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)