Beth Chatto Gardens

Beth Chatto Gardens, Elmstead Market, nr Colchester

Elmstead Market, Colchester, Essex, CO7 7DB. Tel: 01206 822007 Fax: 01206 825933 E-mail:

The Beth Chatto Gardens began in 1960. From an overgrown wasteland with poor gravel soil and boggy hollows it has been transformed into an informal garden harmonising with the surrounding countryside.

Complementing the gardens is a large retail nursery producing a wide range of plants, the majority of which can be seen growing in the gardens. Coaches are welcome and our newly refurbished tearoom is now open, offering light refreshments.

Beth Chatto’s Shade Garden: Shade-Loving Plants for Year-Round Interest (Pimpernel Garden Classics) by Pimpernel Press Ltd. First published as Beth Chatto’s Woodland Garden by Cassell in 2002, this Pimpernel Classic edition includes a new afterword by David Ward, Garden and Nursery Director at Beth Chatto’s Garden. Most gardens have dark areas a north-facing border, an area shaded by a hedge, fence or house wall, a bed in the shade cast by shrubs or trees with greedy roots and for many gardeners these are a challenge, and often a trial. Fortunately there are plants adapted by Nature to a vast range of conditions and, by choosing suitable plants, we can transform almost any problem site into something beautiful. In this book legendary plantswoman Beth Chatto shows how the problem of shade in a garden can be turned to advantage. She tells how she transformed a dark, derelict site into a woodland garden that is tranquil and serene yet full of life and interest in every season. She describes, too, a wealth of plants that will thrive in shady beds and borders and on walls.

Beth Chatto was thrilled to be presented an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the Faculty of Science and Technology at Anglia Ruskin University on 11th November 2009. The award was in recognition of outstanding achievement in her field and to exemplify what is possible to achieve thanks to hard work, determination and talent. Mrs Chatto had the opportunity to speak at the award ceremony to the graduating students and found the whole day very enjoyable. This is the second time Mrs Chatto has received such an honour, the first being in 1987 when she received an honorary degree from the University of Essex, which can be seen on display in our Tea Room.


Open Mon – Sat 9.00-4.00 Sundays 10.00-4.00

The Beth Chatto Gardens began in 1960 when the site was an overgrown wasteland between two farms. Faced with all kinds of difficult conditions Beth and Andrew Chatto set out to find homes for many of the plants they wished to grow. With dry and damp soil in both sun and shade, they were able put into practice the underlying principles of what is now referred to as “Ecological gardening”.

Accompanied children under 14 free. No other concessions. No dogs. Light refreshments are available in our newly refurbished tearoom. Available are hot and cold drinks, locally made cakes and ice creams and a small selection of filled rolls.

Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic to be eaten on benches situated in the grassed car park. Toilet facilities are available (including disabled). Except for exceptionally wet periods the garden is accessible for wheelchairs (not provided)

Beth Chatto light and modern Tea Room, which overlooks the famous Gravel Garden was opened in 2006 and welcomes our visitors throughout the year. Our friendly staff are always on hand to offer light lunches and refreshments including home-made soup, filled rolls, mouth-watering cakes, teas and coffees. We try to source our produce locally as often as possible, from Tiptree Jams to James Whites Juices and award-winning ice cream from the Manor Farm Creamery in Bury St Edmunds. The Tea Room is an ideal finish to a walk around the Gardens and Nursery; it also hosts the Beth Chatto Gardens ever-growing list of workshops and events.

Drought-Resistant Planting: Lessons from Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden by Frances Lincoln
The story of how Beth Chatto created her gravel garden on ‘possibly the driest, and the most windswept, piece of soil in England’ has a message of hope for gardeners everywhere. At the outset she promised herself: ‘This garden was not to be irrigated in times of drought. Once established the plants must fend for themselves or die.’
The results, eloquently described by the author and beautifully portrayed in Steven Wooster’ s specially commissioned photographs taken through the seasons, testify to the triumphant outcome of the adventure.
Showing how her principles can be applied on any scale, this book is an essential read for any gardener facing water shortages and poor soil. Rich with hard-won tips and expressed in Beth Chatto’ s matchless style, this is a gardening classic.