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.


5 thoughts on “Hidcote : The ultimate garden of rooms

  1. i visited Hidcote many times with dreams of making my own gardens one day. In England built a small half acre garden a mile from my house with iron arched tall gate from Architectural yard. It was taking shape until Council came to close it down no planning permission for it ,Bulldozed and house foundations in with in a week. I had rented and had no day on land only fined for building walls to house gate. I took all down paid fine cursed them all. Came to Europe five acres and land for house. Peanuts as sold my home in UK never to look back. Here in the silent forest and lake flat landscape of old farm fields I built my house and around it built my Hidcote idea of red border this time that gate is firmly installed and slowly my planting and hedged rooms are taking shape. Im now retired and have all day in summer to work on design and plantings. I was never trained as a gardener but have designed many gardens all over UK. it was a hobby only but helped vent my upset at not having garden of my own that counted. I was a legal Executive and had to make time to garden design. Being skilled at woodwork and metal work i went all the way to build my own workshops and gardens with gusto. Now 6 years later i can see the wood through the trees and soon when hedges reach 6 foot high work begins on 6 rooms all designed collected and there to set in place. Dial garden smallest Italian gardens the largest with 70 meter long pergoda with formal pound same legnth at its side statues and grape vines urns and fresco paintings . The woodland hike is fun and my English garden is full of lawn and rhodies were we play croquet and now even the ancient Roman game of botciball a bit akin to bowls but one can pitch the ball if you wish. It will take another 3 years but all will be grown to give full privacy and like Hidcote a 1920s feel to arts and crafts. Waiting on hedges to grow is what must have made Mayor L Johnson go to war as something to do while waiting. I had the pleasure as child in France to be given half a crown in 1952 for my birthday by an old chap on tweeds on a realy hot day .He was ill and with a stick but he was Lawrence Johnny Johnson who lived up the road from my aunt. It did not mean much to me other than his kindness until aged 30 I walked into Hidcote with hardly a thought just a gardens near my last appointment of that day. in i went and it hit me as soon as i saw the photo of an old man I knew long ago in tome and space. So on I went with by now avid interest. It took my breath away and my mind it owned. Over another decade I had made six visits. One my last in 2003 I swore to my self and to Johnny Johnson that I would build a gardens to be proud of and he too would see it is spirit. My be he has as the wind in the trees sometimes whisper his name. or is my imagination as red border is looking so much like his already.


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