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28 May 2007 @ 12:00 pm
The Major's Enthusiasm  
Location: Hidcote Manor Gardens are at the northern edge of the Cotswolds. It's right next door to another famous garden, Kiftsgate, outside Mickelton
Date: 28 May 2007
Weather: Damp, rainy, cold and miserable.
Click through for large versions (1152 x 768 pixels) to use as desktop wallpaper.

The gardens at Hidcote were created by the American Major Lawrence Johnston. What makes the garden so ground-breaking is its division of the garden into "garden rooms", usually separated by tall hedges. This division means that different areas of a garden can have vastly different styles, e.g. a "Zen garden" can be situated next to a traditional cottage garden, without them clashing. Each room can be a surprise, a new delight. This gives people walking around the garden a sense of exploring the garden. The drawback of course is that the style doesn't work well with small, modern gardens. A handkerchief-sized garden cannot be divided into rooms. Sometimes these gardens can also feel claustrophobic, compared to the wide open spaces of e.g. Capability Brown's romantic ideal.

Cotswold Road
This is the setting of the garden - rolling Cotswolds countryside.

Pink Rose
Most of the flowers at Hidcote were simply perfect. This pink rose that I encountered before the entrance is a case in point.

Peach Rose
The drops on the leaves and petals of this tea-coloured rose were from the rain we'd had earlier in the day. It was raining on and off during my whole visit. It had been a rather cold and miserable spring but the worst, the Gloucestershire summer 2007 floods, was yet to come. This rose looks just like the David Austin English rose called 'Cressida.'

Here is an example of the kind of vistas typical of an Arts and Craft garden. The grass path is surrounded by straight double borders that aim to give an impression of symmetry. At the end there are crisply cut hedges and steps at the change in level. If this were a cottage garden, the path would meander, the plants on one side would be very different from the other, there would be no formal end to the beds, and certainly no steps.

The rain created some lovely still lives, like the drops on these hosta leaves.

Ladies mantle actually looks its best when rain-spattered. The large version would make a very refreshing desktop wallpaper.

The effect of the stark, crisp hedges is illustrated here. As you peer through the gap in the hedge, you get a surprise, a pool with putti in the middle takes up most of the next garden room.

The Siberian irises were doing very well in the cold.

Another look at those gorgeous blue flowers.

Hazel Tunnel
The hazel tunnel is located in the garden that is called "Mrs. Winthrops' Garden". Mrs. Winthrop was Major Lawrence Johnston's mother. She purchased the property initially and lived there with her son.

The tunnel is missing something -- a focal point. At the other end a sole garden chair was waiting for somebody but this side was empty.

The end of the May is perhaps a bit late for aquilegias but they were still putting on a good show. The blue colour is the most common one.

White Aquilegia
White aquilegias aren't uncommon either. They give a totally different impression, as they are much lighter than the surrounding foliage. It's a very good colour if you mostly see your garden at dusk, because they really stand out then.

My favourite were the pink aquilegias. Sometimes when blue flowers turn up in pink variations, the pink is not very appealing. But these pink aquilegias look very dainty and feminine. I wouldn't mind them in my garden. Very cottage gardeny.

One of the most successful vistas in the garden is this one past the red borders, through the stilt garden and through the elegant gates beyond. Unfortunately the red borders weren't very red yet. But the small-leaved linden trees cut to stilts on the higher level were beautiful.

I really admire Major Johnston's ability to use the changing levels of the ground to enhance and accentuate the best features of the garden. This vista would not have been nearly as effective if it had all been on the same level. The large, old trees in the countryside beyond also help contain the effect.

Yellow Peony
The peonies were stunning, and there were so many of them. Here is one in beige with a red picotee edge. It may be 'Roman Gold.'

Parchment Peony
Another flower in the same colour, but fully double. It's the tree peony 'Souvenir de Maxime Cornu'. The stem is bent from the weight of the bloom.

Striped Peony
A red, semi-double peony with streaked petals. I think it is a tree peony called 'Gauguin.'

Peony Bud
And a strong, solid pink garden peony, probably Paeonia lactiflora about to open.

Another peony (possibly 'Mutabilis Plena') in the same colour but with fringed petals and completely open bloom. Peonies really are something else.

Double Border
Another double border with more or less symmetrical planting shows off the effect of intermingling formal, drumstick alliums with blowsy peonies in the Pillar Garden. In the background the lilies wait to take over when the peonies are done. Wonderful, I say.

Orange Clock Vine
In the new part of the garden, there were some greenhouses. This vivid, orange Orange Clock Vine, Thunbergia gregorii, graced a corner of a very large greenhouse.

An oddly-shaped pool displayed water lilies in pink and white. Here is a pink water lily.

And then it was time to go home, but not before taking in one last view of that gorgeous Cotswold landscape with grazing lambs in the foreground.