Friday, August 20, 2010 3:24 PM EDT
By Veronica Sliva
For me, my garden is one of my greatest pleasures. And though I love
tending it, I love visiting
the gardens of others even more. I am always inspired and take away tidbits and images worth remembering. I am very lucky to be able to travel
a lot and I make it a point to visit gardens wherever I go. On a recent trip to England
I wandered through many different kinds of gardens…all of them unique in their own way. But, with the hot weather
and lack of rain we’ve been having this summer; one of the gardens that sticks out in my mind is the Beth Chatto’s garden in Essex
A smoke bush in full bloom
Now, this is not your average homeowner’s garden. It is quite famous and one of the great gardens of the world. Besides the actual gardens, the property has a cafe where you can enjoy light refreshment, a gift shop and an outstanding nursery. Mrs. Chatto is now 87 years old and intimately involved in the running of the place, but she does have “staff” and a head gardener. I have a staff of me and maybe a reluctant husband once in a while. Even so, there are lessons to be learned no matter what the size of your garden or the depth of your pocketbook might be.
Mrs. Chatto started her garden in 1960 as an experiment to see what would grow without any additional moisture in a place that has only an average of 20 inches of precipitation per year...the driest place in England. She began the gardens from five acres of overgrown wasteland with very poor gravelly soil and boggy hollows. Her Dry Gardens as they are known never get watered. They have to go it alone with what Mother Nature provides and yet they are lush and beautiful. It’s all about putting the right plant in the right place.
Besides the Dry Garden, this gardener extraordinaire has created water gardens, shade and woodland gardens and scree beds but it is the gravel garden always gets the most attention from visiting North Americans.