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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Garden Tour: Hidcote Manor Garden

Hidcote Manor Garden in Gloucestershire is the creation of Major Lawrence Johnston. The son of wealthy American stockbrokers, he was born in Paris in 1871, educated at home and later at Cambridge before becoming a naturalized British subject in 1900. Johnston’s mother bought the 300 acre estate in 1907 and he soon began planning the gardens, a labor of love he continued for the next 40 years. Eventually Johnston bequeathed the house and garden to the National Trust.
The garden at Hidcote is best described as Arts and Crafts in style and remains the most influential of its kind to this day. The garden is laid out in a series of outdoor garden rooms and though the garden itself is very large, each individual room feels intimate and meticulously planned. Johnston was exacting not only in his plant selections and design but also in his planting combinations.
As one makes their way around the garden, the use of hedges and topiary is soon apparent. Johnston makes liberal use of these as a defining element throughout. They’re used to divide, combine, lead the eye and add a sense of beauty and whimsy.
Throughout Johnston’s life, he was an avid plant collector traveling the world-over in search of the new and novel as well as sponsoring individual plant hunters to do the same. Several now famous plants are attributed to him and bear the Hidcote name: the narrow-leaved lavender Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote, Penstemon ‘Hidcote Pink, Hypericum ‘Hidcote Gold’. 
Though images of symmetry and order are conjured up when thinking of the garden, the image below shows that there areas tucked in here and there which are more whimsical.
In certain spaces, Johnston delights the eye by combining hedges, topiaries, box parterres, intriguing vistas and herbaceous plants. Johnston also uses changes in level to create a further sense of movement. Many of the rooms require walking up or down several steps further adding to the anticipation of what lies beyond. Because of Johnston’s liberal use of yew, box, beech and hornbeam, the garden is beautiful any time of the year. If you’re interested in seeing the herbaceous plants at their best, a visit at the end of May through June is best.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Clivia: The Perfect Houseplant

We’re just about to hit peak flowering season for a spectacular group of plants: Clivia miniata. Hailing all the way from South Africa, they make beautiful and indestructible houseplants. Clivias can be grown outside in frost-free areas and are often featured in landscape design. Denizens of the shade, they also thrive indoors where their dark green strap-like foliage and brightly flowered umbels will brighten your home just when you need it most–at the end of winter.
Plant breeders introduce plants with new leaf shapes and coloring every year. Clivia flowers were originally all orange but persistence has paid off, pastels, yellows, peaches, and near-white flowers can be found through specialty growers.
If you’re intrigued by Clivias, the North American Clivia Society is a good place to start. The North American Clivia Society Show and Symposium will be held this year at Longwood Gardens March 14-15. This will be followed by North American Clivia Society Clivia Show and Sale held at the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens March 21-22.