From there, the The Beth Chatto Gardens and nursery just outside Colchester needs little introduction to MPG members (or most of the gardening world for that matter). On what would have been Beth’s 100th birthday her spirit must have soared over her colourful legacy in the Gravel Garden where a wide variety of alliums, salvias, verbenas, alstroemerias, eryngiums, poppies, euphorbias, bergenias, grasses and heaps more looked magnificent on the free-draining sand and gravel of a former car park. Particularly lovely was a lofty flowering Genista aetnensis (Mount Etna broom). Notable absentees this year included many signs of imminent agapanthus thanks to the ferocious freeze of the previous December. Famously Beth never permitted watering apart from helping plants in their first year however high the temperature. Rich soil preparation was her mantra. December 2022, cold or not, the results for us were as expected — outstanding.
In sharp contrast, the Water Garden is a sea of greens, packed with ferns, hostas, irises, primulas and more, and recommended for a boiling day because the temperature is degrees lower than in the Gravel Garden. Further on the Woodland Garden is shaded by mature oaks – I have never forgotten walking with Beth discussing articles she was to write for the Telegraph magazine. As we strolled on a dull winter afternoon she gathered a posy of Arum italicum, flowering Sarcococca varieties, snowdrops and a few precious Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’ – this last originally collected in the wild by Morris and first propagated by Beth. An unforgettable gift.
A further point about a visit here: the extensive nursery is organised according to habitat – Mediterranean, damp, woodland, etc. Very helpful to shoppers looking for inspiration to fill a particular patch.