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Beth Chatto Gardens

30 June 22

The Beth Chatto Gardens and Affinity Water ask gardeners to save water this summer

Affinity Water and The Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex, famous for its drought resistant garden, have joined forces to ask gardeners to think about saving water this summer.

In a re-released #podcast on Affinity Water’s playlist, David Ward, the Garden and Nursery Director at the Gardens takes a 30-minute tour of the seven-acre site and recounts its history. As he walks, he describes the philosophy that led Beth Chatto and her husband Andrew to design the spectacular grounds which rely on finding the ‘right plants for the right place’. The drought resistant garden was built on a former gravel car park.

Mr Ward says: “People can come along here and see that it is possible to have a drought resistant garden looking good. There are bulbs in the woodland garden but there are lots of bulbs in the drought garden too, scillas, crocuses, all sorts of things and later on tulips. We’ve had this drought garden for nearly thirty- years so it is achievable, it is possible.”

The four #podcasts will be broadcast on @AffinityWater Twitter over four days in June and July 2022. They can also be listened to here:

Part One

David Ward talks about plant choice and Beth’s top tips:

Part Two

David Ward explains why “gardening with nature” is important and why lawns can do without watering:

Part Three

David Ward takes us on a tour of Beth’s drought resistant garden, which over thirty years ago was just a carpark.

Part Four

David Ward, gives us more drought resistant tips and says soil preparation and the “right plant for the right soil” is key:

Mr Ward ends the podcast in Part 4 by giving gardener’s a top tip: “We all make mistakes; we still make mistakes. In this part of the garden, we found plants that we thought would survive but that haven’t. With bulbs a good tip is not to plant all your bulbs in the ground in the autumn. Put them in pots and then plant them in the spring. They’ll root in the pots and then pop up. The reason we do that a lot here, is that you can see where to put the bulbs, in the autumn you can’t see where to put them and where the others are. In the spring, you can place them exactly where you want them and see when they’ll be in flower. Soil preparation and plant choice is important, even if you just dig the soil over so that young plants can get their roots into the soil. If you can add something to improve the soil whether it is sandy, gravel, or sticky clay, then compost will help to improve the soil and break up the structure. Try and provide the best you can.”

Mr Ward says gardeners should plant for the conditions of their soil, including drought. “There’s no need to plant those plants that require lots of water. Once you water a plant it will want more water, so we don’t feed those plants in the drought garden, we don’t water them. We want to grow them hard, starve them. We are here to help there is lots of information on the website and lots of books on the subject. There are possibilities for every situation in the garden which will reduce your water usage, save your water for your vegetables. There is no need to water an ornamental garden.”

The Beth Chatto gardens are now run by her granddaughter Julia Boulton. They are located at Elmstead Market, in Essex. They have a mail order service.

You can also find information on gardening tips on the Affinity Water website:

Sign up to to see your household exact usage and get your free water-saving kit. The clever devices will do all the hard work and save water for you. Over 220,000 people have already done so.

Photo Credits: Beth Chatto Gardens

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