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Beth Chatto: Early Influences

Beth Chatto's ecological approach to planting was inspired by formative relationships and friendships in the early years of her adult life and marriage.

  • Andrew Chatto's Plant Index

    c. 1960

    33 x 20.5 x 1.8cm

  • Andrew Chatto's Plant Index

    c. 1960

    33 x 20.5 x 1.8cm

  • Andrew Chatto's Plant Index

    c. 1960

    33 x 20.5 x 1.8cm

  • Photograph of Beth and Andrew Chatto at their first home, Weston, in Braiswick

    1950s

    Photograph taken by Daniel Osbourne

  • Photograph of Beth and Andrew Chatto at their first home, Weston, in Braiswick

    1950s

    Photograph taken by Daniel Osbourne

  • Photograph of the Chatto family at their first home, Weston, in Braiswick

    1950s

    Photograph taken by Daniel Osbourne

  • A triangular floral arrangement by Beth Chatto

    c. 1952

  • Photograph of Beth Chatto working on an arrangement for Helen von Stein-Zeppelin’s 80th birthday

    1982

  • Comment card from Julia Clements at Colchester Flower Show (left), First Prize awarded to Beth Chatto for 'Best Exhibit in Show' at Colchester Rose and Horticultural Show (right)

    25 June 1955

  • Photograph of Beth Chatto in Corsica

    c. 1950s

  • Photograph of Beth and Andrew Chatto with Nigel Scott, possibly in the Alps

    1950s

  • Photograph of Nigel Scott and Cedric Morris on their travels

    c.1950s

  • Postcard (back) from Cedric Morris and Nigel Scott in Costa Brava to Beth Chatto

    c. 1950s

  • Postcard (front) from Cedric Morris and Nigel Scott in Costa Brava to Beth Chatto

    c. 1950s

  • Photograph of Shepherd's Hut in Switzerland, with annotation by Beth Chatto

    Early to mid-1950s

  • Photograph of Andrew Chatto (left) and Cedric Morris (right)

    c. 1980

Beth Chatto’s ecological approach to gardening was influenced by her husband, Andrew, who dedicated his life to studying the link between plants and their natural habitats.  Within Beth’s archive are his plant indexes, in which plant species are listed against their geographic location of origin and the climatic conditions in which they naturally grow. Andrew found that plants grow in communities, rather than as individuals, and must therefore be understood in this context. His research, now available online, was a huge influence on Beth.

After marrying in 1943, the couple moved into Andrew’s family home ‘Weston’ in Braiswick, and set about transforming the garden. They replaced the dying delphiniums and asters with silver foliage plants that thrived in the chalky clay soil.

Encouraged to take up flower-arranging by their neighbour Pamela Underwood, Beth won prizes for her displays of unusual plants from her garden and became a popular demonstrator. She was inspired by the asymmetrical triangle in Japanese flower-arranging, representing the interconnectedness of living plants and their surroundings. This later influenced her planting principles.

Once their two daughters were old enough to be left, Beth and Andrew travelled Europe and North Africa studying native plants with their friends Nigel and David Scott. Through Nigel, Beth met the artist and plantsman Cedric Morris (1889-1982). Over his lifetime, Cedric gave Beth countless cuttings from his garden of rare plants at Benton End, where he ran the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing with is partner Arthur Lett-Haines. One evening, Cedric told Beth she’d never achieve her dream garden unless she moved somewhere with different environmental conditions.