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The Quiet American Gardener

The Quiet American Gardener

The Quiet American Gardener: The story of Major Lawrence Johnston, the creator of Hidcote Manor Garden in Gloucestershire and Serre de la Madone in the South of France.



 

 

Major Lawrence Waterbury Johnston (1871–1958) was a British garden designer and plantsman. He was the owner and designer of two influential gardens – Hidcote Manor Garden in Britain and Jardin Serre de la Madone in France.

Lawrence Waterbury Johnston was born on 12 October 1871 in Paris, France, into a family of wealthy American East Coast stockbrokers from Baltimore. He was educated at home, and from 1893 in Britain at the University of Cambridge (Trinity College). In January 1900, not long after his graduation, he became a naturalised British subject, and he immediately joined the Imperial Yeomanry. In February he was posted to South Africa, where he fought in the Second Boer War. He was commissioned in 1901. It was at this time that he developed his interest in South African flora.

In 1902 he joined the Northumberland Hussars – with whom he would serve in World War I. He attained the rank of major.

 

The Quiet American Gardener

 

In 1907 Johnston’s mother (now Mrs. Winthrop) bought Hidcote Manor, an estate of some 300 acres, near Hidcote Bartram, in Britain; and Johnston began a programme of 40 years’ work on its gardens. Here he combined a feeling for structure (creating a surprising series of discrete spaces) with a love of plants and a willingness to experiment with novel plant combinations. An enthusiastic plant collector, he sponsored or undertook several expeditions in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America to bring back rare specimens. In 1922 he went plant-hunting in the alps with Edward Augustus Bowles; and in 1923 sponsored W. T. Goethe on a plant-hunting expedition to the Andes.

He was a close friend of socialite garden designer Norah Lindsay, whose home was nearby in Sutton Courtenay Manor, Oxfordshire.

In 1924 Johnston bought Serre de la Madone, near Menton, on the Mediterranean coast of France; and from then on would spend most of the year at Menton and a few summer months at Hidcote. At Serre de la Madone he turned terraces of vines and olives into a garden bright with drifts of agapanthus and strelitzia.

In 1926 Johnston sponsored Frank Kingdon-Ward on an expedition to Burma to collect seeds. On the same year his mother died, bequeathing to him the Hidcote estate. In 1927 he himself went plant hunting in South Africa, and in 1930 went to Yunnan, China.

Hidcote Manor Garden

Hidcote Manor Garden is a garden in the United Kingdom, located at the village of Hidcote Bartrim, near Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. It is one of the best-known and most influential Arts and Crafts gardens in Britain, with its linked “rooms” of hedges, rare trees, shrubs and herbaceous borders. Created by Lawrence Johnston, it is owned by the National Trust and is open to the public.

The Americans, Lawrence Johnston and his mother, settled in Britain about 1900, and Lawrence immediately became a British citizen and fought in the British army during the Boer war. In 1907 Johnston’s mother, Mrs Gertrude Winthrop (she had re-married), purchased the Hidcote Manor Estate. It was situated in a part of Britain with strong connections to the then-burgeoning Arts and Crafts movement and an Anglicized American artistic expatriate community centred nearby at Broadway, Worcestershire.

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The Quiet American Gardener
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The Quiet American Gardener: The story of Major Lawrence Johnston, the creator of Hidcote Manor Garden in Gloucestershire and Serre de la Madone in the South of France.