In this engaging and fascinating exchange of personal letters, two of the most influential gardeners of all time compare notes on successes and failures in their two very different gardens.
As Christopher Lloyd and Beth Chatto convey their gardening experiences, share gossip and discuss life and nature, the horticultural expertise of these two long-established friends and distinguished gardeners gives these inspirational letters a life of their own.
Beth Chatto’s garden in East Anglia is a place of pilgrimage for plant lovers, while Christopher Lloyd was one of the major figures in twentieth century gardening, transforming the gardens of his home Great Dixter in East Sussex.
Friday 16 February
Dear Beth, Today was straight out of my idea of heaven – the first such day this year and the first time that all the winter crocuses have opened wide, in appreciation. Armed with my kneeling pad, I dropped to my knees to savour the honey scent of C. chrysanthus ‘Snow Bunting’. Rosemary Alexander, who spends more and more time at Stoneacre (the National Trust property near Maidstone, which she rents), expressed doubts on whether it wouldn’t be better to concentrate on snowdrops, seeing that crocuses spend so much of their time in an obstinately closed state, loudly proclaiming ‘this isn’t good enough for me’. I can see her point, of course. […]
Tuesday 20 February
Dear Christo, What a good thing you enjoyed your crocuses when you had the chance! Today we are blanketed in snow once more, with a wild north wind hurling stinging dry snow horizontally past the windows. Your way of having crocuses (and many other bulbs) naturalized in short grass is a far more effective way of growing them than in conventional borders. Left to seed themselves in little knots and ribbons of colour they appear like embroidery across a carpet before something else takes over the design. […]
About the Author
Beth Chatto (born 27/06/1923) was a plantswomen, gardener and writer. Whilst having no formal horticultural training, she was inspired by her parents' enthusiastic gardening, her husband's lifelong study of natural associations of plants, and friendship with the great plantsman and artist Sir Cedric Morris. The Beth Chatto Gardens began at Elmstead Market, Essex in 1960. By applying the principles of ecological gardening, she transformed an overgrown area of wasteland into informal gardens that harmonise with the surrounding countryside. Complementing the gardens is a large plant nursery producing a wide range of unusual plants, which attracts thousands of visitors each year. She won ten Gold Medals the Chelsea Flower Show and was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society's Victoria Medal of Honour (1987), the Lawrence Memorial Medal and an honorary doctorate from Essex University. She was the author of many books including her classics The Dry Garden (1978) and The Damp Garden (revised 2004) as well as Beth Chatto's Gravel Garden (2000) and Beth Chatto's Woodland Garden (2002). An engaging exchange of letters with Christopher Lloyd, Dear Friend and Gardener, was published in 1998. In 2002 she was awarded the OBE for her services to horticulture. A keen advocate of organic gardening, she lectured worldwide. She died in 2018.
CHRISTOPHER LLOYD OBE was among the best informed, liveliest, most worthwhile gardening writers of our time and the author of a host of classics. He spent years lovingly developing and refining his celebrated gardens at Great Dixter in Sussex. Throughout his career he was unparalleled in gardening journalism, writing for many publications from COUNTRY LIFE to the GUARDIAN. In 1979 the Royal Horticultural Society conferred on him its highest honour, the VICTORIA MEDAL OF HONOUR. He received the OBE for services to horticulture in 2000, and he died in 2006.
Fergus Garrett, Head Gardener at Great Dixter, first worked at the Beth Chatto Gardens as a student, over twenty years ago, and has remained a close friend of Beth's ever since.
‘The letters…crackle with ideas, tips, stories bartered back and forth. These are both writers who get their hands dirty. Trust them.’—Times Literary Supplement
‘Essential bedside reading for any keen gardener.’—Alan Titchmarsh
‘This is a wonderful book, a celebration of friendship, optimism, hard work, gaiety, doggedness, and the possibilities of sudden and unexpected revelation.’—Country Life