Beth Chatto Gardens
Garden writer Beth Chatto is one of the most influential living gardeners in Britain who is perhaps best known for her pioneering, ecological approach to gardening, which was developed in the 1960s, yet is so relevant to gardeners today.
Beth Chatto Gardens grew out of a patch of wasteland at the back of her husband's Essex fruit farm and became one of the best-loved gardens in Britain.
Beth Chatto began her garden on this unpromising site in 1960, and set about finding plants to suit the difficult conditions. The large Gravel Garden has been filled with drought-loving plants, with alliums providing jewel-rich colours, whilst kniphofias and verbascums add strong verticals amongst the bold groupings of ballota, lavandula and santolina. In autumn, tall grasses shimmer with ribbon-like leaves, punctuating the landscape.
A soggy hollow has been transformed into a dramatic Water Garden, where the impact of lush green growth is almost overpowering. Huge upturned parasols of gunnera tower above a hundred shades of emerald, creating a scene of harmony and tranquillity.
The cool shade of the neighbouring woodland has also been exploited to the full, with spring bulbs illuminating the woodland floor for weeks. By mid-summer there is a wealth of different leaf patterns, while autumn brings colonies of Japanese anemones and colchiums and the reds and golds of falling leaves.
Overall, the gardens are spectacular, not only for their choice of appropriate plantings, but also for the way in which flower and plant forms are arranged to their best advantage, providing a huge source of inspiration for any gardener.
No matter when you visit, there is an overall harmonious effect all year round with a fine blend of colour, foliage and texture recognising the sculptural and architectural opportunities of the planting.
Adjoining the garden, there is a nursery at which an excellent range of more unusual plants can be purchased. Whereas the light and modern Tea Room overlooking the famous Gravel Garden the friendly staff offer light lunches and refreshments including home-made soup, filled rolls, mouth-watering cakes, teas and coffees.