Beth Chatto was the subject of a Woman's Hour special on Radio 4 this morning, as charming and delightful to listen to as her garden is to visit. One of my favourite places, Beth Chatto's is just outside Colchester on the road to Clacton, and we usually visit in July on our way to visit Mum.
Beth described it this morning as her private garden, which she loves to share with her many visitors; certainly whenever I've seen her, she's been talking to one or other of them and seems happy to share her considerable experience.
On Woman's Hour she talked about the changes in how we garden and the plants available to grow today and described how the garden, and her ideas, were developed over the years. She was clearly original, and a creative rebel, perhaps; in her early days she was chastised by an RHS judge for exhibiting a wild flower, stinking hellebore, at one of their winter shows.
Beth developed the garden and nursery on unpromising land, in partnership with her late husband, over nearly fifty years, and it is beautiful. The water garden provides a cool break near the end of our two hour journey from SW London, and the innovative dry garden, planted on gravel and never watered except by the rain, always includes some dramatic plantings. A lovely, airy tea room has recently been added and her nursery sells many unusual plants. It's well worth making a special trip.