A Glimpse at the Gardens of Hilcote!

Dec 5, 2018 - POSTED BY Monique Halloran - Gardeners Choice

This evocative painting was found in a small building tucked away to the side of one of the many garden ‘rooms’ of Hilcote in the Cotswolds.  It sums up the spirit of this Arts and Crafts garden so beautifully.  Hilcote sits in the Cotswolds and is surrounded by rolling countryside, and the gardens are very much of their time.  The man who designed this garden was an American horticulturist called Major Lawrence Johnston, and many of the plants that can still be found in the borders were collected by Johnston on his plant hunting trips around the world.  The design of this meandering garden leads you in many different directions, and always holds a surprise around the corner. 

One of my favourite features in the gardens are these semi-circular steps laid with narrow tiles on edge and leading up to a grand finale of two huge topiary birds looking down at you from the top of the pillars!  One of difficulties of designing curved steps or pathways is how to minimise the gaps between the stones which often need to be cut out of oblong or square slabs, to fit the curve of the design.  By doing it with these tiles laid on edge Johnston has found a different solution and one that works well.

As we visited Hidcote only last weekend, many of the perennials were past their best, but the reliable Verbena bonariensis was still standing proud in the borders.  Verbena bonariensis are one of the few plants that have square stems, giving them more strength to hold their heads up high.  Just as well as they can grow to 2m high! If you plant these perennials in full sunlight and in large groups of 10 or more, they look like a cloud of purple pebbles swaying in the wind.  In Photo 4 you will see the exotic Tecoma stans, or more loosely called the yellow trumpetbush, or the yellow bells.  A wonderfully scented, and startlingly beautiful plant, the Tecoma stans can be found in one of the well -stocked greenhouses which are all filled with exotic exuberance, Hilcote also boasts a large vegetable garden in which the Nasturtium  in Photo 5 was found. These stunning, open flowers can be scattered in your salad and apparently taste wonderful.  The bright green little seeds of the Nasturtium can also be eaten and are called a poor man’s capers!

Whilst there are lots of designed garden ‘rooms’, Hilcote is surrounded by rolling fields which bring a real sense of peace as you walk around the gardens. There is something timeless in endless green fields littered with resting sheep.  Echoing this feel, there are also lovely wide grass paths lined with richly planted wide borders, which even in the Autumn, still evoke wonder. 

Photo 8 depicts the attractive resting house, in which you can find the painting in Photo 1. There are seats and paintings, and sculptures and ornaments of worship, all spread around the curved walls of this quiet arbour. Lastly I couldn’t resist including this sculpture of an unknown man hugging his barrel of what looks like wine!