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Beth Chatto. A life with Plants


Beth Chatto is known as one of the great English plantswomen and a garden designer who created the iconic garden named after her in Essex, where she lived all her life. Although well known for her work on the Beth Chatto garden with its varied planting styles based on differing soils and conditions, she also lectured extensively abroad including North America, Australia, the Netherlands and Germany.


In 1943, she married Andrew Chatto, scion of the publishing firm who shared her passion for plants. The couple went on to meet Sir Cedric Morris whose art school in Suffolk attracted Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon amongst others. Morris was to be the source of much of her information on plants. In the 1950s Beth Chatto became involved in the Flower Club movement, audience members becoming the first customers of her mail order business. Together with her husband, she began working on creating the Chatto gardens which opened in 1967.


Chatto lived in a house in the midst of the garden until she died aged 94, in 2018. In her later years, she commissioned Catherine Horwood to write about her life and work. The talk will be an opportunity to learn not only about her remarkable work in the Beth Chatto garden but at times a revealing window into her background and personal life. Catherine Horwood’s biography won the European Garden Book of the Year in 2019, Fergus Garrett (gardener at Great Dixter) calling it a ‘triumph, beautifully crafted by an author who has thoroughly researched and understood her subject’. The biography was also chosen as one of the Evening Standard’s best gardening books of 2019.