Hidcote. 06.08.13

The garden at Hidcote Manor continues to draw us back though its creator is long dead and his spirit has been tamed by the more moderate financial resources of the National Trust. Hurrah for the long sighted care of the National trust in securing some mighty gardens for the nation. Gloria has said I must behave myself (though I think the opportunity has passed) and not repeat the conversation we had about pickled mediocrity.

Where does one start in considering a garden of this significance. Does one look at the garden as it is or attempt to imagine it as it once was? These marvellous clipped columns must appear much as they did in Johnston's day though I think they would not have been surrounded by trees.

The Bathing Pool garden is probably also as it was, though now it has the appearance of a shaded woodland pool and no longer sparkles in the sun as it must have done. So much of the modern majesty of this garden derives from the close atmosphere of its small spaces and yet that is the patina of the years that have passed. Now mature trees have closed off the enormous sky. Long vista's and hidden ha-has speak of sheep that were once seen and are now only heard

The Conservatory represents a tangible return to older times. The original was torn down long ago, but it has recently been rebuilt to the original design and to great effect. It is a triumphant modern antique. Gloria has raised her eyebrows at me, the one seeming to say "pot" and the other "kettle". She has a wickedly expressive face.

Rebuilding on the success of the not-conserved-atory the National Trust are now planning to rebuild an Orangery on this site in the front courtyard. I'm sure it will be perfect and I can hardly wait to see it. Like a portrait of the Duke of Marlborough that is cleaned and revealed to be a picture of a dog called Duke at Scarborough, the new Orangery will involve both a gain and a loss.

Miss Willmott of Warley Place is reputed to have had a ghost in the form of Eryngium giganteum. She is said to have scattered the seed whenever she visited a garden. The ghost has long been exorcised from her own property but perhaps she had a deft hand in the plants at Hidcote? It is unlikely that we will ever know, most of the scurrilous diaries of the day have already been published or destroyed. I don't think there is much new to discover. Now the Sea Holly has become a sea and who is a person to call to deal with it. My grandson informs me that one calls the ghostbusters. He thought it was very funny and I am afraid it is lost on me.

This is a corner of the garden that has always defeated me. I simply do not understand the clipped shape. I assume that at one time it had a meaning and that slowly over the years the shape and meaning have been lost. It happens to us all. Now when I see it I find myself looking around nervously for a gigantic topiary dog that might have defecated on the garden. Gloria says that I must behave and I say that I will, which is the delight of old friends. Neither of us mean what we say and we both know it.

This final view of the Red Border. Like all good plantings it has evolved beyond recognition over the years I have known it, yet somehow it remains the Red Border. Nothing is left of the original but the intention. Through the clutter of spades, swear words and Michaelmas Daisies that crowd into a garden it seems it is the intention that finally matters.

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