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Beth Chatto: The Gravel Garden

Beth Chatto's Gravel Garden is world-famous for never having been watered, other than by rain.

  • Letter from Derek Jarman to Beth Chatto

    c. 1990-1992

  • Beth Chatto’s sketch of the dry riverbed in the Burren, Ireland

    1991

  • The area which would become the Gravel Garden, previously a carpark

    c.1989

  • Beth Chatto using hosepipes to lay out beds for the Gravel Garden

    1992

  • Beth Chatto and David Ward planting the Gravel Garden

    1992

  • Beth Chatto’s notes on the Gravel Garden (page 1)

    7 March 1994

  • Beth Chatto’s notes on the Gravel Garden (page 2)

    7 March 1994

  • Beth Chatto’s notes on the Gravel Garden (page 3)

    7 March 1994

  • Letter from Tony Venison (Gardens Editor at Country Life) to Beth Chatto, about her Gravel Garden

    21 April 1993

  • Photograph of the Gravel Garden taken by Steven Wooster

    c.2009

    Steven Wooster Photography

  • Photograph of the Gravel Garden taken by Steven Wooster

    c.2009

    Steven Wooster Photography

In 1991, Beth converted her car park into a spectacular garden of drought-tolerant plants, now world-famous for only ever being watered by rain, despite being in one of the driest parts of the country.

Beth’s Gravel Garden was inspired by the range of plants she saw flourishing among the pebbles of the desolate Dungeness beach where film director Derek Jarman lived. Other influences were a dried-up riverbed she saw in New Zealand in 1989 and the landscape of ‘karst’ hills in The Burren, Ireland, where Mediterranean and alpine plants grew in the cracks of limestone boulders.

Beth used hosepipes to mark out areas for planted inlets and islands, set amongst winding gravel pathways evoking the dry riverbed. She kept notes of what grew best.