Beth Chatto is truly one of our gardening icons. Over the years she has won gold medals at Chelsea, written some wonderfully informative books and developed one of our best gardens.
I visited the garden about 12 years ago, so on our way for a weekend in Suffolk, we made a detour for a well-overdue return visit.
The making of the gardens was begun by Beth and her late husband Andrew in 1960. They used what we now know as ecological gardening methods, in other words, growing plants in the conditions that they originate from and working with the prevailing conditions rather than against them.
Trying to grow plants in conditions that they’re not suited to is one of the most common reasons that plants fail…. makes sense really, but we all try and get away with it when we see a plant we love.
The overgrown areas of land have been transformed from poor, gravely, soil and boggy woodland areas into four distinct gardens:
- A scree-garden: for small low-growing plants that like hot, dry conditions.
- A gravel garden: containing plants that like dry situations, and won’t grow in wet winter soil.
- A water garden: plants suitable for ponds and pond edges.
- A woodland garden: this is my favourite part, upper (trees), middle(shrubs) and lower(ground cover) sections, creating layers of plants and contrastng leaf shapes that really complement each other.
The variety of conditions and range of plants grown here, give gardeners the opportunity to see what plants may be best suited to their own gardens. It provides a brilliant example of how to arrange plants together, and like most things that are done well, it’s made to look easy and effortless.
Having just written a book about planting design, I was very appreciative.
At the moment, flowering plants sit among their neighbours that have ripe buds ready to burst , so there’ll always be something colourful to see. There’s also plenty of interest from the shapes and colours of plant- foliage and trees without relying on flower colour as the sole interest, especially in the woodland garden that has a lovely tranquil atmosphere.
The website has useful plant-lists for:
Shade loving plants.
Plants for watersides and margins.
Plants for moisture retentive soil in sun.
Take lots of photos, a notebook and observe how plants are composed together in layers of shape, texture, colour and form.
Check the website for visitor information:
The garden is only about a two hour drive from London, have you ever visited it?
images: Jill Anderson