Garden Portrait: a tribute to Beth Chatto

Beth Chatto died last week (1923 -2018). On May 13th. To anyone interested in garden design and plants she was a well-known name. She has inspired and influenced gardeners for many years both here and across the world. Famous for her ability to grow plants in difficult places she is often quoted for her dictum:

“The right plant for the right place”

She will be missed, but her spirit will carry on in the thousands of gardens she encouraged gardeners to create. In Essex you can visit the Beth Chatto Gardens where you will find the wonderful Gravel Garden: an example of a garden planted in poor free-draining soil and without irrigation using drought tolerant plants. This, as well as the tea-room and nursery, is free to enter. You can also buy plants from the nursery by mail order.

Then you can visit the Reservoir Garden, an open sunny area which is full of wide borders and ponds and plenty of colour even at this late time of the year. What I noticed the most, apart from the width of these borders, was the way height and texture is used throughout.

Large-leaved plants, spiky plants, variegated leaves, soft swaying grasses and tall perennials like the Persicaria,  Eupatorium  and Chelone reaching to the sky. All underplanted with ground-cover plants like hardy geraniums and hostas which plug the gaps.

Grassy pathways lead you through the planting up to the Woodland Gardens which are full of shade-loving bulbs and shrubs planted beneath a canopy of tall oaks. On the way you will have to stop many times to admire the variety of plants in the borders.

Finally the Scree Garden which provides the solution for many: a large collection of easy alpines emulating the growing conditions of the stony mountainous slopes.

My visit was in early September, 2016. Fortunately I was heading up to Scotland, otherwise I think I would have spent a fortune on plants here. Luckily I didn’t as I now know what my garden is truly like so I can finally choose ‘the right plant in the right place

Source: Beth Chatto Gardens leaflet (photos my own)

37 Comments Add yours

    1. Heyjude says:

      It is a lovely garden. And tea-room. And nursery. Good job I don’t live in Essex or else I’d be there every week!

  1. Pat says:

    Such a happy post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Jude, beautiful photos and I love the pond area. Yes, it looks rather easy when we visit gardens though much harder to get them looking natural. When living on the farm, we had a large garden, and I am happy to share that the current owners have not got rid of it. Nor all the olive trees!! I haven’t heard of the woman you have mentioned I might have to google her. I have been told on numerous occasions that it is harder to design a smaller garden, maybe due to any mistakes in the design will be more noticeable!

    1. Heyjude says:

      If you click the link under her name it leads to her obituary.

  3. Tish Farrell says:

    So gladdens the heart, even as I overdose on gardening while the sun shines.

    1. Heyjude says:

      We have to put in the effort when the sun shines! One day I shall manage to simply sit outside and enjoy the garden. Not at the moment though, the cows are being very noisy. That time of year!

      1. Tish Farrell says:

        Ah, noisy neighbours then!

  4. Sue says:

    She was an inspirational lady

    1. Heyjude says:

      She was indeed. Great garden too. And a wonderful legacy.

  5. Anabel Marsh says:

    I think I have only heard of Beth Chatto via your blog: she has had a long and fruitful life it seems. Lovely tribute showing her legacy to perfection.

  6. Anabel Marsh says:

    Lovely tribute showing her legacy to perfection.

    1. Heyjude says:

      I was very pleased to be able to visit her garden having heard so much about her. A great lady.

  7. Laura Bloomsbury says:

    I did not hear about this – thank you for this wonderful epitaph in planting – and still I have not visited the gravel garden -must go!

    1. Heyjude says:

      Definitely. It is a lovely garden and nursery.

  8. Being remembered in a beautiful garden is perfect.

  9. A nice circling around from the quote to the conclusion: a perfect tribute. You photograph and describe gardens so well. My favourite photo? That red trunk amongst all the green and grey.

  10. pommepal says:

    An inspirational person I have heard her quote many times and getting the right plant in the right place is not always easy and often trial and error for me. Thank you for sharing the images of her garden, I would love to visit so as I can’t I really enjoyed this post

    1. Heyjude says:

      All too true PP. I am experimenting with plants this year, so we shall see if I have got it right. I am still keen on some Australian plants, but might use containers for those. I shall have to visit the hardy exotic nursery and see what they suggest.

      1. pommepal says:

        I wonder if grevillea would survive where you are

        1. Heyjude says:

          I aim to find out. They grow along the George V walk in Hayle, but that is more sheltered than I am.

        2. pommepal says:

          They are quite tough and grow in all parts of Australia so there should be one will grow for you.

        3. Heyjude says:

          I will look for a small variety. I

        4. pommepal says:

          Lots to choose from over here also ground cover ones too

  11. rusty duck says:

    She will indeed be missed. It’s a garden I’ve always wanted to visit and will next time I get out that way. Her book on woodland gardening was my first buy and inspiration when we moved here.

  12. Lucid Gypsy says:

    She was a very influential gardener and her legacy will continue.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Indeed. I have my eye on a few things from her nursery.

  13. restlessjo says:

    What a lovely tribute to Beth, Jude. You must have posted about this garden before, but your photos and the way you’ve presented the flowers is wonderful. 🙂 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      Only wrote about the gravel garden. Never got around to the rest, so this seemed an appropriate time and to reflect on what she brought to the gardening world.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Not sure if it is the same one that I was going to visit on my London trip a few years ago that was closed at the time. [just searched and its not, the one I was thinking of is the Geffrye Museum which is closed until 2020] SO many secret gardens and green spaces in London.

  14. Joanne Sisco says:

    Everyone has a super power of some kind and it sounds like Beth Chatto knew how and where to help a plant thrive. I missed that lineup when gardening skills were being handed out. I was probably sitting in the shade somewhere sipping wine.

  15. BeckyB says:

    Like a couple of others I also missed her death. She was a remarkable woman, and what a lovely tribute you have put together x

    1. Heyjude says:

      I knew I hadn’t written about this garden so it seemed a good time to do it. If you ever find yourself in that part of the country I urge you to visit her garden and nursery. Great tea-room too!

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