An Arts and Crafts garden created at the beginning of the 20th century by Lawrence Johnston, an American from a wealthy family who had studied at Cambridge and became a British citizen in 1900.  His mother purchased the Hidcote estate in 1907 and Johnston embarked upon a project to transform the fields surrounding the house into a structured garden of inter-connecting ‘rooms’ linked with hedges, a White Garden, stunning herbaceous borders, rare trees, ponds, fountains, elegant topiary and vistas out towards the Vale of Evesham. This, well before the famous White Garden and structured ‘rooms’ at Sissinghurst created by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson in the 1930’s.  However,  Johnston was a neighbour and good friend of the socialite garden designer, Norah Lindsay who lived at Sutton Courtenay Manor, Oxfordshire – and she in turn was a life-long friend of Vita Sackville-West.

A keen plant-hunter, Johnston had fought in the Boer War attaining the rank of major in the British army and it is thought that it was probably in South Africa that his interest in plants was aroused.  He financed plant-hunting expeditions, such as Kingdon-Ward’s to Burma in 1926 and he himself traveled on plant-collecting expeditions to South Africa and Yunnan in the late twenties and early thirties, selecting only the very best specimens to bring home for his own garden.

The gardens at Hidcote were developed over a twenty-year period before they became generally known about when they featured in an article in 1930 in Country Life.  Johnston had, in 1924, bought a property at Menton in the South of France, Serre de la Madone, where he spent most of the year – just spending a few months in the summer at Hidcote.  In the Mediterranean climate he was able to enjoy South African species such as agapanthus and strelitzia.

The garden has an intimate feel, particularly if you visit towards the end of the day after the coach-loads of visitors have left (otherwise the garden ‘rooms’ can get very crowded – rather like Sissinghurst).  This intimacy contrasts beautifully with the long vistas and allees which give a balance and openness to the garden.

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