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)

Published by Heyjude

I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

37 thoughts on “Garden Portrait: a tribute to Beth Chatto

  1. 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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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. 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. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. 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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