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)

Garden Portrait: Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden

OCTOBER is the month to share your favourite gardens.

(This month share with us what is special about your favourite garden. Why do you like it? When is it at its best? And how do we get there. Of course you may wish to share your own garden in which case unless you open it to the public, keep the actual location private. )

I have recently been on a road trip around Britain – or some of it. Starting in the south-east and working my way northwards up to the Highlands of Scotland. Opportunities abounded to discover some new gardens and I made sure to find the time to fit in a few along the way. Luckily the weather on the whole cooperated and with September gardens no longer the tired and dreary places they once were I am hoping that you will enjoy the visits with me.p9060098

I am beginning with Beth Chatto’s garden in Essex, near Colchester. Famous for her gravel garden which is free to enter (as is the nursery and wonderful tea room), there is another part to the garden with water features and wide herbaceous borders. I’ll come back to that part later on, but for now I shall show you around the pretty gravel garden.



You will notice an abundance of blue-green, grey and silver foliage, golden grasses and low-growing mounds.


Colour is added by the addition of poppies, coastal plants such as the horned poppy and sea lavender. Sedums attract the bees, Gaura Lindheimeri  flutter in the breeze like dancing butterflies and the autumn crocus form stunning patches of purple-pink drifts.

And after two hours of mowing the lawn (a very small lawn) on Thursday – I swear it grew at least a foot high whilst I was away – I am contemplating creating my own gravel garden. Not that there is any shortage of water in these parts.

If you would like to join in with Garden Photography then please take a look at my Garden Photography Page. No complicated rules 🙂

  • Create your own post and title it October: A Garden Portrait
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  • Get your post in by the end of the month, as the new theme comes out on the first Sunday in November.
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