Essex has one of the lowest levels of rainfall in the country, and this was a response to the problem of global warming.The garden is based on the idea of a dried up river bed.Then there are the winter aconites, “which are starting to come through”, with their yellow flowers giving a golden glow even on sunless days and a striking selections of European common dogwood that frame the garden’s ponds with yellow stems flushed with coral red that are at their most colourful in winter. Such dramatic juxtaposition is the hallmark of an award-winning plantswoman such as Beth Chatto and her inspirational, informal ethos carries on through her staff.More winter colour is provided by the bergenias, the leaves of which, as cooler weather sets in, develop rich winter colouring - maroon, crimson, bronze and even beetroot red. ‘Eric Smith’, created by the well-known UK plantsman and named after him when introduced in the 1970s by Beth Chatto. David, who has been employed at the gardens since 1983, says: “We are all instilled in the way of the garden here.She has been a huge inspiration to a great many people, across the generations, in the horticultural world.I had long been familiar with her through her books and her reputation as one of the great influential figures in twentieth century gardens and gardening, however, this was the first time I had had the opportunity to visit her gardens.“On a still day you really catch it as you walk among them.You could have one in your house, although not before Candlemas Day on February 2 as that’s bad luck, and it would provide a great scent.” Some varieties of snowdrops, including G.
“We always plant them under deciduous shrubs,” says David, “so they are sheltered and can benefit from the rich, fertile soil as they grow.” As well as a treat for the eyes, David says that many snowdrops have a stunning scent.
The gravel path meanders just like a river, but it is Beth’s eye for beautiful plant combinations that make this gently flow.
With low mounds and contrasting feathery verticals, round leaves of Bergenia, the contrast of grey/silver leaves with gold leaves, the repetition of colours plants and shapes.
The OBE-awarded plantswoman who began the gardens that bare her name in 1960 and went on to wine ten consecutive gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show was always keen to use plants adapted by nature to thrive in different conditions.
Now aged 95, she leaves the day-to-day management of the seven-acre garden to her dedicated and experienced team, among them David Ward.