Sir Harold Hillier Gardens

239 Reviews

Star Travel Rating


Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

September, 2017

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Travelled with

Adult family

Reasons for trip

Less than half an hour from Winchester is ‘one of the largest collections of hardy trees and shrubs in the world.’ No quarrelling with that after a visit: it’s a place to spend hours exploring, or to allow children to run free, unless they’ve a mind to follow one of the numerous trails set out for their interest. For plant lovers most of the attraction is close to Jermyns House, once the home of the Hillier family. It is a cluster of shrubberies and borders, currently also featuring some of the exhibits from ‘Art in the Garden’.

A permanent exhibit is the sculptural portrait of Sir Harold, gazing towards his house, just a few steps from the centenary border planted in his memory. Nearby are hydrangeas and magnolias, one hanging on to flowers the other long past them in September, as were the wisteria. Nonetheless we found plenty to see, with heather just beyond the house and autumn crocus and cyclamen comparing colours under Himalayan birch.

Autumn and sculpture can also call big statement plants to mind, and the borders had their share of dramatic cannas while the wetland areas had bamboo and the gigantic leaves and spiky stems of Gunnera. More delicate is the Korean Hill Cherry with, nearby, the Gurkha Memorial Garden featuring a stone-built rest area modelled on those of the Himalayan trails.

Most of the paths in the gardens are fully negotiable by mobility vehicles, with easy gradients where apropriate. Children of course charge down any slope and there are plenty of these. Ideas for growing food plants at home in interesting containers are another feature of interest to parents or grandparents: good gifts for horticulturally inclined children. Of course there is a very well stocked plant sales centre near the car park.

We especially enjoyed the placement of sculptures, many inspired by or designed to emphasise plant forms in one way or another. Some were also witty, like the two hens atop a signpost. It was a visit to enhance any day, and on a cloudy one that threatened rain, an ideal elevator of the spirit.


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