Beth Chatto, OBE (born 27 June 1923) is a British plantswoman, garden designer and author best known for creating the Beth Chatto Gardens near Elmstead Market in the English county of Essex. She is also known for writing several books on gardening for specific conditions. She has lectured throughout the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and Germany. Her gardening and writing use the principle of the right plant for the right place, developed from her husband Andrew Chatto's lifelong research into the origin of garden plants.
The Beth Chatto Gardens
Construction of the Beth Chatto Gardens began in 1960 as a garden attached to the Chatto family home on land that had previously belonged to the Chatto family fruit farm. It had not been farmed as the soil was considered too dry in places, too wet in others and the whole area had been allowed to grow wild with blackthorn, willow and brambles. The only plants that survive from the earliest days are the ancient boundary oaks surrounding the Garden. The Beth Chatto Gardens comprise a varied range of planting sites totalling five acres, including dry, sun baked gravel, water and marginal planting, woodland, shady, heavy clay and alpine planting, and now include the Gravel Garden, Woodland Garden, Water Garden, Long Shady Walk, Reservoir Garden (currently undergoing development) and Scree Garden. It was the development of these sites that prompted Beth Chatto to write books on gardening with what could be considered as "problem areas" using plants that nature has developed to survive in differing conditions.
Today Beth Chatto, 94, still lives in the white house in the midst of the Gardens. She continues to work with her team on developing the Gardens, and can often be seen out in her mobility scooter. She still contributes to articles for international and national press and appears in international media.
In January 1975 Beth Chatto created a small winter garden at one of the Royal Horticultural Society Halls, London SW1. More exhibits followed and eventually the Beth Chatto Gardens "Unusual Plants" exhibition arrived at the Chelsea Flower Show. Exhibits by "Unusual Plants" were awarded ten consecutive Gold Medals at the Chelsea Flower Show from 1977 to 1987 (she did not exhibit in 1983). Exhibits by The Beth Chatto Gardens can still be seen at the Tendring Hundred Show in Essex.
List of publications
Beth Chatto is the author of many gardening books, including an exchange of letters with her friend and fellow gardener and writer the late Christopher Lloyd:
- The Dry Garden (1978)
- The Damp Garden (1982)
- Plant Portraits (1985), now out of print
- The Beth Chatto Garden Notebook (1988)
- The Green Tapestry (1990) now out of print
- Dear Friend and Gardener; letters exchanged between Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd, (1998)
- Beth Chatto's Gravel Garden (2000), reprinted in 2016 and retitled Drought-Resistant Planting
- Beth Chatto's Woodland Garden (2002)
- The Damp Garden, new hardback edition with full colour photography (2004)
- Beth Chatto's Shade Garden, previously published as Beth Chatto's Woodland Garden, (2008)
Honours and awards
- 1987 awarded the Lawrence Memorial Medal
- 1987 awarded the RHS Victoria Medal of Honour
- 1988 awarded an honorary degree by the University of Essex
- 1995 selected to the International Professional and Business Women's Hall of Fame for outstanding achievements in introducing plant ecology to garden design
- 1998 presented with the Life Time Achievement Award by the Garden Writers Guild
- 2002 appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queens Birthday Honours
- "Birthday's today". The Telegraph. 27 June 2013. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
Mrs Beth Chatto, horticulturist, is 90
- Beth Chatto Press Biography. The Beth Chatto Gardens Ltd.