If Snowshill Manor was all about one person, so was Hidcote Manor, but whereas Snowshill harbours an eclectic collection that polarises views (love it or dislike it0 Hidcote is a creation that rivals the best that the Royal Horticultural Association can offer.
Lawrence Johnson was born in Paris of American parents in October 1871. His parents were wealthy stockbrokers and they arranged for him to be educated at home. When he was old enough he qualified for Cambridge in 1893.
He graduated from Cambridge and became a British citizen. In 1900 he enlisted in the Army and was posted to Africa to participate in the Boer War. In only a year he received his first commission, and also began to develop a love of exotic flaura. He soon became a major. He fought in WW1 and was eventually wounded at Ypres. He was sent to recuperate at Hidcote. Whilst there he began to develop his love of gardens.
In 1907 his mother had bought Hidcote Manor for £7200. The land covered 300 acres of farmland and rolling hills and valleys. When the war was over, Johnson turned his attention to developing a magnificent 10½ acre garden surrounding the house. He designed the layout meticulously and then went on exploratory trips to parts of Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. He gathered many rare and exotic plants and brought them home.
Johnson did not seek publicity or fame, but in 1930 an article in County Life alerted the gardening world to what he had achieved. In 1924 he bought a second home on the Mediterranean coast of France and by 1945 he was spending most of his time there. When the Second World War finished, Johnson opened negotiations with the National Trust and in 1948 the NT took ownership and control.
Since then the gardens have been maintained and even improved. The upkeep is meticulous, as evident by the rigidly straight lines of all the trims hedges and walkways. There isn’t a corner of the land that doesn’t catch the eye, and one visit will never be enough.