Why Hidcote is special
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Hidcote is nationally and internationally renowned for its carefully designed garden rooms, tucked away in the Cotswold countryside. Lawrence Johnston developed the gardens between 1907 and 1948 in an outstanding display of garden design to create the optimum conditions for the cultivation and display of his plant collection.
Development of Hidcote
When Lawrence Johnston’s socialite mother Gertrude Winthrop bought Hidcote in 1907, the sales particulars described the garden as comprising of, ‘lawns in front and to the south side of the house, with fine shrubs and a nice Summer House, and a large and productive Kitchen Garden.’ This was to be the foundation on which Lawrence’s garden of corridors and rooms would be created. Very little is known about his plans for the gardens. Other than a few letters, two diaries and a note book, no other documentation survives.
Lawrence Johnston went on many plant-hunting exhibitions abroad to far-flung places such as South Africa, China and the Alps to find rare and unusual species to add to his collection. Today, Hidcote’s plant collection still contains many significant plants of national importance.
Each year Johnston created lists of plants and seeds available for exchange. Many of the plants that he collected are now widely available but still hold an association to Hidcote such as Hidcote Lavender and Hypericum Hidcote among others.
The 1920’s and 1930’s saw Hidcote’s gardens being opened to the public two or three days a year to raise money for worthy causes. The gardens were in their prime and Lawrence Johnston who despite now being in his late 50’s, continued to exchange plants and seeds with his fellow Garden Society members to find new spectacular specimens.
Johnston’s contribution to British horticulture did not go unnoticed and he was recognised by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1948. He was awarded the Veitch Gold Memorial Medal ‘for his work in connexion [sic] with the introduction and cultivation of new plants and for the taste and skill that he has exercised in garden design’.
National Trust steps in
Understanding the significance of what he had created, Lawrence Johnston entered into talks with National Trust to secure Hidcote’s future. After much consideration Hidcote was transferred to the National Trust in 1948 with the help of the Royal Horticultural Society.
This transfer was hugely significant in the National Trust’s history as Hidcote became the first place to be acquired specifically because of its garden and plant collection. The National Trust has now cared for Hidcote for longer than Johnston owned it and the garden has become an iconic example of the ‘English garden’ worldwide.