A Late Autumn Visit To Beth Chatto’s Garden

It is interesting to see how a world famous garden looks in this drab season when most of our gardens are collapsing and falling asleep for the winter. Beth Chatto is deservedly renowned for her artistry in dealing with, not just colour, but texture, shape and form. Even on a dreary day in early winter there were pleasing vistas and plenty of interesting plant combinations.


The beautiful, deciduous, swamp cypress, Taxodium distichum with its lovely bronze foliage was looking marvellous by the pond. I love its knobbly knees like little mini-sculptures all around its base. I read that it used to be thought that these knees are to help it ‘breathe’ as it grows in swampy waters  but it is now thought they are to provide stability to the tree.


By the pond there is a fine stand of the red stems of Cornus alba ‘Westonbirt’ and in front of it masses of the beautiful, blue, autumn-flowering Crocus speciosus ‘Conqueror’


The ponds here look wonderful all year round but I love them in winter with all the russet colours and the lovely shapes . The royal fern turns a lovely colour before it disappears.


I love ferns all year round but some of them really come into their own in winter. Can anyone tell me the name of this lovely little bronze fern which contrasts so well with the foliage round it?


The evergreen Polystichum setiferum is gorgeous all winter. The photo is of Polystichum setiferum ‘Wollaston’ which is like a lovely pea-green shuttlecock with lacy feathers.


Plants which keep a pleasing shape and colour are invaluable for winter.I love this little Saxifraga dentata  with its pinked edges.


Bergenia is a wonderful plant for winter, especially if you get one of the forms which turns red in winter. ‘Bressingham Red’ and ‘Eric Smith’ have a wonderful winter colour but it is best to choose them in winter to pick out the colour you like.


I’m not sure which Bergenia this is but I think it looks great with the grass. Grasses are of course wonderful at this time of the year I love this Pennisetum alopercuroides with its furry bottle brushes.


I’m not sure which the next grass is, maybe someone will know. Is it perhaps a Molinia? It needs lots of space to look its best. Behind it is a Melianthus which will  collapse when we have a really hard frost but looks wonderful at the moment.


There are of course many trees and shrubs looking good in this wonderful garden  and I will finish with just one of them : Malus hupehensis. I love this whole genus because they make lovely shaped trees, they have beautiful blossom in spring, (in this case white), and then of course you get the wonderful fruit. Malus hupehensis is one of my favourites but I also adore Malus tranistoria and Malus  coronaria ‘Charlottae’. As you see Malus hupehensis has masses of  small red fruit. This tree is particularly graceful.


As you can imagine I didn’t come away from my visit to the nursery empty-handed. Well, be fair, who would? Tomorrow I’ll tell you what I bought.

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9 Responses to A Late Autumn Visit To Beth Chatto’s Garden

  1. Well worth the visit at this time of the year – its beautiful. If you ever find out the name of that fern, please let me know. It’s wonderful!

  2. I’m not sure which fern it is, Angie, there was no label and I couldn’t find it in the sales area. I’ll let you know if I can find out.

  3. Christina says:

    My favourite garden in the world. I would visit every week of the year and learn something new every time. Her dry garden with its islands was my inspiration for my garden here in Italy.

  4. Yes, it is a truly inspirational garden. The gravel garden always looks fantastic.
    I would love to see your garden, it looks wonderful on your blog, it must be wonderful gardening in Italy.

  5. I am envious, I have never seen the garden “in the flesh” so to speak. Such wonderful structure and interest despite the time of year. I love that bronzy fern, I really must add more ferns.

    • Yes the garden is wonderful, I am lucky to live not too far away so I can visit regularly. I love ferns; I have quite a few but I’m not too good on the names. I seem to have a blind spot when it comes to fern names.This means I sometimes buy one I already have. Still you can never have too many.

  6. rusty duck says:

    This is a garden I’ve always wanted to visit, I’ve read her book on woodland gardening and would love to see it all in action.

  7. It’s well worth a visit at any time of the year, Jessica., the woodland garden is fantastic in spring and the gravel garden is inspirational at any time.

  8. Pauline says:

    We went to Beth Chatto’s a few times when our daughter lived for a few years in Essex, but never at this time of year, it still looks fantastic doesn’t it! I have all her books and she has been my guiding light when planting the garden here, woodland, bog, gravel areas etc, whatever the situation, she has written about it.

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