The Hillier Gardens are not to be confused with Hilliers Garden Centres, although I expect the one is an offshoot, turned commercial, of the other.
The Hillier Gardens were founded in 1953 near Romsey, Hampshire, by Sir Harold Hillier. when he bought Jermyn’s House and its estate. He create an arboretum and well-tended garden, showing evidence of plants collected form around the world. Since 1977 it’s been a registered charity, administered by the trustees, Hampshire County Council. You can read more about its history here.
I’ve known of them for years, since it was one of my parents’ ‘days out’, often with a coach laid on my one of their local organisations, as they lived about thirty miles away. I’m less than three miles as the crow flies, although it’s more like five miles by road (or walking – there are no public walkways to get there, although a bus route goes past.
And when I was house hunting, I was driving past one day, and stopped for a cuppa–free entry if just using the cafe!
A Safe Haven in Lockdown
The Hillier Gardens turned out to be a safe haven during lockdown. I’d just moved in, and knew little of the local area. The woods and streets seemed very busy with people out getting their ‘exercise’ — and I was used to the wilds of Norfolk, where I’d rarely encounter anyone on my walks! I quickly decided to become a member of the garden, and went for life membership, since I worked out it would pay back if I went once a month for ten years (maybe it was fifteen, I forget, now.)
Once I settled in more, it became the one place I felt comfortable, and safe, walking in any weather, in lovely surroundings. Many of the paths are tarmac and wheelchair accessible, the main routes are well maintained graded tracks. Then there are the off-path routes, great in dry weather, and in summer, swathes cut through the meadows for easy walking, too.
And I started going once a week, mostly on Friday. I’ll probably recover the value of my life membership within another four years!
A Photographic project
In July 2020 I started taking my iPad to record the gardens through the year, with the idea of possibly putting a set of photos together for posterity. I may still do that. The last set of photos are from June 22 (last year), although I may well continue to take them to compare how the plants are changing. One set (from early March last year) consists entirely of storm damage – over 67 trees were seriously damaged that week, and the gardens were closed to visitors for several days for safety.
The photos here are from two visits in January 21, one wet, one dry and sunny with the remains of snow! And a couple are from a dull day in December 21.
January at Hillier Gardens
It was a lovely sunny Friday last week, after days and days of downpours. The wind was still with us, but with temperatures over 11 C (50 F), it was pleasant walking. It showed, too. The witch hazel (hamamelis) trees were in full flow with their spidery blooms. Under the trees some of the earliest snowdrops were showing their heads, and the yellow aconites were well out! I’d love a witch hazel, but I’ve never had the ground it likes to grow one successfully.
And it all reminded me that my garden needs attention. Things will start growing again. Especially the weeds!
I hope you enjoy this selection of photos of the Hilliers Garden in winter. More to come through the year 🙂