Saturday, July 27, 2013

Beth Chatto's Gravel Garden

This month at Great Dixter has been packed full of incredible experiences, including meeting Beth Chatto and seeing her incredible garden. Beth Chatto is an amazing woman, in the her nineties now, and so generous, sharp and poignant. I hung on her every word, enthralled, listening to her stories and ideas. And then her garden was glorious. I was most enamored by her Gravel Garden, an experiment in zero-irrigation gardening, cultivating and expertly arranging truly drought tolerant, tough plants. They were beautiful, textural, sculptural, wispy and brilliantly colorful. Asa Gregers-Warg has been gardening with Beth Chatto for thirteen years and she led us through the garden. She said that in the gravel garden, the arrangement and design had more to do with editing at this point than with anything else; deciding which self-sowers to leave and taking the majority out. I was impressed by the spaces created by all this editing. I think it is hard to pull out all those great plants- and it would have been easy to leave in many more, but the effect was just perfect. 

I love the above combination with the yellow Alcea rugosa, maroon Allium sphaerocephalon, gray leaves of Artemesia, and the bright gold feathery leaves and stems of Asphodeline liburnica.

Stipa gigantea catching the morning light.

A beautiful Genista aetnensis in full flower and fragrance. I have seen these small trees/large shrubs in other gardens too, including Chelsea Physic, Wisley, Sissinghurst and here at Great Dixter.

A nicely framed vista

Beth Chatto's garden is beautifull composed. Here is a nice example of the layers and shapes she has created, with lots of varying textures and colors. The scalloped gray leaf plant is Ballota, and likely B. pseudodictamnus.

A bee coming in for a landing

This was a great plant, Galactites tomentosa. It's buds, seed heads, and flowers all kind of blended together and you had to get up close to really see what was what. From a distance it was a fuzzy field of silvery white. I saw another form of this plant at Siisnghurst, with slightly larger purple flowers with glossy mottled green foliage.

Stipa gigantea swirling around with Verbena bonariensis.

My favorite moment in the garden was sitting on Beth Chatto's patio, listening to her stories and peering out from under the Magnolia into her garden. There are two massive conifers, rising upwards like thick, dark green columns framing the view. The early morning light was passing between them and illuminating a wavering stand of Verbena. It was glorious!

1 comment:

  1. Lucky, lucky you, Helen! A garden I have always wanted to visit.