Home Comment Beth Chatto: a personal tribute

Beth Chatto: a personal tribute

Gardening bibles... some of Beth Chatto's books
Gardening bibles... some of Beth Chatto's books

Celebrating the influence of ground-breaking gardener

Beth Chatto, born 27 June 1923; died 13 May 2018

It’s rare when you feel a deep sense of loss and sadness when someone famous dies that you’ve never met.

However, that’s how the death of gardener Beth Chatto has affected me, who has died, age 94.

Two gardeners were a massive influence on me – my ‘Uncle’ George, a very traditional allotment gardener from my home town Gateshead, where I get my love of growing tomatoes and Pelargoniums (although he would have told me not to be so posh and call them geraniums).

And the second was Beth. You couldn’t get a gardener more different from George. Take one look at my garden and you’ll see the influence her Gravel Garden and Woodland Garden books had on me.

Coping with a dry garden

Despite her garden being in Essex and mine in the North East, both are usually dry (by UK standards) and mine has a small ‘woodland’ element – under the shade of a large whitebeam.

This where her mantra of ‘right plant, right place’ came into its own for me – and for anyone who cares about being a successful gardener.

Required reading... Beth Chatto's Gravel Garden
Required reading… Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden

For many years I thought I knew better and could get plants to grow in places they didn’t want to – a Gunnera in a pot being a memorable failure.

There is no such thing as being ‘green-fingered’ – Beth taught us if we follow what the plant wants, we’ll have a much greater chance of success.

Thanks for the inspiration

I even naively wrote to her at the nursery many years ago, thanking her for inspiring me to keep going despite many setbacks.

Her garden and nursery are full of many little gems for so many awkward gardening – always worth a look if you have a problem area to plant.

And her books are wonderful, embracing an ecological style of planting without losing any aesthetic beauty, written in a personal, charismatic style. Boring plant lists they are not.

After winning so many Chelsea Flower Show honours and the highest awards from the RHS, I’m sure many a gardener and visitor will be toasting her memory during the show… as will I.

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