The Wilderness of Hidcote

Hidcote in Autumn

Hidcote in Autumn

It takes a certain kind of person to see beauty in a bedraggled, wet, mostly dead garden on a cold and damp October afternoon.  I had already been rained off once and with only a week in the UK and six gardens on my list to visit, I wasn’t going to be deterred.  On the day I flew back to Australia, my extremely kind parents drove me all the way to Gloucestershire to see the renowned Hidcote gardens.

The beautiful Red Borders at Hidcote

The beautiful Red Borders at Hidcote

As I write this on the plane home and reflect on the four big gardens I saw this week (Sissinghurst, Great Dixter, Wisley and Hidcote), Hidcote stands out for its natural planting around the outer reaches of the garden.  It is quite possible that in mid summer I would have swooned over the perennial borders but having been spoilt with these all week, the more rustic areas were the real highlight for me.

Bright autumn colours of Mahonia at Hidcote

Electric colours of autumnal Mahonia on a bank above the stream at Hidcote; beautiful stone bridge

Furthest from the house, ‘The Wilderness’, ‘Stream’ gardens and ‘Hydrangea Corner’ really captured my imagination.  Meandering, sloped pathways made from small Cotswold rocks took me through these more wild areas, where you could almost imagine the plants had self seeded in exactly the spot that was perfect for their needs.

One of a vast number of Hydrangea species and cultivars at Hidcote

One of a vast number of Hydrangea species and cultivars at Hidcote spilling over the rustic stone pathway

I remember reading, a long time ago, that putting plants in places where they thrive (particularly thinking of light and moisture levels) is also the route to skilful design.  The thinking being that the design will automatically look right if plants are in their natural environment.  At the time, I thought that it was a useful guide to bear in mind, but assumed that this would only be helpful in the initial stages of my learning – my ambition was to be so good at design that I would be beyond such guidelines later on.

Euphorbia growing in the dry stone wall at Hidcote - the perfect environment for a plant that hates wet feet

Euphorbia growing in the dry stone wall at Hidcote – the perfect environment for a plant that hates wet feet – I think this is so sweet!

As is often the case, it is only later that you realise how wise the advice you have been given really is.  The longer I design for, the more I love a garden that fits its setting – on both a micro and a macro level.

Large scale mixed borders at Hidcote

Large scale, semi-natural borders spill over quaint pathways

Hidcote is fortunate to have a stream running through it as well as gentle banks, slopes and undulations.  It adds so much to the character of the garden and it is lovely that these natural contours have been retained, worked with and fully taken advantage of.

The Rock Bank at Hidcote with Cyclamen and poppies giving colour

The Rock Bank at Hidcote with Cyclamen and poppies giving splashes of colour

Another natural feature which has been utilised is the shade created by many large trees on the property.  Here a stunning shade loving garden has been made with massed ferns providing strong textural contrasts.  There is even an Australian Dicksonia tree fern in a protected spot, to the left of the photo below!

Shade loving natural planting at Hidcote

Shade loving natural planting at Hidcote

Whilst the natural areas are more unique to Hidcote, we should not forget the more formal areas too.

The Lime Walk at Hidcote

The Lime Walk at Hidcote

Wonderful 'umbrella' tree at Hidcote

Wonderful ‘umbrella’ pruned tree at Hidcote

Dahlia and Sedum giving autumn colour at Hidcote

Dahlia and Sedum giving autumn colour at Hidcote – I do wish my Sedum faded to this wonderfully rich colour!

Penstemon and asters in the Long Walk at Hidcote

Last few flowers of Penstemon and Aster in the Long Walk; Taxus (yew) pillars are a favourite repeating feature at Hidcote; Wisteria frames the bench

To summarise my tour of English gardens, Sissinghurst has an immense historic sense of place, Great Dixter has exuberance and fun, Wisley has a wealth of ideas spanning the whole spectrum of horticulture and Hidcote has its natural, wild, perfectly balanced sense of place.  How spoilt I am to have seen them all this week!

8 thoughts on “The Wilderness of Hidcote

  1. Dorothy says:

    Thank you Janna, I have just relived our pleasant afternoon at Hidcote in 2001, even buying some Hidcote lavender plants. The autumn colours are most attractive.

    • jannaschreier says:

      I am jealous that you bought plants on your trip, Dorothy. It took enormous willpower to bypass the plant shops at all these gardens, but I thought both British Airways and Australian Customs might have something to say about me bringing a wheelbarrow full of plants home with me!

  2. Adriana Fraser says:

    I can’t wait to see this for myself – I love the wild areas too Janna and the stone wall is just superb, with the Euphorbia spilling out of it. Have you any idea how deep the red border is (2nd photo down)? Just a guess? It does not look that deep. I have been toying with a border in front of my front hedge (similar to this) for a while now and don’t want to go the usual 4ms deep. Adriana

  3. Lisa Cox says:

    Hidcote is a fabulous place – I think you went on a good day by the looks of your photos – not so crowded with people and I think more inspiring when not everything is looking so manicured! I too loved the wild areas and the vistas to the countryside beyond. Must go back again sometime…why are we designers busiest when we want to be out there getting inspiration!

  4. An Eye For Detail says:

    I’m looking over so many of your past posts and stopped at this one of Hidcote. I’ll be there in end June and now am even more eager (if one can be!) to see it. And I loved your two posts re. Sissinghurst: I was there just about when you were, in early October 2014. I think of it so very often. I would like to go back in early summer to see the changes; but autumn was delightful!.

    • jannaschreier says:

      How exciting that you will be visiting Hidcote this year, Libby. I’d love to get back there again (preferably earlier in the season next time), but I think this summer is going to be extremely busy with our move and the completion of my Masters’ degree. I do hope you enjoy your trip – I very much look forward to reading about it!

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