The Sir Harold Hillier Gardens were bequeathed by their distinguished plantsman namesake to the local council in 1970 after had had spent around 20 years developing 180 acres of prime Hampshire countryside into a world class arboretum and gardens.
The most famous element is the Centenary Border which is vast and very impressive with 30,000 mixed annual and perennial plants offering vibrant colour all summer long. At over 250 metres in length, this is one of the longest borders in the Europe and is reason enough to visit on its own.
But the large scale of these overall gardens means there is plenty more for the visitor.
There are some excellent displays of a very wide range of plants including fourteen National Plant Collections, a Gurkha Memorial Garden, a Pond and Bog Garden, one of the largest Winter Gardens in Europe with drifts of Snowdrops and carpets of Cyclamen, and a Children’s Education Garden.
In spring the superb Magnolias, Camellias, Azaleas and Rhododendrons make a stunning display, while in autumn the cool climate trees and shrubs, especially the Acers, turn to rich shades of red and gold to take the breath away.
Harold Hillier made his fortune from a large nursery business and was one of the first to offer mail order plants across the UK. He was also an avid plant collector and travelled far and wide to bring back rare and unusual plants from far flung corners of the globe including Japan, Korea, USA, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand.
Many of those plants remain today amongst the massive 42,000 plant total, many of which are now mature and outstanding examples of their species.
Hillier was knighted in 1983 for his contribution to planting and gardens and Hampshire County Council are to be applauded for maintaining and promoting such a large resource as this. The official buildings and catering may not be up to National Trust levels and aesthetic, but its still good and very adequate for an excellent day out for the whole family.
Author: Bob Saunders.
Restaurant There are two eateries within the gardens.
The Pavillion Restaurant serves hot and cold food.
Jermyn's House Tea Rooms offer coffee, tea, and a delicious selection of cakes including cream teas.
Shop There is a gift shop in the Visitors Centre
Learning Centre Gardens offer a wide range of courses/activities for children, schools and adults
Nursery Adjacent to the Visitors Centre is Hillier Nursery which has a huge range of plants including many that are growing in the gardens.
Disabled Access There is parking next to the Visitors Entrance. Toilets and Restaurant in Visitors Centre are suitable for wheelchairs. There is a central loop with paths suitable for all abilities. Wheelchairs are available free of charge. Electric scooters are available for a small charge but booking is recommended.
Dogs: Not allowed unless assisting disabled visitors.
The Gardens are situated 2 miles north-east of Romsey. There are plenty of white on brown tourist signs to Hillier Gardens
From the south: From junction 3 of the M27, follow the A3057 signs to Romsey from where you will find the Gardens clearly signposted.
From the north: From the M3 Winchester direction, you can exit junction 11, and follow the signs to Hursley and Ampfield.
From the Andover direction, follow the A3057
The nearest station is Romsey. From late spring to early autumn there is a free Sunday and Bank Holiday bus service from the Station to the gardens. At other times you will need to take a taxi.