Pioneering gardener Beth Chatto’s spirit ‘will live on’ in her gardens and writing

Beth Chatto in her garden on the day before her 90th birthday. Picture: ASA GREGORS-WARG

Beth Chatto in her garden on the day before her 90th birthday. Picture: ASA GREGORS-WARG - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to pioneering horticulturist and writer Beth Chatto OBE – a 10-time gold medal winner at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show – who has died at the age of 94.

Beth Chatto and the Queen at the Chelsea Flower Show. Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE

Beth Chatto and the Queen at the Chelsea Flower Show. Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE - Credit: Archant

The influential gardener won a host of awards throughout her 60-year career, inspiring “an entire generation to get growing” thanks to her accessible approach to horticulture.

She was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) highest honour, the Victoria Medal of Honour, and the RHS Lawrence Medal in 1987 and was awarded an OBE in 2002.

A spokeswoman for the RHS said it was looking into how it would mark the death of the celebrated horticulturist at RHS Chelsea.

Mrs Chatto was born in Good Easter, Essex, and attended Colchester Girls’ High School, later training as a teacher in Bishop’s Stortford.

Beth Chatto. Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE

Beth Chatto. Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE - Credit: Archant


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She met her husband Andrew Chatto in the early 40s through their shared love of plants and while living in Braiswick, near Colchester, had two daughters, Diana and Mary.

In the early 50s, she helped launch the Colchester Flower Club – the second in Britain.

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By the late 50s, Mr and Mrs Chatto had built a house on part of their fruit farm in Elmstead Market – a site on which she created one of the most famous and loved gardens in the world.

A statement from the Beth Chatto Gardens said: “Beth’s spirit will live on in the gardens and her gardening ethos will continue through the work of the Beth Chatto Education Trust, established to inspire the next generation of gardeners.”

Beth Chatto gardens. Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE

Beth Chatto gardens. Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE - Credit: Archant

Mrs Chatto also wrote several books and, although she claimed never to have coined the phrase “right plant, right place”, it was key to her gardening philosophy.

Tim Upson, director of horticulture at the RHS, said: “Beth Chatto OBE was a hugely influential gardener, pioneering a natural and ecologically sensitive style of planting at a time when more formal, structured designs were the norm.

“Her hands-on and accessible approach – her many books chronicled her experiences with a range of habitats including gravelly soil to stream-fed bog – inspired an entire generation to get growing through helping them identify the right plant for the right place.”

Mrs Chatto leaves two daughters, five grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Beth Chatto, 1979. Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE

Beth Chatto, 1979. Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE - Credit: Archant

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