Beth Chatto Gardens
Beth Chatto Gardens

The Beth Chatto Garden was begun in 1960 on a fairly level site just east of Colchester. Beth Chatto and her husband Andrew built a house on wasteland owned by the Chatto family farm. The site had very low rainfall, forcing the Chattos to design a garden that would thrive in dry conditions. The core of the original garden was built around unusual plants, unfamiliar to many British gardeners.

Chatto began exhibiting her unusual varieties at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 1977, winning a remarkable 10 consecutive gold medals for her displays. In the following year Chatto launched her first book, The Dry Garden, and since then has gone on to write 7 more, in addition to innumerable articles and lectures worldwide. This is a lady who knows her stuff!

The Scree Garden
The Scree Garden

And it shows; the Beth Chatto Gardens are an absolute delight, covering 5 acres, and providing something to see throughout the entire year. Here's a look at the four main areas of the garden:

Scree Garden

Near the entrance to the garden is this newest area of planting, made of raised beds centred on an eye-catching Judas Tree. The species in the beds are smaller plants, selected for drought resistance.

Gravel Garden

If you've ever wondered what to plant in extremely poor soil, here's your answer; drought-resistant plants that are never watered, yet manage to thrive. Here the emphasis is on a garden of form and foliage to create year-round interest no matter what the weather. The gravel garden follows the course of a dry river bed, and offers a home to flowering grasses, lavandula, and allums, among many other varieties.

Woodland Garden

A shady refuge; curving paths wander through a variety of trees, underplanted to show spring flowers at their best. In the early spring snowdrops and daffodils abound, followed by fritillaries and scillas. In autumn Japanese anemones add colour, with colchicums for more variety. One interesting feature is a 'Five Star Insectum', a luxury winter shelter for beetles, bugs, and insects, built from recycled materials.

Water Garden

For me, this was the most interesting of the main garden areas. The water garden is built around four large ponds, with luxurious rich plantings of water-loving species. This area is themed around the colour green, with over 100 shades of green foliage! The result is a colourful delight from summer through autumn.

Summing up

For goodness sake bring a notebook and a camera! You will be inspired and want to record ideas and species. The plants are very well labelled, which is just as well, for the sheer variety of unfamiliar species means you will be wishing you had a good plant reference book with you!

This is a delightful garden, small enough to enjoy for a couple of pleasant hours, but not so big that you'll be worn out with your exploring. Most of all, Beth Chatto's Garden is a lace of inspiration.

More Photos

About Beth Chatto Gardens
Address: A133, Elmstead Market, Essex, England, C07 7DB
Attraction Type: Garden
Location: On the south side of the A133, four miles east of Colchester
Website: Beth Chatto Gardens
Location map
OS: TM067241
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


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