The Cotswolds has some of the most beautiful gardens and landscapes anywhere and we were lucky enough to see four of them in a very short time. Our first stop was the nineteenth century landscape at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. Over two thousand acres of park-like landscape with sweeping lawns surround the eighteenth century palace with lakes and bridges, a secret garden, a lovely rose garden and even a maze. ‘Capability’ Brown is credited with redesigning earlier formal landscaping into the more natural setting with clumps of trees, the 150-acre lake and meandering walkways.
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Nearby, the great Arts and Crafts style gardens of Hidcote Manor are the first to be fashioned as garden rooms. Designed by an American, Maj. Lawrence Johnston who eventually became a naturalized British citizen, the property was developed on high ground with planned vistas overlooking the Vale of Evesham. Johnston used strong separations with box hedges, yew, hornbeam, holly, beech, and stone walls to divide the garden rooms. The 10.5 acres of gardens include topiaries, a wonderful garden gazebo, numerous archways through a variety of materials both living and man-made, water gardens, herbaceous gardens and endless paths through formal and informal gardens.
Located very close to Hidcote Manor Gardens, the delightful gardens of Kiftsgate Court are built close to the edge of a deep embankment with commanding panoramic views of the half moon swimming pool below and beyond to the village of Mickleton. An assortment of gentle paths lead down the Lower Gardens then back up through a woodland walk with fields of bluebells that are lovely beyond description. Other gardens fan out on high ground east of the manor house, separated by yew and copper beech hedges in colorful borders, a rose garden featuring the large Kiftsgate Rose (July blooming) and ending with the Water Garden. Once containing the tennis courts, this pool is ornamented with a row of two dozen tall gilded metal stems and leaves that move in the wind and drip water every few minutes, a wonderful surprise garden for visitors and a perfect ending for our tour.
Our final garden visit was to the unique Arts and Crafts Rodmarton Manor Gardens. We were greeted by the owner who traveled with us through the Courtyard Garden, the Alpine Trough Garden, the Rockery Garden, beautiful herbaceous gardens and vegetable gardens, and the Topiary Garden, as well as beneath lime, birch, hornbeam, and numerous trees that were pollarded and pleached nearly a hundred years ago.
It’s been a dream trip through some of the loveliest gardens anywhere but now it’s time to get back to my own small garden and the Japanese Snowbell (Styrax japonica) trees that were loaded with flower buds at the time I left.
Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester