Member Update: Postcard from the Cotswolds

Garden shots from Hidcote Manor and some images that sum up spring in the English countryside. Photos George Hoad.

George Hoad AM, HMAA Secretary, is travelling in the UK. After enjoying the capital and the coronation he ventured out of town to send the second of his postcards, this time from the Cotswolds. Over to you George…

After leaving the hustle and bustle and excitement of London behind, I picked up a car and headed for the Malvern Hills on the edge of the Cotswolds. The countryside is certainly lush and green after a wet spring and the roadside flowers responded accordingly. It reminds me of a giant patchwork quilt with green pastures, acid yellow fields of canola crops, herds of grazing sheep and cattle, and the whole stitched together with miles of hedgerows and stone fences.

A visit to the Cotswolds is always a delight with its charming villages, ancient churches, thatched roofs, quaint little shops and its glorious gardens and none is greater than the magnificent Hidcote Manor Gardens. Created over a century ago by Lawrence Johnston, this Arts & Crafts garden has influenced garden design and practices to this day. Its use of ‘garden rooms’, broad avenues, ornate topiary, unusual plants and a stunning setting all add to the brilliance of this outstanding garden.

The highlight of my second week in England was attending the RHS Malvern Spring Festival, one of the first of many annual flower shows held in the UK each year, with Chelsea being the most famous. The Malvern show is spread over many acres and offers all the usual show attractions such as the Floral Marquee, show gardens, guest speakers, floral art, local crafts and hundreds of stalls selling just about anything a gardener could wish for. To my delight, one area I didn’t recall from a previous visit was the massive Antiques Hall filled with dozens of dealers – I couldn’t resist a few small purchases.

When visiting these shows, I always head for the Floral Marquee first, as they are less crowded which gives you a better opportunity to get up close. Also, the exhibits are fresher in the morning and that makes for better photographs. Among the list of guest speakers was Jay Blades, presenter of the TV show ‘The Repair Shop’, who gave a very entertaining and honest talk about the show and himself.

Another highlight of the week was a visit to The Royal Gardens of Highgrove, the garden created by King Charles III. Highgrove is a private royal residence and security is tight and unfortunately due this, photography is not permitted. Not ideal for this shutterbug but it does make you focus and appreciate your surrounding much more, plus I have numerous picture books on the garden to refer to art leisure.

I last visited the gardens 12 years ago and they have certainly matured since then. The New Cottage Garden is superb, bursting with colour and the Wildflower Meadows are a sea of yellow buttercups and purple camassia. The arboretum has filled out nicely, with the vibrant leaves of the Japanese maples and the bold bright flowers of the rhododendrons stealing the show. I was keen to revisit The Stumpery area, created almost 40 years ago from massive stumps from trees lost in the big storms that ravaged Britain in 1987. The area is planted out with ferns and other shade loving plants and was the inspiration for my own stumpery created in 2017. After the tour, I enjoyed a nice cup tea in the restaurant, reflected on the beauty of the gardens and on my wonderful week in the Cotswolds.

George Hoad AM

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