The Beth Chatto Gardens

Location: Colchester, Essex

Website: The Beth Chatto Gardens website

The Beth Chatto Garden is known for its innovative use of perennials in a variety of garden settings. In 1960 Beth and her husband Andrew started the transformation of an overgrown wasteland, comprising areas underlined with clay and waterlogged, to poor free draining soils. The differing areas are highlighted by a long running horticultural experiment, the Gravel Garden. The original visitor’s car park, converted in 1992 to an area which was to be never artificially watered. 25 years later, despite summer droughts, this is still the case. Twelve months of the year the gravel garden is a vibrant, vigorous planting, never static. With Beth’s ecological planting the driving force, the boggy shallow valley was planted up with moisture loving plants. The woodland, hit by the 1987 hurricane, was planted with dry shade loving perennials and masses of spring bulbs.

In addition, there is a thriving commercial nursery on site, selling direct to visiting customers and also through mail order. The majority of the plants are propagated on site, through cuttings, seed, division and other specialist propagation techniques. Material is sourced from the 7 acres of gardens and the 7 acres of well tended stock beds.

Trainees will gain a deep understanding of the plants, their situation, how they can be placed together, along with fundamental garden and propagation principles from experienced members of staff. Various machinery is used on site, including tractors, blowers, strimmers, shredders, hedge cutters, gators, trailers etc. In house training will be supplied. We participate in plant fairs throughout the year, including the RHS Wisley & RHS Hyde Hall flower shows, which require small demonstration gardens to be developed. Volunteers are part of the team, so working with and supervising the aforementioned, and staff, would be part of the trainee programme.

Placement opportunity: 2 year

Staff numbers:6 full-time gardeners and propagators

Ease of access: Colchester is the nearest large town. It has two train stations, supermarkets and other amenities. There is also a bus station near to Colchester Town train station, from which the number 76 bus runs every hour to Elmstead Market (1/4 mile walk from the gardens).

Accommodation: A shared student house is available in the village (Elmstead Market), at reduced cost.


Beth Chatto Gardens (5)_compressed A frosty winter morning in the Water Garden, Beth Chatto Gardens. Beth Chatto Gardens (9)_compressed Beth Chatto Gardens (3)_compressed Beth Chatto Gardens (4)_compressed

The Trainee Experience

Discover what life is like for our trainees with case studies and comments from past trainees.

Take a tour