K's Garden

Building a large garden on a budget

Hidcote Manor Garden Sunday 12 September 2010

We went to see Hidcote Manor Gardens and Kiftsgate Court Gardens, something I have wanted and planned to do for … well … decades (that ages me!)

Well … sorry, but not as Wow’d by Hidcote as I thought I would be.

We had hot debate over the choices of plants in several places, so its clearly “Art” in the sense that it raises debate.

We came away with a list of things not to do – which is a positive of course.

I suppose we were most disappointed that it is not someone’s personal garden – there is only so much that the National Trust can / should do. Plank of wood floating in one of the ponds, a “under reconstruction” sign fallen into the water from the edge, rubbish in the beds that had clearly been there a while. I doubt this was some hooligan that had visited that day, there just wasn’t that type of person there, much more likely that the sign had fallen in accidentally and no on noticed and so on.

Tea was a tea bag in a mug … not that I expect or need anything better, but it struck me that it was catering to day trippers primarily; I read an article the other day “Don’t go to Sissinghurst” (another garden I have not visited but long to …) saying similarly that it is so packed with day trippers that its impossible to get even a “sense” of the place.

I thought the “rooms” were too small, and the paths and “doorways” into the rooms too narrow. Much more of a plantsman’s garden, and a collection of plants, than a garden for people to enjoy and go “Wow”. I like to walk around my garden side-by-side with a visitor, or two even. Walking in line-astern is not very sociable. The perspectives didn’t do it for me either I’m afraid; sure, the main walk is very impressive, but it is made up of individual gardens / rooms, separated by hedges, and going through each individual one along the main vista whilst giving the feeling of intrigue as to what came next, I actually found made the walk more “busy”. I think I would have found some gardens “off” to the sides, that I could enter, more enticing.

From the Long Walk (at right angles to the main vista) there were garden’s off but they had many openings and thus little surprise and intrigue – one doorway per garden I think is enough.

I didn’t like the mixed hedge plantings (Yew with Box and Yew with Hornbeam, and something deciduous (Hornbeam again perhaps? I forget) with Holly. But others will no doubt disagree!

At Kiftsgate Court they had Copper beach sparsely inter-planted with a variegated holly, which I did like the look of.

The main vista with the steps in the distance up to the stilt garden and then looking skywards across the valley was breath taking – sadly something I can’t begin to contemplate in flat East Anglia!

We loved the Red border- a colour that we have avoided to date because of its strength, we have gone for pastel colours instead, but the combinations at Hidcote were impressive. In the Old Garden there were combinations of Red and White Dahlias, with some red roses, and we liked that too.

The madness of the Plant House (a huge “Conservatory” that the side lights are removed from in Summer to just leave the roof lights) was intriguing, but not something I can or care to try to emulate! Surprisingly humid inside given that the bottom 6′ was completely open to the elements.

I’m pleased I went, I’m glad I’ve seen it, and I would encourage others to see it too; but I don’t feel the urge to rush back to see it in each season.

The first garden you come to (The maple Garden) showing the narrow path which is common in many of the “rooms”.

Maple Garden with Narrow Path

And then looking back across the white garden to the Cedar tree and house – the opening is like an arrow slit rather than a doorway!

Very Narrow Doors

The White Garden looking through (yet another narrow doorway!) to the Old Garden.

Narrow Doors

The White and Red Dahlias in the Old Garden – doesn’t capture and do justice to the impact they made – with a Tamarisk behind

Red and White Dahlias

A narrow opening to the circular pond … and a plank floating in it (I didn’t photograph the sumberged sign …)

Narrow Door

Plank in Pond

Impressive topiary – to squeeze between

Great Topiary - Narrow Door

Narrow Door

The Pillar garden was a big let down for me. I’ve sen lots of pictures, its nothing like them in the flesh. But I was very taken with the Prunus Amanogawa walk (just by the Pillar garden)

The Vista … I wasn’t concentrating enough to have taken a picture from the earliest point possible. Here’s a washed out picture from the Old Garden, leading to the Circle, Red Border and Stilt Garden

Main Vista

This is from the Circle, about 1/3rd the way along

(You may be able to get a feel for the combination hedge planting – not sure what this was but these hedges were combinations like Yew and Hornbeam)

The Vista

This picture is looking back from the far end of the Red Border – you can see people in the Ciricle, and perhaps just make out the Old Garden beyond that, and the cedar tree in the distance which marks the start.

Vista Looking Back

The Red Border leading up to the steps and the Stilt Garden.

The Vista

Red Border

Red Border

When you mount the steps and look at the pavillion to your left there is a view through to The Long Walk

Long Walk

Long Walk

and the Stilt Garden from the top of the steps with the vista leading up towards “heaven”

Stilt Garden

The gate at the end is on the edge of the escarpment

The View

and peering through that the valley beckons, centred on the church spire – a fairly safe bet as a long term focal point!

The View

The View

An artist was painting the Beech Alley – its pretty striking!

Beech Alley

Beech Alley

We spent two and a half walking round; we saw everything in that time, but could have spent longer. Teas and sandwiches available, although rather mass-catering, and a plant centre – but I didn’t see much in the way of rare or unusual plants. Hicote Lavender plants much in evidence, as you might expect (but I didn’t see Giant Hidcote Lavender, for example). Comprehensive Plants list available, and the booklet is detailed, has lots of history about the garden, and contains a planting plant for the Red Border. Recommended – at least once in your life!

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2 Responses to “Hidcote Manor Garden”

  1. Oh thank goodness someone else feels the same way about Hidcote!

    We went in August last year (2016) and felt a bit “what’s all the fuss about?” – some bits we liked, others that were, as you say, things to put on the list of things not to do.

    • kgarden Says:

      There are some exceptions (I think the Winter Garden at Anglesey Abbey is very impressive), but on the whole my opinion is that the RHS should take over running of the NT gardens and leave the NT to do the huge parks (and Houses etc.) that they manage so well. I was similarly underwhelmed by Sissinghurst, another garden I had wanted to visit for decades before I had the chance, so the disappointment doubly so. Mind you, the sight lines in my garden are askew, and I have topiary planted off-line – which i am now growing-out on one side, and cutting hard back on the other, to “fix” the problem, so I probably should keep my trap shut!


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