his sub-tropical collection.

What he produced has since inspired many gardens, not least Sissinghurst.

The result is a series of garden rooms, similar to Great Dixter.  There are pockets of flowers, a wider orchard, conservatory, lawns, pools, a glass house, dry areas, a mediterranean area and bits of sculpture here and there.

Since they acquired it in 1947 the NT had been fighting a losing battle the keep Hidcote in the style that Johnston intended but in recent years a £1.6m donation has meant the gardens are being restored.  This work should be completed during 2012.

If all this garden (10 acres) leaves you peckish, part of the house provides a restaurant.  Across the road the NT also have a garden centre and cafe.

We spent an hour at Hidcote, being the first to arrive.  My advice, go early – it can get very very busy.

Do I like it? No. 

Would I want this garden?  No.

Do I understand why it was important?  Yes.

It’s neither Italian, landscape, Victorian or cottagey.  It’s a vision of compartmentalised gardening to give the owner everything he desires in terms of a botanical feast without needing to create an interwoven plan.  Put an orchard here, a fish pond there, a long vista here.  Perfect for someone who lacks a single passion for ‘garden design’ and is so drawn to the new and the different that a garden of rooms is perfect for him.

For more inspiration you can see The Galloping Garden’s pictures of Hidcote here.

Website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hidcote/

Garden * out of 5: ***

When visited: 2011

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8 thoughts on “Hidcote Manor: the National Trust’s ‘first garden’ (Gloucestershire)

  1. His “single passion” was for plants and plantsmanship, and the beauty they create. Nothing you say in any way lessens my respect for Hidcote.

    1. Philip. Thank you very much for your comment.

      I guess I just don’t really like 20th century (or Victorian) styles of gardening and I really don’t like concrete in gardens. I prefer Italiante, landscape, Japanese or formal topiary gardens and particuarly a garden with real flow. However, I do like to visit a cottage garden with an opulent ‘stuffed’ feeling, like at Great Dixter. When I compare Hidcote to the ‘rooms’ at Cottesbrooke (http://www.cottesbrookehall.co.uk/) I just don’t feel comfortable at Hidcote, whereas Cottesbrook I would happily call my own. I have respect for what was been achieved at Hidcote (especially considering what was there before and what it inspired), but I just wouldn’t want to live with it. A ‘plantsman’s garden’ it is, but then for that I prefer physic or botanical gardens (or somewhere like Trewithen (http://www.trewithengardens.co.uk) . Maybe it’s the numbers of people that go to Hidcote because it is owned by the National Trust. I almost always enjoy the tranquility of privately owned gardens, where there is the chance to enjoy a garden as the owner might. That said, Hidcote is certainly is popular for a reason so you are not alone in your admiration.

  2. Oh, I really love Hidcote! As I do not have acres and acres of land, I relate well to the compartmentalized garden rooms…..borrowing ideas for my own city garden plots. But, I understand your position as well. Cheers, Loi

      1. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll be sure to visit Cottesbrooke. Will catch up on your other posts / visits as well. Loi

  3. Wonderful post! I love garden rooms. As Loi mentions in the comment above, it helps me find inspiration for my own garden. My garden is tiny. As for Johnston’s inability to decide on a style…that reminds me of…well…me (smile). I’m a sucker for flowers. I have to admit it.

    I am so glad you left a comment on my blog so I could learn about yours. I can see I have some excellent reading ahead of me. Cheers!

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