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Book Bullet: A Year in The Life of Beth Chatto’s Gardens by Rachel Warne

A Year in The Life of Beth Chatto’s Gardens by Rachel WarneI was surprised by this book: I was simply not prepared for it be almost entirely pictures. And of course, being a writer, I find this slightly shocking!

Beth Chatto herself begins with a foreward in which explains how Rachel Warne’s pictures showed her new truths about the garden she’s been developing since the 1960s. The scene is then set by a biographical introduction from Great Dixter’s Fergus Garrett, who also contributes short introductions to the four seasonal collections of photographs.

Intermixing broad views of the garden with galleries of portraits of its plants, the familiarity of the planting style re-inforces Ferus Garrett’s view that “Beth has changed the way the world thinks about gardening… She has made gardeners look at plants in a different way, so broadening our horizons and widening our palette.” The fact that the style is so unsurprising is testament to her huge influence.

Rachel Warne is of the Gardens Illustrated school of photographers for whom atmosphere and softness is crucial but at times her images are let down by rather harsh reproduction. She shows the garden off well, we see all the main features across the seasons, but I would have liked to see more associations of two or three plants – a stage in between the broad views and the plant portraits. And the short winter section is all snow and no flowers.

  • Interesting pictorial presentation of the richness of Beth Chatto’s gardens and her influence
  • Expansive views put the planting in context
  • Plant portraits are unusually illuminating
  • Commentary from Fergus on why the planting works so well would have been valuable
  • Valuble if you’ve not visited the gardens – and if you have

A Year in The Life of Beth Chatto’s Gardens by Rachel Warne, with introductions by Fergus Garrett and a foreward by Beth Chatto, is published by Frances Lincoln.