Beth Chatto's Plants & Gardens

Partner Garden
Free access for RHS members at selected times

Elmstead Market

6 miles east of Colchester.

7 acres

01206 822007

Visit website

Opening Hours

Please see website for opening dates and times.


Please see website for admission prices.

RHS members

Free access (member 1 only for joint memberships) applies 10am–4pm, Thu–Sat, 18 Jan–17 Feb and 31 Oct–14 Dec. Plus Tue–Sat, 20 Feb–30 Mar and 1–26 Oct.


  • Assistance dogs only
  • Accessible facilities
  • Accessible garden
  • Baby changing facilities
  • Children's activities
  • Free carer entry
  • Gift shop
  • Parking
  • Picnic area
  • Plant sales
  • Refreshments
  • Toilets


  • Gravel garden
  • Herbaceous border
  • Water garden
  • Woodland

About the garden

Owned by
Julia Boulton

The Beth Chatto Gardens were established in 1960. From an overgrown wasteland with poor gravel soil and boggy hollows, it has been transformed into an informal garden harmonising with the surrounding East Anglian countryside. The gardens are an inspiration to anyone who visits them – the art of planting at its best. The world-famous drought-resistant Gravel Garden began in 1992 as an experiment to replace sun-scorched grass with a living garden of drought-tolerant plants, without resorting to artificial irrigation, coupled with the lowest rainfall in the UK and free-draining gravel soil.  

A short walk down onto the cool, emerald-green grass surrounding the Water Garden is like walking into another climate. The planting here is a complete contrast to the hot, arid Gravel Garden, with a wide selection of lush, moisture-loving plants. The Woodland Garden was created after the great storm of 1987. The trees that remained – mostly 100-year-old oaks – were underplanted with shade-loving plants from around the temperate world to create a natural effect and furnish the area throughout the year. More recently, the former reservoir garden, sitting on an area of heavier, clay-based soil, has been redeveloped into an exciting new planting of perennials, accessible by winding pathways, allowing the plant enthusiast to get in and up close, building on the garden's inspiring collection of unusual plants. 

The extensive nursery offers a range of plants, the majority propagated from the gardens or surrounding stock beds. A gift shop offering a selection of gifts, books, cards and garden-related items is complemented by the Tearoom at the Gardens, which offers light lunches and specialises in delights such as locally baked scones, irresistible sausage rolls and a large range of tempting cakes.

Plants of special interest

  • Agapanthus
  • Alliums
  • Alpines
  • Asters
  • Autumn bulbs
  • Cacti & succulents
  • Camellias
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Conifers
  • Cornus (for winter stems or spring bracts)
  • Cyclamen
  • Daffodils
  • Ferns
  • Fuchsias
  • Grasses
  • Hellebores
  • Hemerocallis
  • Herbs
  • Hostas
  • Irises
  • Lavender
  • Lilies
  • Primulas
  • Roses
  • Shade-loving plants
  • Snowdrops
  • Spring bulbs
  • Wildflowers

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.