Hidcote : The ultimate garden of rooms

A colourful entrance border of bold Autumn colours – Verbena bonariensis, Kniphofia, Rudbeckia clashing cheerfully – greets the September visitor to Hidcote Manor.


A brief pause in the great man’s library, Lawrence Johnston the passionate plantsman, who was wealthy enough to indulge his passion, and whose creation is the foremost Arts and Crafts garden in England.


Library, Hidcote

The library Hidcote

I love the personal touch when visiting great houses and gardens and the National Trust are pretty good at it, so I enjoyed visiting his potting shed too; although long dead (1958), one can imagine him at work, or at least supervising it.


What Anglo-American Lawrence Johnston was really good at was structure, combining that with his love of plants, creating at Hidcote THE garden of “outdoor rooms”, each with its own character, which is what makes exploring the garden so exciting, and his garden at Hidcote one of the most influential of the 20th century. He used hedging, rather than walls or fences, to create enclosures, giving each area a sense of intimacy.

Hidcote Manor

Hidcote Manor

Here is a flavour of these ‘outdoor rooms’ :


Classic herbaceous borders in pastel shades lead on to the Red Borders, then up the steps to the twin gazebos and finally, on to those famous gates overlooking the countryside; yet, to the left and right are many more possibilities to explore further.



Red Border, Hidcote Manor

The famous Red Border, one of the first ever single-colour borders, it was rejuvenated with purple and dusky brown foliage by plantsman Graham Thomas in the 1950s after the National Trust took over.

Upper Stream garden, Hidcote

Exploring the garden at Hidcote is a voyage of discovery, here formality has given way in the stream gardens

Circle Garden, Hidcote

The circular garden, Mrs Winthrop’s Garden, with its gold planting, inviting you to take one of three paths to explore further



Rest awhile near the Plant House

My favourite little corner of this great garden is the almost hidden restored Italian summer house with its trompe l’oeil murals reminiscent of 1920s garden parties – and a great retreat when the garden is busy.

Summerhouse, Hidcote

Trompe l’oeil murals in the Summerhouse



Hidcote was the first garden to be taken over by the National Trust, when Lawrence Johnston moved to France in 1948. It opened to visitors in 1949, all 600 of them; now, it’s more like 175,000. What a legacy Johnston left, a shy retiring man who created a ground-breaking garden and who was, astonishingly, completely untrained.


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