Apr 15, 2008

Birthdays and Beth

I took another trip to Hastings, on the Southern coast of England, and couldn't believe the size of the Agave americana I saw. They looked like they had pretty good drainage, but the English Channel was only 100 ft. away! Could you believe it (Tom!!) !!From this angle I thought the rocky cliffs with Old Town underneath it looked like a model train city........ (Uncle Dan!)On Saturday it was Marks birthday and Aaron organized a trip to Beth Chatto's garden. www.bethchatto.co.uk/ She was a very good friend of Christopher Lloyds and there is a book that is based on their letters to each other called Dear Friend and Gardener. Aaron, who works and lives at Great Dixter, is also a good friend of hers and organized lunch with her too. It was about 2 hours away from Great Dixter, located in Colchester, Sussex. Beth is known for her gravel gardens and has a love of planting with texture and form in mind. Beth told us that since flowers are so fleeting that is why she focuses on texture and form. It is apparent in some of these photos. So we met Beth at her house, which is in the middle of the now public garden, had some coffee and then went out to explore so lunch could finished being made. You can see from a distance, with the shape and form concept being apparent. Here is a closeup of Dicentra formosa and Pachysandra terminalis 'Variegata'. Mark took this photo. A Camelia in bloom with an Azalea.Here is Phormium tenax, Bergenia crassifolia, and Poa labillardieri. Phormium is hardy here and can get to be about 6' or higher.The beds are all irregular circular beds with turf paths winding throughout.
The dark and lovely Fritillaria persica.Another form and shape garden bed on display.
The tree is a Eucalyptus with the most beautiful trunk that looks smooth like driftwood with patches of gray.
This was Fritillaria imperialis and Fritillaria imperialis var. lutea backed by Euphorbias.
This is the largest and most filled out Monkey Puzzle I have ever seen, my favorite thus far anywhere. Cheeky monkey......
More play with shapes and textures..

This cone shape reminded me of the clipped cones on the Brick Walk at Longwood Gardens.

Here are some of the well drained garden beds in the Gravel Garden. There is about 20 (!) inches of average rainfall in Colchester a year. These plants are planted in gravel and must survive the intense heat and weather in order to stay in this part of the garden.

Mark, Beth Chatto and I. Lunch was homemade soup and bread that Beth made herself. She told us all about the history of the garden and how she had a strong love for propagating plants in the beginning of her career. Her design principles were explained too, these being always planting the right plant in the right spot and her laying of the beds out based on Japanese flower arranging rules. Plants are laid out so when viewed the heights represent a triangle. One high to bring the eye up, one medium to have something to focus the eye on and carry to the low plant which should ground the trio together. You'll notice this in the photos above. Alot of kind words and inspiration came from Beth Chatto during our time there. She invited us to sit on the couch next to her as she told stories of her life and advice about being in the horticultural field. One thing Beth said in speaking about different gardens was, "Everyone has the right to tell their own story." This I found to be very exciting to hear. Upon leaving she gave us big hugs, invited us back and said she was so glad to see the future of gardening.. Inspirational! And I leave you with a shot of our dessert at lunch, just an idea of how sweet the visit was........


  1. Jimmy everything is still so wonderful.I showed uncle Dan the picture and it sure does look like it should be on his train set.I envy you so much stay well we luv u & miss u Aunt Helen

  2. Happy Birthday Mark!! How old does this make you? Nineteen right? CeCe misses you both she asks about the two of you often.