Harold Hillier Garden
Sir Harold Hillier Garden

The Sir Harold Hillier Garden is one of the most popular visitor attractions in Hampshire. The gardens cover 166 acres containing over 40,000 plants from all over the world, including well labelled scree, heather, bog, and herbaceous gardens.
History
Sir Harold Hillier was born in 1905. He came by his enthusiasm for gardening from his father, who was a leading authority on conifers, and his grandfather, who began a nursery and florist shop in Winchester. Over the course of his life Hillier devoted his time to collecting plants from across the globe.

He visited every corner of the world and corresponded with gardeners in a multitude of countries, striving to create the finest collection of plants as he possibly could. The result is one of the world's great gardens, covering 180 acres of beautiful Hampshire countryside.

A sculpture dragonfly overlooks a quiet pond
A sculpture dragonfly overlooks a quiet pond
What to See
There are almost too many garden highlights to list, but among the more popular features are a heather garden, hydrangea walk, a winter garden, and an acer valley, worth visiting for its Autumn blaze of colours.

One unusual feature is the Gurkha memorial garden, featuring Nepalese plants and trees. The top of this garden is a traditional Chautara, a roofless resting place, displaying the Gurkha regiment colours. Another highlight is the National Collection Glade; a wooded area featuring species from each of the National collections held at Hillier.

There is a meadow where summer wildflowers bloom in profusion, and the Ampfield Wood Valley, planted with Douglas fir. Families and schools will appreciate a Children's Education Garden, based around a series of 6 small ponds teeming with insects and divided into 'classrooms' by tall bamboo. Then there is the Centenary Border, planted with over 20,000 seasonal bulbs, offering lovely colour in Spring and Summer.

At the centre of the garden is Jermyn's House, Sir Harold Hillier's former home. The house is now used for garden administration and as a venue for weddings and private hire. Outside the house is a lawn hedged by yew to create a wonderfully private space.

Highlights
  • Magnolia Avenue
  • Pinetum
  • Spring Walk
  • Bog Garden
  • Three Acre Paddock
  • Brentry Woodland - lined with azaleas and rhododendrons
  • The Pond

The Hillier is a garden for all seasons, and one of the most intriguing gardens in Britain.

Visiting

The gardens are very well signposted from nearby major roads. It is open throughout the year, with evening opening hours at the height of the summer season. We visited in June, when the gardens were at their colourful best. What really struck me was how well the plants were labelled. It was very easy to find out what each species was, and that covers a lot of species!

I loved the Nepalese garden area around the Ghurka memorial, and I have to make special mention of the sculpture carefully placed throughout the gardens. Some of the sculpture was quite eyecatching, but most was designed to fit into the surrounding garden as if it had grown their organically.

The Hillier garden is an absolute delight to to visit. If you enjoy gardens it is a must-see destination.