Two Cotswolds Gardens. 2: Hidcote


Of course, Hidcote was the main reason we had come to the Cotswolds, but our off-the-cuff visit to Snowshill on the previous day had furnished us with an interesting contrast. Hidcote and Snowshill seemed to be worlds apart, in atmosphere if not in geography: Where Snowshill was compact, homely, light-hearted and delightfully ferny at the edges, Hidcote was grand, ambitious and terribly civilised, its scale and its multitude of rooms making it hard to maintain a unified impression in one’s mind.

But similarities between the two gardens existed. Hidcote was the creation of the Anglophile American Major Lawrence Johnston, who, like Charles Wade of Snowshill, was a war-weary single man of independent fortune. Hidcote, like Snowshill, has its roots in the Arts and Craft movement of the Twenties, and it too embraced the novel style of a series of garden rooms. Like Snowshill, it was donated to the National Trust in collaboration with James Lees-Milne.


A formal pool of water lilies beside the glasshouses
Verbena bonariensis and lavender in a border so the side of the glass houses

We decided to begin our route around the enormous garden (aided by an essential fold-out map) at the formal rectangular pool of lilies, followed by the glasshouses.

Aeoniums and other exotic plants in a sunny, sheltered position outside the glasshouses
Inside the glasshouses

The enormous kitchen garden produces all of the vegetables used by the cafés: sprightly rows of kale, pumpkins and courgettes bordered by sage and lavender, and large areas of red clover being grown as green manure.

A deep bed of red clover in the kitchen garden
A bee visits a giant thistle in the kitchen garden

This homely scene shifted dramatically on turning a corner: we found ourselves beneath an avenue of tall, heavenly beech trees, a Tolkienesque passage under which sounds were hushed and all colours were muted to shades of green.

The Beech Alley

This sudden shift in character was a recurring motif throughout the garden, and was in itself a defining characteristic of Hidcote. Facing this direction, we were entertained by the tropical and exuberant red border with its dominance of red Musa leaves, then turning to face the opposite way our view was of a soothing, unfussy double row of pleached hornbeams leading to a grand iron gate beyond which lay the notion of a hazy, unspoilt English landscape: two scenes that could hardly have been more different. It was a kind of jolt repeated throughout the garden and which kept us alert, fascinated, and curious to peek through every topiaried arch, keen not to miss a thing.

The red border facing in the direction of the house
At the head of the Red Border
The red border facing away from the house towards the iron gates
The Stilt Garden, with the notion of an English Landscape beyond


Major Johnston was fortunate enough to have enough land to try every possible garden experiment he could think of: a white garden; a fuchsia garden; the solemn and very long Long Walk, a rock garden; a garden of comfrey and hydrangeas on damp woodland beside a stream; a wilderness; a rose garden; a poppy garden; a garden containing a large round stone bathing pool; another with a painted loggia and theatre of pelargoniums. And everywhere: topiary, lots of it. And brick paths, tall clipped beech hedges, more topiary, blue painted benches, and judicious vistas framed by archways cut through the tall clipped hedges.

We couldn’t have been more eager recipients of the charms of Hidcote. Even the weather was perfect: a brief and drenching downpour (we sheltered under one of the beech-hedge archways) gave way to brilliant sunshine that backlit the drops on the euphorbias and pale yellow kniphofias of Mrs Winthrop’s garden (named for Johnston’s mother).


Hydrangeas in the Lower Stream Garden




The Pillar Garden


Aeoniums in Mrs Winthrop’s Garden, and below, the yellow planting of Mrs Winthrop’s Garden, including yellow kniphofias and euphorbias, toned down with underplanting in pale blue.
Pelargonium in the painted loggia, and below, more scenes


The Fuchsia Garden
The Old Garden, beside the manor house
The Old Garden
The Old Garden
The Old Garden
The Old Garden



Judicious vista through the Fuchsia Garden
The Bathing Pool Garden


Another judicious vista through Mrs Winthrop’s Garden
The Manor House, and below, inside the house

A brief glimpse into the manor house concludes the visit to the gardens, while on the way out the plant centre offers cultivars of plants named ‘Hidcote’ (I bought a tiny Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’) and, to my delight, a special offer on Melcourt growing media, which is the most gorgeous stuff you ever sunk your hands in.

Hidcote Manor Gardens is owned and managed by the National Trust, and details of opening times, admission prices, and how to get there can be found on their website.


20 thoughts on “Two Cotswolds Gardens. 2: Hidcote

  1. You have brought it all back…from my visit there in June! What a gorgeous, magical place. Beautiful photos. Glad you had a good day to go: for us, in June, it was during that amazing heat spell so we jumped from one shady nook to another (and there were lots of them!) I feel privileged to have gone.

  2. Can you imagine having that garden all to yourself, to be able to bathe in the bathing pool and then sit under the loggia, drinking tea and reading?! How luxurious. Although I’m sure it takes an army of gardeners to keep the place looking so well-groomed, so there probably wouldn’t be much privacy. I’ve not been to Hidcote, it’s on my (long) list of gardens to visit one day, so thank you for sharing your beautiful photographs. I’m glad you had perfect weather and, by the looks of it, quite a tourist-free visit. By the way, the scale of the place surprised me – the two people in the distance in your picture through the brick building at the head of the red border show how huge it is.

  3. A gorgeous garden and I have enjoyed another visit with you as the guide. The Old Garden is my favourite area, and I love the fact that in summer it is open late into the evening so you can get the garden pretty much to yourself (when all the coaches have returned to London).

    1. I saw Hidcote as a boy it inspired me to one day no matter what build my own garden world. I have almost finished it after years of hard work alone. I have the ideas of many English gardens but brought it all into mine own focus and plantings. I did take the idea of long border high hedges and vistas in all parts and exact buildings as seen in Hidcote red border but in my own situation placed. Im working on having a fish pond in my peace gardens at some round brick 30 foot diameter 6 feet deep for Kio carp. The biggest job is waiting for hedges to grow on each room one builds. It can be done by anyone who had to do it as with Major Johnston it just had to do it. Same with me just had to and love it each day God gives me more of it exists.

  4. I cannot believe that there are no people in any of your photos………..are are you an ace with photoshop. Never the less you have captured the essence with your blog. Did you visit Kiftsgate Court which is only 400 yards away from Hidcote? I personally prefer Kiftgate but it is not open every day so check first.

    1. Many thanks Steve. I don’t use Photoshop, just a keen eye for the right moment, and choosing a rainy weekday out of season for our visit. Yes we did check the opening days for Kiftsgate, and sadly it was not open on the day we had available. Definitely one for the list next time I’m in the area.

  5. In the glasshouse is South African Dietes (blooming in my garden), and we saw the same delicate dark Pelargonium triste growing in swathes across Rondebosch Common this week.

    1. Oh thank you Diana, that is most helpful! The plants at Hidcote generally have no labels as they are maintaining the feel of a private garden rather than a botanical garden, so for many of them I was at a loss. I should think swathes of this pelly would be something to behold.

  6. Sublime, sublime, sublime! When I saw the photo on your home page I thought for a moment it was the Long Border at the Botanics in Edinburgh. (When we had an allotment in Edinburgh one of our fellow allotmenteers was a former Keeper of the Long Border. No pressure!). I will have to come back and savour your post and photos tonight. For the moment I’m heading out to tie in two long rows of raspberries before the forecast gales. Next year’s fresh raspberries and jam hang in the balance with every keystroke!

    1. Many thanks for your kind words, Linda. I do hope you have good luck in racing the weather to get your rasberries in order. I would find it both terrifying and inspiring to garden in the next door plot to such a man. It would certainly keep me tidier! You may be interested to know that the Long Border at RBGE was razed to the ground a few years ago in order to eliminate the bindweed that had got in there. So although it’s been replanted it’s going to take a while before it looks as wonderful as this…

  7. Oh what lovely photographs, Joanna – and how wonderful it still looks later in the season. We have been 2 or 3 times but somehow never quite in the main season – and the first 2 times without a satnav it was such an awkward place to find – but a breeze with modern technology! IDespite out of season visits it is still one of my favourite gardens – I think it must be the ‘rooms’ concept that appeals to me. Interesting to read the theory of the lack of labels – are we private gardeners not expected to want to label our plants then? It’s certainly important for me, and can be done discretely anyway

  8. I enjoyed both this post Joanna and the one describing your visit to Snowshill Manor. I don’t recall seeing a vegetable garden at Hidcote or the model village at Snowshill but then it must be about ten years since we visited. Time to a return trip methinks 🙂 Fabulous photos.

  9. What a lovely place, and beautiful photographs. Our travelers love gardens, so we’ll be sure to make a note of this!

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