The Sodshow, Garden Podcast

Garden Podcast: David Ward, Beth Chatto Gardens

On This Episode of the Garden Podcast

Peter Donegan chats with David Ward, Garden and Nursery Director at Beth Chatto Gardens.

Beth Chatto was born and bred an “Essex Girl” with both her parents keen gardeners. She studied to become a teacher and always tried to include gardening in her classes. Beth married Andrew Chatto in 1943 and settled into domestic life, raising two daughters. Living next door to Ramparts nursery run by Pamela Underwood, Beth learnt the art of Flower arranging and was introduced to the local plantsman Sir Cedric Morris who became a “spiritual father to her. The family moved to Elmstead Market in 1960 and Beth set about creating her garden and opened a nursery “Unusual Plants” in 1967. 

Beth was catapulted into the gardening world in 1976 with her iconic Chelsea displays and 10 Gold Medals. A natural communicator, through her books, lectures as well as one to one with visitors to the gardens, many people have a personal connection. Championing the mantra of “right plant, right place” with her own practical experience and artistic skills. Sadly Beth passed away in May 2018 but her garden and nursery continues to thrive under her loyal team along with an Educational Trust, set up in her name to further Beth’s horticultural ethos.

Dave first met Beth as a Horticultural student in 1977 whilst studying Nursery practices at Merrist Wood College in Surrey. After working at Bressingham Gardens, on nurseries in Boskoop, Holland and a couple of tree nurseries in this country he eventually settled at Avon bulbs in Somerset for three years. Regularly visiting Beths garden and seeing her at Chelsea as a fellow exhibitor he was taken by her range of plants. Dave joined her team in 1983 when Beth was looking for someone to train up to take over the propagation. Beth seemed particularly keen to employ a fellow East Anglian (I was born in Norwich). His experience allowed him to update the nursery and freed Beth up to concentrate on the garden and Chelsea. As the propagation team grew he was able to spend more time with Beth in the garden and helped her create the Gravel garden as well as plant up our woodland garden following the great storm in October 1987.

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