Hidcote Manor, Mickleton, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire,
I have to come clean on this one, Hidcote is one of
my favourite gardens and it's also been a major influence on garden
design in the Twentieth Century and beyond.
Major Lawrence Johnston inherited what was virtually
an empty site in 1907. He was born in Paris of American parents and
grew up in France. He had some architectural training and was probably
a visitor to Versailles with their gardens designed in the formal manner
by Le Notre, but Hidcote is something else.
The birds in the White Garden
Fantastic perched birds looking towards the yew archway
Johnston was interested in the cottage garden style,
so evoked in the watercolour paintings of the Victorians, but also was
a keen plant hunter visiting South Africa and China in the 1920's and
There's a wonderful White Garden which inspired Vita
Sackwille-West at Sissinghurst, which contains Box birds on a small
scale. But there is also much larger work in the bathing pool gardens
and around the theatre lawns. (This has to be the most perfect place
to watch "Much Ado about Nothing!")
Birds and the box parterre
Looking from the pond garden
Johnston invented the concept of garden rooms, which
we now take for granted and it is difficult to imagine what a surprise
they must have been in the years just before and after the First World
War. These rooms are separated by majestic hedges and it is sad to think
that Johnston himself did not see them in all their mature glory. One
of the unique features at the time was his use of tapestry hedges. i.e.
a hedge made up of different species such as Yew, Holly and Beech so
that in summer they take on different mottled colours and in winter
have a distinct theatrically all of their own.
Alleyway lined with beech hedging
Pleached horbeams in the raised garden
The whole point of Hidcote, in my opinion is that
its the contrast between the formal and the informal which makes it
so spectacular. O.K. not your own back garden but a world to get lost
in and enjoy. I know some people who prefer the rambling charms of Kiftsgate
Court just up the road as they can see their own plots in it in their
minds eye but I for one love Hidcote and the fact that the National
Trust now keep it for the nation is a comforting thought.
The long walk or beech alley
Hidcote Manor is approached up long and winding country
lanes and can be terribly busy in summer so try and get there early.
All photographs by Anthony Blagg.
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