Beth Chatto Gardens

Another garden made famous by its iconic creator, the Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex are a tremendous feat of design. Chatto is widely celebrated as a pioneer for her ecological style of garden making, preferring plants that suit the conditions to fussy varieties that require constant tending. Lesser garden designers impose their style on a landscape, regardless of its underlying qualities, often with disastrous results. Such is not the case here, where Chatto takes cues from the land and creates gardens that are undeniably "of the place." A dry stony upland becomes an intricately textured gravel garden; a sheltered valley becomes a series of luxuriant borders cascading down to a pond edged with Gunnera and other marsh dwellers; a shaded hillside becomes a verdant woodland tapestry; and a sun-baked south-facing slope becomes a scree garden that embraces the refreshingly modest Chatto family home, adorned with exotica in terra cotta pots. And that's all to say nothing of the world-renowned nursery that started it all (a fitting and tantalizing end to a visit).

This is another garden that in both its skillful negotiation of varied and sometimes impossible conditions, and seamless integration of remarkably opposing environments, is a testament to the true genius of its maker.