Beth Chatto’s Plants and Gardens

30 November 2022
Beth Chatto’s Plants and Gardens

Gilles Lardy's European Garden Tour 2022 Part 3

The Reservoir Garden with fantastic Eremurus sp. and strappy Phormium cv.

When we started planning our trip, Beth Chatto's Plants and Gardens was on the top of my must-see list. The late Beth Chatto throughout her life broke boundaries as a plants' woman, bringing to the masses many previously rare and unusual plants, but also promoted and developed the now all to relevant concept of dry gardening, first through her book "The Dry Garden" published in the 1970s, and her famous Gravel Garden created in the 1990s.

It is that Gravel Garden that I was really looking forward to seeing, especially how through careful site preparation and plant selection she managed to create in the middle of England one of the best dry gardens I have ever seen in term of plant diversity and design. 

Beth Chatto - Pic 5

The Water Garden with Hostas, Primula bulleyana and Iris siberica 'Royal blue'.

The walk through the garden is framed by tall grasses such as Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’, Stipa gigantea and Ampelodesmos mauritanicus. Cistus and Phlomis seem to thrive in the Essex climate and their full rounded shapes provide the perfect counterpoint to the clean lines of the grasses. At their foot are planted patches of perennials and subshrubs such as Euphorbias (E. schillingi, E. rigida), Helianthemum (H. 'Cheviot'), Oenothera sp. (O. 'Lemon Sunset’) and Salvias which provide a year-round array of textures and colours. Annuals are also used to fill in the gaps, among which I noted various Papaver sp. (P. ruprifagum, P. rhoeas, P. dubium), Galactites tomentosa, Escholzia californica and Verbena bonariensis. Finally, bulbs such as Allium cv., Gladiolus communis var byzantinus or Tulipa sprengeri are used to provide seasonal interest. The result is a garden vibrant with shapes, textures and colours, not to mention a great habitat for wildlife.

Beth Chatto - Pic 4

The Gravel Garden - Spring bulbs add seasonal interest (from front to back Gladiolus communis subsp byzanthinus, Tulipa sprengeri, Allium tuberosum)

Beyond the Gravel Garden, the gardens also include a Scree Garden featuring Mediterranean and alpine plants, a Water Garden, with a more traditional English style, a Woodland Garden and a newly redesigned Reservoir Garden.

Beth Chatto - Pic 3

The Gravel Garden (from left to right Agapanthus cv., Helianthemum sp., Thymus cv., Verbascum bombyciferum, Hylotelephium 'Karfunkelstein', Brachyglottis cv.)

The last step of the visit is the nursery which has a spectacular selection of drought tolerant plants. Although I was not able to get any of those plants, I certainly left with a lot of ideas and inspiration.

Beth Chatto - Pic 7

The Reservoir Garden. A lusher planting than the Gravel Garden which does not receive any supplement water. At the front a big patch of Salvia sylvestris 'Viola Klose', at the back the yellow spires of Asphodeline lutea.

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