Sir Harold Hillier Gardens 29.06.12

I haven't visited the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens since 1980, when it was still the Hillier Arboretum. In the meantime its management has been taken over by Hampshire County Council. There has been a lot of new development in the garden, I didn't find anything familiar so there was the excitement of discovering a new garden.

The entrance drive runs through planted parkland to a new visitor pavillion and education centre. I'm in a bit of a daze at this point, it is raining gently and this building wasn't very welcoming.I'm not sure why, it just has a cold feel (maybe the rain had got to me). It was as though a book-keeper had pollinated an architect and this is what the seed had grown.
Built in two parts with a gap between them that the wind funnelled through, it squats on the ground like a pair of cubist buttocks breaking wind at approaching visitors.

The winter garden brings detailed planting to this side of the site. Plenty of interest even at this time of the year. On leaving the winter garden, the weather suddenly turned more summery and that is the cleverest design trick I have ever seen.

The garden has some wonderful views out into the wider landscape. The visitor centre is placed some distance from Jermyns House, the original heart of the garden. New planting and skilled landscaping are making a strong cohesive plan out of the new layout.

The bog garden is part of the original development, built around a stream that falls down a valley behind the house.

Jermyns House is still surrounded by the most intricate planting. This is the view back to the house from the magnolia walk.

The latest phase of development is the recently opened Centenary Border. It will perform a valuable function linking the planting around Jermyns House with the planting around the visitor centre. The garden is diversifying from its heritage as an arboretum to give a longer season of interest and plenty of 'action' for the summer. The first planting has only been completed recently, but eventually this will be a very grand herbaceous border.
I have mixed feelings about the visitor centre, but I really enjoyed the garden.

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