A visit to Beth Chatto's Gardens

I was very lucky (and I do realise how lucky I am) to receive an invite to a day at Beth Chatto's Gardens.  This was an opportunity I was not going to miss.  It is a bit of a schlep to Chelmsford from where I live, but also not too much of a schlep.  
I have visited these gardens a few times, I think four or five times as it is a garden I think is very worth visiting.  This particular day consisted of a tour of the gardens and the working areas that the public do not usually get to see.  I confess to always being fascinated by seeing working areas.  I like to think of it as a 'swan principle', the visible bits of the swan are gliding smoothly whilst there is much paddling happening under the water.

We were joined on the tour by Beth Chatto's granddaughter, Julia Boulton, who is the Chair of the gardens and several others of the team including Jo Waters the Managing Director, Asa Gregars Warg the head gardener and Marc McHearne the Plants Production Senior.  
We started in the Gravel Garden, which is a very good place to start.  This used to be the car park and is therefore the first part of the garden you see when you arrive.  This garden is based on 5m deep of gravel, to call it free draining does not quite describe it enough.  This part of the garden is left to fend for itself, once plants are initially watered in then they have to live or die.  It was looking very colourful when we were there.  Like most of our gardens it had struggled through last year's drought and then the sharp frosts through the winter.  
The sun was shining despite rain being forecast, so we did not tarry too long as we wandered through the gardens, just in case the heavens decided to open.
The acidy yellowy green bracts of the euphorbia shone in the light.  What I always like about Beth Chatto's gardens is that I come away with a long list of plants I really want to grow; though I do have to bear in mind I have 5m of thick heavy clay, not gravel.  Ok it might not be 5m of clay, but there is a lot of clay and free draining it is not.  Let's just say there are local brickworks.....
We passed some stock beds on the way around to the main garden.  Always nice to have wander through stockbeds.
There is always a moment when I arrive in this part of the main garden and I have to stop, pause and breathe.  There is something wonderfully calming about this part of the garden.  
We admired trees, such as this relatively young metsaquoia.
I nodded hello to this fabulous camellia, 
and there was this fabulous sea of forget me nots.
Then we went into the woodland garden, which is probably my favourite part of the garden.  I said hello to the trilliums, which refuse to grow for me.  I am firmly of the opinion that I could just plant money into the garden for all the good I seem to do when trying to grow trilliums.  Though there was a ray of hope.  These trilliums were growing alongside Epimediums and I can grow them successfully in my Spring Border.  Maybe I should try some trilliums in there......
Then we went on to look in the greenhouses full of Beth's succulents and pelagoniums.
The greenhouse is just full of delights.
Then we were then taken into the working greenhouses where the seedlings are being nurtured.  
and we were allowed in the packing area to find out about how plants are selected and sent out for mail order.  This sign really tells you all you need to know about how they assure quality.
We also learned about the strong community focus that the Gardens has.  There is the Beth Chatto Education Trust that puts on short courses and workshops and also works with schools.  The gardens also have a relationship with a housing development just down the road from them.  The development is called 'Chattowood' and Beth Chatto gardens have provided advice and planting for the homes.  As you would expect there is a strong theme of sustainability and ecology in the planting.

It was such a great day.  I am very grateful to Julia and the team for showing us around.  We learned alot about the how the gardens and the nursery works.  The journey there was definitely worth it.

Take care and be kind

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