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A Journey through Beth Chatto's Garden

Elmstead Market, near Colchester, Essex, England
By Fran (Pooh Bear) and Judith, May 1999

Well worth the 3 admission, although the drought garden and the nursery are open without admission. The plants are a bit pricey (most of what I bought or wanted was about 3 for one plant), although they are well rooted and strong. Many are from the garden, and already hardened off, not just hot-house types which may need coddling. I found several I could not get, or have not seen, elsewhere, like blue Corydalis. There is no tea shop, just a coffee/tea vending machine so if you visit from very far you better bring a picnic for the car park. There are clean public toilets. The people who worked there were very helpful and answered all our questions, even about the Ribes which grew there but they did not sell.
I'll be back!

Drought garden This is the drought garden at Beth Chatto's nursery.
It is on gravel and near the car park (no admission price for this part.) She does not water this garden at all and the soil is free draining. Of course, this particular year has been damp, but in other years East Anglia gets about as much rain as Jordan and I bet it still looks rather wonderful.
There is a surprising amount of colour in it, although the greens show up best in this photo Drought garden
Ribes Speciosum Ribes Speciosum (Fran looked it up!) We were both very impressed with the fuchsia-like flowers on this beauty. Too bad it's about the only thing Beth Chatto grows that she doesn't sell! No, nothing, nada. We both said we'd make space in our limited gardens for that one!
I'm not sure we identified this, it's part of the extensive woodland landscape. Woodland
Climbing Hydrangea This was wonderful, it might be a Climbing Hydrangea?? I'd love to have a place for one. The huge tree it was climbing round seemed to be dead. Not a single leaf showing and this was May 8 in a very early season year!!. Then Fran noticed a crisp wrapper caught in the very top (must have been 50 feet high) then she noticed a spent blossom on the ground the same colour as the crisp wrapper.....Hmmmm....where's the name tag? It's a Pawlonia tree. I've heard them praised on other garden sites, but never seen one.

The bud cases looked like old hazelnut cases. Frankly, I wouldn't give something so late in coming out space in my garden, however, the tease of these tropical-looking blossoms on a deciduous tree........
A bit of one of several water gardens in the Beth Chatto garden. It's a beautiful place, but there seemed to be a lot of water (VERY large ponds) for the size. Perhaps to offset the dry climate? Water garden

Beth Chatto Books at Amazon

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