Beth Chatto’s Legacy
When I scribbled the first draft of this blog, Beth Chatto was still alive, in fact we saw her pootling around on her mobility scooter the morning of our visit, May 12 2018. Sadly, she died the following day, as I reflect on the tour; it makes our time there even more poignant. I can understand why she was in the gardens to the very end; frankly if I’d had a tent with me I would have slept there it was so wonderful!
I had been planning to visit The Beth Chatto Gardens since seeing her interview on Gardeners World, a few years ago. However it moved up my bucket list last year, when I read her book Drought-Resistant Planting, whilst researching this planting scheme, which incidentally is doing really well in its second year with no watering, after the first few weeks.
The great lady was 94 and had contributed so much to horticulture and our approach to it, that we shall, I am sure be forever in her debt. Especially, with the announcement last week, from the Environmental Agency, that ‘climate change and a growing population, much of England could see significant water supply shortages by the 2050s – particularly in the south-east.’
You have to admire Beth Chatto for documenting the progress of the garden over so many years, whilst resisting the temptation to water, in even the driest summers, trusting in the plants to survive and if they didn’t to learn from that. In doing so, hard work of previous years, would have been lost but to our greater knowledge and understanding of what can survive in a garden; in the drought conditions of summer, combined with the cold winters, of the UK.