days out, families, gardens, hampshire, travel

Harold Hillier Gardens

I have always admired the Hillier Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show  – they’ve won Gold medal for 72 years running, so they must be doing something right! Going to their gardens near Romsey in Hampshire has been on the list for sometime.  So despite the drizzle and wind William and I went there last week and we were not disappointed.

The garden and arboretum was designed by Sir Harold Hillier in 1953 and contains one of the largest and foremost tree and shrub collections in the world.  Sir Harold Hillier was born in 1905, the son of Edwin Hillier, who was a world authority on conifers, and whose own father Edwin had opened a small florist and nursery in Winchester, in 1864.  He was very much hands on with the planning and planting of the gardens until he died in 1985.


Set amidst 72 hectares on beautiful Hampshire countryside, this is a wonderful haven to explore for adults and children.  We spent most of the day there and probably only covered about a third of it, so we look forward to returning and continuing our adventures!

Entry costs are reasonable and if you are a member of Kew Gardens, one of their partner gardens then you get in for free.  If you don’t have Kew membership then you can get membership for Hilliers Garden and its worth getting as it gets you into Hilliers plus their partner gardens which include Wakehurst Place, The National Botanic Garden of Wales, The Botanic Gardens Birmingham and Kew.

There is plenty to do here for all the family and what I really loved is that they have thought about children and encouraging them to get involved with gardening and nature.  There’s a big education centre for schools, an education garden with pond dipping, vegetables growing, examples of artwork made in the arts and crafts workshops they run including little pottery mushroom houses and silk dyed with natural plant, fruit and vegetables dyes.  This area is very close to the visitor centre so is a great start to your journey to get kids involved and excited.

We aimed for the pond first as I’m a sucker for a peaceful water feature.  I particularly loved this area and the shadowy gardens surrounding this.  Set in a sunken area, this is was a haven of peace and quiet, that you almost forgot where you are.  There are loads of fish in the pond and it was great for William to see them, as well as the other birds who hopped about.

There was a fun boardwalk through the giant gunnera plants which William loved and as usual he befriended a girl and they played for ages, pretending it was the giants cave. there’s a wonderful array of mixed perennials as well as bamboos


Nearby there are also lots of varieties of giant bamboo which you can walk through and a wobbly bridge!

I tend not to follow maps, I like to wander free and just see where I end up, and a lot of the time I let William lead us in the direction he wants to explore.  We went up through the Bog and Peat Gardens and saw lots of amazing dragonflies on the way.  There was a whole host of beautiful colours here – I love the smell of the damp soil and the flowers. One of my favourite flowers is the Agapanthus through years of admiring their bright blue adorning Cornwall in the summer.

At the far end of this part of the garden is Jermyn House which has a cafe, and this was a great little lunch stop.  It has a good range of sandwiches, cakes and jacket potatoes.  At this part of the garden is Magnolia Avenue and the Heather Garden and we were lucky enough to see a lovely baby bunny happily munching on the grass.

We then went in search of the great Centenary Border and the Hydrangea Walk.  Both did not disappoint – William was asleep by this time (This is a great place to wear them out!) and so I was able to take my time and gather ideas for my own garden and decide what Hydrangea I want.  The centenery border is the longest double mixed border in the country, planted by Harold Hillier in 1964, it has changed over the years, but as you enter the top, you are greeted with a beautiful vista of colour and bees.

This then led me back through Ten Acres to the main visitor centre which has a lovely restaurant, shop and exhibition space.  As William was still asleep I enjoyed a wander around the beautiful Printmaking exhibition that was there.  I was thoroughly inspired to have a go at this and picked up a leaflet on the workshops.  The problem is that I am continually inspired to try new things and there just aren’t enough hours in the day!  But the prints were beautiful and they had many originals for sale as well as cards and prints.

We still have the Winter Garden and the whole West side of the gardens to explore so we shall be back at some point over the summer no doubt.  There is a tree house in this part of the garden and I know a certain little man wants to find it.  As you leave the visitors centre there is the entrance to the Hillier Garden Centre which if you’re a garden lover like me, you cannot possibly walk past and not go in.  Although I didn’t find a hydrangea today I found plenty of other beautiful flowers to add to my garden this weekend. A great day out!

For a map of the gardens click here



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