10th March 2010.
Even though we live very near to Beth Chatto’s garden in Elmstead Market, I have only visited once and that was many years ago.
Just as spring is arriving I finally managed to get there. I went last weekend – a week before Easter when lots of people will be visiting – if the weather is good enough to be outdoors! It was very quiet and so I had a good opportunity to wander round and really appreciate the beauty of the plants and the structure of the garden.
The gardens are famous for having been created by Beth Chatto in one of the driest parts of the county – locals proudly boast that St. Osyth just up the road has less rainfall than parts of Egypt. Instead of trying to fight the local conditions, the gardens creator works with them. In particular, the gravel garden has plants that are drought tolerant and will survive in what was originally quite an open and wind swept corner of the Essex countryside.
I spent most of my time walking through the woodland area, which in the spring is at it’s very best
After such a hard winter, the trees were still very bare – with only the very tightest of buds beginning to show. One tree that did catch my eye was a magnolia tree with the most beautiful pink blooms on it.
Underneath the trees were a wonderful collection of helibores – I’m not very good at plant names, but the colours of the flowers were lovely – from pale cream all the way through to really deep – almost black – purple. There were also lots of lovely delicate snowdrops, and tiny little narcissi.
I also walked around the gravel garden. This part of the garden hasn’t been watered other than by rain since it was planted back in 1992/1993. There were lots of really lovely delicate plants in the garden – it will be really interesting to see them in the mddle of summer when the weather is really hot and it hasn’t rained for a long while.
I realised after I had left that I had missed the scree garden – so I’m going to make a point of looking for it when I go back.
One place that I did visit was the nursery. It was full of hundreds of really lovely plants. There were plants for different parts of the garden, and all at a very reasonable price.
After all that time spent admiring the gardens I had to stop off in the tea room, which not only has lovely cakes, but also glorious views of the garden.
It was wonderful to see the gardens in early spring, and I’m definitely going to visit again to see them in the summer, autumn and winter.