The Beth Chatto Gardens
Beth Chatto OBE is an award-winning plantswoman. Her work here at the Gardens began in 1960. She took an overgrown wasteland of brambles, parched gravel and boggy ditches, transforming it using plants adapted by nature to thrive in different conditions. An inspirational, informal garden has developed. Beth continues to oversee the development of the Gardens, and works closely with her team which include Garden and Nursery Director, David Ward, and Head Gardener Åsa Gregers-Warg. The Gardens remain a family-run business, managed by Beth's granddaughter, Julia Boulton.
What was once a car park is now a world-renowned Gravel Garden (which is never watered), and the dozens of plants Beth used to give to friends and family have morphed into one of the UK's leading plantsman's nurseries.
A light and airy Tearoom, built in 2006, allows visitors to relax and take in their surroundings over a homemade cake and is also available for special private events such as wedding receptions, christenings and wakes.
Beth Chatto was born in 1923 to enthusiastic gardening parents. After working as a teacher she married the late Andrew Chatto in 1943. His life long interest in the origins of plants influenced the development of the Gardens and our use of plants to this day.
Following Andrew’s retirement, in 1960 the Chatto family built their new home on a wasteland that had been part of the Chatto fruit farm. The site presented many difficulties for starting a garden including low annual rainfall. It was to Andrew’s plant research that they turned.
Informed by his knowledge Beth selected plants for a series of Gardens that could thrive under the different conditions. Through gifts of seeds and cuttings a large collection of unusual plants and a good knowledge of propagation was acquired. Since the late fifties Beth Chatto had become involved in the Flower Club movement, lecturing, opening new clubs and demonstrating flower arranging. By 1967 the Flower Club members were an enthusiastic audience for unusual plants. Requests for catalogues followed and from a small hand typed sheet a mail order business and plant nursery was born.
In January 1975 “Unusual Plants” exhibited at the RHS Hall, Westminster, winning a Silver Medal and gaining the first press coverage. From 1977 Beth Chatto and her stand of “Unusual Plants” went on to win ten consecutive Gold Medals at RHS Chelsea. Beth Chatto’s first book, The Dry Garden, was published in 1978. Since then she has gone on to publish eight books, has lectured around the world and written articles for magazines, newspapers and the Internet. Beth Chatto still works every day in The Beth Chatto Gardens, guiding her staff and sharing her deep love and profound knowledge of planting.
Awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour,
Awarded Honorary Degree by the University of Essex.
Beth Chatto participates in lecture tours of Holland and Germany.