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.
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.
Garden * out of 5: ***
When visited: 2011