A garden of any size or shape can be a burden, an unmanageable wilderness or a thing of beauty, calm and nature, and giving immense pleasure. Me? I prefer the latter description and to find further inspiration for our own garden we have been out and about recently, visiting two contrasting gardens in Essex.
The first is owned and created by Beth Chatto, a garden designer, plantswoman and author, who with her husband, Andrew Chatto developed a garden over 5 acres of land adjoining her property in Elmstead Market in Essex. She and her husband began transforming a dilapidated site full of boggy land and gravel in the 1960s. Basing her garden on the mantra of “right plant, right place” she and her team have worked with the land to encourage plants to grow where they are happiest. There is a dry garden which used to be a car park, a lovely cool shady walk, scree gardens and water gardens. It is a beautiful, warm oasis created with great care and love of plants and planting as some of the pictures below show.
Some views of the Dry Garden at Beth Chatto
Views of the Water Gardens
Some of the plant specimens from the Beth Chatto Garden.
Contrast the warmth and intimacy of the Beth Chatto Garden with our next destination, the RHS Garden at Hyde Hall located between Colchester and Southend.
RHS Hyde Hall, as well as being a RHS site open to the public, it is also a working garden, with RHS staff running trials in the various areas of the site. Hyde Hall is currently undergoing a major refurbishment. Having recently added a new Visitors Centre, shop and Cafe, work progresses on a new vegetable growing area and Training Centre for Horticulture, due to be completed in 2019.
The site is huge with the main gardens sitting on a slope and plateau to one side of the site. The planted areas feature a dry garden with planting from Australia and New Zealand, a large formal Rose Garden with small lake atop the plateau, together with a second cafe. It lacked the intimacy and informality of Beth Chatto’s Garden and seemed somewhat sterile in comparison. Nevertheless there was some very interesting planting.
General views of the RHS garden at Hyde Hall in Essex
The Dry Garden
Some of the blooms to be seen at Hyde Hall.
Both gardens have their merits but our preference was for Beth Chatto because of its more compact size, its intimacy and more natural planting. Oh and the coffee shop was very good.