BETH CHATTO GRAVEL GARDEN
When Beth Chatto and her husband built their house in 1960 much of the surrounding area was overgrown with poor gravelly soil, along with some boggy areas in the lower levels of the land. The two gardens which support dry plants are the Gravel Garden and the Scree garden which were more recent additions beginning in 1991. As this part of the country has one of the lowest levels of rainfall, with an average of 20" a year, it made sense to use plants adapted to such drier conditions.
The Gravel Garden
Just inside the entrance and through a gap in a high hedge is the former parking lot. It had been grass -covered but the grass burnt to brown every summer and the underlying soil compacted by cars. Surely something better could be done with the land? It was ripe for a horticultural experiment in the form of a gravel garden. But it is not to say that they didn't amend the existing soil. Home-made compost, mushroom compost and bonfire waste were added and tilled in to a depth of 4' to help establish the plants. Which plants would survive without addition irrigation and with the soil conditions of the area? There were failures but judging by what we saw, over time the plants grown are happy with both climate and soil conditions. Plants in generous beds spill over onto the wide gravel walkways which snake through the area. All the plants here demand really good drainage which they get from the naturally occurring 15' of gravel and sand which lie beneath the surface.
The house sits high in the garden and we were sure we caught a glimpse of Beth Chatto, who is now 94, in the window. I am sure she was enjoying the visitors as they made their way through the lower gardens as much as we were enjoying the garden. Although the main steps up to the house were barred to visitors there were other steps which led up to the side of the house to the Scree Garden.
The Scree Garden
|Side pathway up to the Scree Garden|
The scree beds are surrounded by low stone walls. The plantings are the smaller succulents and alpine plants which would quickly become overshadowed in the lower Gravel Garden.
You can see David walking away from the garden. David has always preferred the woodland gardens and he was heading to the more lush areas like the Water Garden and The Long Shady Walk. But these dry gardens are my favorite.
The greenhouses separate the gardens from the nursery.
Beth Chatto's private collection of succulents.
Even with such low rainfall plants stay lush and green. As this place clearly catches any rainfall the ground is naturally more moist.
|The Long Shady Walk|
|Soil amendment in the Reservoir Garden|
Plants organized according to soil and sun/shade and in alphabetical order.
It would have been nice to visit the cafe but it was time to move on. We still had to visit Flatford and Sutton Hoo before returning to Cambridge.