The final assignment for my ‘Plants and planting design‘ course is to design the planting for a dry garden and so, in preparation, on Saturday morning the class converged at Beth Chatto’s garden in Essex.
The area relevant for our assignment is the Gravel Garden, created in 1992 on the site of the original car park, from 0.75 acre of sand and gravel. Here Beth has created a garden where plants are only watered when they are first planted, after that they’re on their own and, bearing in mind the rainfall here is the lowest in the country at less than 20 inches per annum, they have to be tough.
And what an inspiration! Not only were there wonderful long views of contrasting form and texture (something I still struggle to achieve)
but endless clever combinations to admire at much closer quarters. These included many Anemone pavonina – here with spiky yukka and grasses,
here with Nepeta
and here, with Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ picking up the colour of the central bosses perfectly.
As well as the Anemones, colour was also provided by dainty bulbs – species tulips
and Fritillaria pontica (look how the purple sage echoes the colour of the stripe).
I was so taken by this beautiful oxalis, O. obtusa I treated myself to one in the nursery.
Away from the Gravel Garden, the mood is calmer and cooler.
The Water Garden was created by damming a spring fed ditch, and the resulting ponds create the correct environment for numerous water loving plants including
wonderful Gunnera tinctoria, just emerging,
Lysichiton americanus, right by the water’s edge
and wonderful ferns.
There were dozens of just emerging Hostas in the shady areas, but this clump was well advanced (and immaculate!)
As in the Gravel Garden, there were yet more close quarters combinations to admire. Here a patchwork of Pulmonaria, Forget me nots, Drumstick Primulas punctuated by emerging Digitalis foliage
Erythronium with (um!) shrub,
Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’ picking up on the lovely dark blooms of the Trillium
Euphorbia wulfenii with Fritillaria imperialis ‘Maxima Lutea.’ (Why have I never seen that combination together before? And why, when I usually find Crown Imperials rather stiff and waxy, do they look so good here?)
and the identically coloured yet completely contrasting forms of Heuchera and Uncina rubra
And to finish, what’s so special about this? It’s Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy,’ not yet in flower and now surrounded by an area under redevelopment. However, it’s special to me as it’s the plant I remember most vividly from my one previous visit to this garden with my lovely mum in the early 1990s.
The memory stuck with me and I planted my own Cercis, chez Duver Diary, 20 years later.
With thanks to Beth Chatto for endless inspiration (I think I’ll remember rather more than just the one plant this time!) but also John, for being our patient and knowledgeable tutor, Helen for the lifts and last but not least, Rosy for bringing cake!