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.
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.
Here is a flavour of these ‘outdoor rooms’ :
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.
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.