Famous English garden stands out with its beauty

SUNDAY, SEPT. 25, 2011

Hidcote Manor Garden has something for every visitor to explore and enjoy. (Susan Mulvihill)
Hidcote Manor Garden has something for every visitor to explore and enjoy. (Susan Mulvihill)

Hidcote. Sissinghurst. Kew Gardens. Wakehurst.

These are the names of famous English gardens I’ve been reading and hearing about for a very long time.

My dream of visiting them finally came true last month when I spent two glorious weeks exploring several of them. Choosing a favorite among them to write about is difficult but I thought it would be fun to give you a glimpse into one of the most beautiful gardens, Hidcote Manor Garden.

The ironic thing about this garden is that it was designed and developed by an American, Lawrence Johnston.

His mother purchased Hidcote Manor Estate, which is located in the North Cotswolds region of England, in 1907. After being wounded during World War I, Johnston moved to Hidcote and developed a passion for gardening.

In 1948, he donated Hidcote to the National Trust to ensure its beauty could be shared with other garden enthusiasts. Am I ever glad he did.

What I enjoyed seeing the most were all of the garden “rooms” Johnston created. Each one has a different character and I felt giddy as I left each room, anxious to see what was in the next.

The garden rooms are divided by hedges of beech, holly, yew and hornbeams. Several of the rooms contained topiaries – a most British garden feature – and sculptures.

Some had water features that soothed visitors with sounds of splashing water and the beautiful sight of blooming water lilies.

Other garden rooms featured borders with color themes of white- or red-flowered plants. One room showcased several different types of maples while others had poppies, fuchsias, hydrangeas or alpine plants taking center stage.

The rose garden was particularly enjoyable to explore. I saw English roses with heavily scented blossoms in peaches, pinks, reds and yellows.

I also saw ones with beautiful, elongated orange rose hips. Two varieties of these that should be hardy enough to grow in our USDA zone 5 are Rosa moyesii and Rosa davidii, and I’m hoping to track them down for my garden.

One thing I saw at Hidcote and in the other gardens was the use of pruned branches as vertical supports for vining plants like climbing roses and sweet peas.

How often do we go to garden centers to purchase garden stakes? I intend to hold onto my prunings and apply this idea in my own garden.

There was also a large kitchen garden which I lingered in. I’m always anxious to see other techniques for growing vegetables as well as different varieties than what we’re used to seeing locally.

They had large beds of ‘Jolant’ leeks and ‘Tender & True’ parsnips that were particularly robust. There was also a large herb garden that included fennel, thyme, sage and calendula (pot marigold).

Since basil is a heat-lover, they covered the plants with glass cloches to keep them warm enough. Cole crops like Brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage were surrounded with netting to keep insects out.

The admission price for Hidcote was $16 for an adult, but my husband and I discovered that if you join the National Trust, entrance to hundreds of sites throughout Great Britain is free. We used our membership to explore several gardens and historic sites so it paid for itself in the long run.

Since membership is good for one year, that seems like a pretty good reason to head back over there before it expires, don’t you think?

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via e-mail at inthegarden@live.com.To view more photos of the English gardens she visited, go to her blog at susansinthegarden.blogspot.com.

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