-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Monday, June 26, 2006

our visit to Beth Chatto gardens

We visited the famous Beth Chatto gardens in Colchester Essex last Saturday afternoon. It was a gloriously hot day so the gardens were extremely crowded, but you couldn't have picked better weather for seeing a "dry" garden.

I'd been looking forward to this for ages as the gardens are famous for being in a very dry part of England, only 500mm rainfall per year apparently, and so similar conditions to Amherst. I was hoping to get lots of inspiration.

Unfortunately it didn't work out that way. The plants were all healthy but somehow there was just something missing for me. It felt like a small botanical garden and lacking a personal touch. Perhaps I'm just too used to gardens with "rooms" but it lacked the magic of other gardens we've visited. It's sad as I'd really wanted to love it, not least because it's in a very dry part of the country with similar rainfall to Amherst, so I would have had a good chance to make something similar! C'est la vie.

The one thing I have taken away from this is that come hell or high water, we have to have lawn around our plantings. Even Dave agrees. Gravel might be OK for a small section, eg: formal herb garden paths, but it is just too hot and washes out the plant colours to have it everywhere, ala the mediterranean garden. Hell, I'll even use fake astroturf if I have to in parts to create the effect of lushness.

Here's a picture of the dry garden, so you can see what it looks like. It's not that it's ugly, it's just that it doesn't move me the way other gardens do. If my garden looked like this, it would be a chore to work in; whereas if my garden was like at Sissinghurst or Hidcote I could gladly labour all day happily.

beth chatto dry garden

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