Nov 17, 2010

A Walk On The Wild Side: Hidcote

"What he did was to sum up the English dream of the Italian garden." 
Ethne Clark

"...But perhaps our collective memory of this most beguiling and influential garden
has been playing tricks on us."
Noel Kingsbury
I am not a landscape historian.  You won't find me crawling around archival material, looking through old letters or diaries.  I prefer the art of projection and conjecture.
 My Window at Hidcote

In July 2010, I lived in the Manor House at Hidcote.  During the early morning hours, before work, I prowled around the garden.  Walking through enclosed rooms, wondering what was really going on in Lawrence Johnston's head.
 Walking through one of the garden rooms at Hidcote

The short and long of it is that Lawrence Johnston was a American expat, who created the quintessential English arts and crafts garden.  The idea that there is anything "American" about the garden, especially any Yankee influence would be pure heresy.  

Lawrence Johnston, plant hunter, plant explorer, garden designer, Anglophile, couldn't escape a childhood memory of something much more unfettered, less controlled, more "American".  Hidcote, may be an iconic English garden, but does it have its origins in its creators wide open country?

That is my theory.  But I needed some back-up.

I consulted a psychoanalyst, not a therapist, to find out if the basis for believing our earliest memories of landscape consciously or unconsciously, influence the gardens we create.

I took myself as a case in point.  I grew up in a middle class neighborhood, where every lawn and backyard looked like hairspray had been applied to all things green.  My father, had an affinity for open spaces, particularly the White Mountains of New England, the Grand Tetons of Wyoming and the Alps of Switzerland.  He threw a monkey wrench into our subdued, acceptable garden by planting dahlias in outrageous colors, tulips in the wrong places and tomatoes next yews.  He erred on the wild side.

Thinking about my own garden predilections, I have been reflecting on their origins.  It would be comforting to think that the gardens, I have created, are the result of schooling, reading, traveling and conversations, but I have a feeling that something more elemental is at work.

It's not the place, the size, the flowers or shrubs.  It's something metaphorical.  It's practically indefinable.  What has formed a good part of what I "like" in a garden - or what I respond to or what I want to make is a walk on the wild side.

for roz & paul