Beth Chatto

Beth Chatto

A life with plants

Authorized biography of world-renowned plantswoman Beth Chatto, who died in 2018

"Beth Chatto is one of the most influential gardeners in our history. This extraordinary person will touch generations of gardeners to come. Gardeners from all over the world have taken her lead on the right plant, right place and have had our eyes opened to texture, shape and form." - Fergus Garrett

"Of all the gardeners I know, it is for Beth that I feel the deepest respect." - Alan Titchmarsh

Beth Chatto: A life with plants tells the story of the most influential British plantswoman of the past hundred years. Beth Chatto was the inspiration behind the ‘right plant, right place’ ethos that lies at the heart of modern gardening. She also wrote some of the best-loved gardening books of the twentieth century, among them The Dry Garden, The Damp Garden, and Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden. Some years before her death in May 2018, aged ninety-four, Beth authorized Catherine Horwood to write her biography, with exclusive access to her archive. Beth Chatto: A life with plants also includes extracts from Beth’s notebooks and diaries, never previously published, bringing Beth’s own distinctive and much-loved voice into the book. Most of the photographs, from Beth’s personal archives, have also never been seen in print before. For Beth’s legions of fans, Beth Chatto: A life with plants is the personal story behind her beliefs and the struggles and determination that brought her success.

Catherine Horwood is a social historian with a passion for plants and gardens. Her book, Gardening Women: Their Stories from 1600 to the Present (Virago, 2010) was enthusiastically received. "Horwood strikes gold," said the Guardian. "Packed with lovely detail and quirky stories," wrote the Mail on Sunday. "Gardening Women is rich, full and lasting. Neither gardens nor women will seem quite the same again," said The Times. The American edition appeared shortly after under the title Women and Their Gardens: A History from the Elizabethan Era to Today (Ball Publishing, Chicago). Catherine Horwood’s other books include Rose (Reaktion, 2018), Potted History: The Story of Plants and the Home (Frances Lincoln, 2007) and Keeping Up Appearances: Fashion and Class Between the Wars (Sutton, 2005). She has also written for newspapers and magazines including The Times, Daily Mail, Gardens Illustrated and The English Garden. Her blog,, has a worldwide following.

"A fascinating portrait of one of the true gardening greats from her early childhood in rural Essex to her groundbreaking work as a nursery owner, award-winning author and multiple gold-medal-winner exhibitor at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show."

Irish Times Gardening Books of the Year

"Full of tales of Chelsea shows, of travels with Christopher Lloyd and of Cedric Morris's artists' colony at Benton End in Suffolk. Fascinating stuff."

The Times

"Not a gardening book per se but a book about a gardener who created a garden of distinction on a dry, windswept site, earning her a reputation as an international influencer. The book brings its subject back to life, enabling those previously unfamiliar with Chatto's work and influence to understand the context in which her ideas were formulated and excelled."

Irish News Best Gardening Books of the Year

"Beth loved autumn, and for me, Beth Chatto: A Life with Plants shines most in this season of transition, as her later years are chronicled...[It] tells a complete and intimate portrait of Chatto's professional and personal life."

Leaflet - Massachussets Horticultural Society

"Beth Chatto...died last year having handed over her gardening notebooks to Catherine Horwood. Perhaps more pertinently for Horwood, and for non-gardeners whose eyes glaze over at the mention of horticultural triumphs, Chatto also entrusted Horwood with her private diaries. As Horwood's detailed and rigorous Beth Chatto shows, plantspeople have passions beyond their garden beds."

Sunday Times Gardening Books of the Year

"Beth Chatto, who died last year, was singularly forward-thinking and knowledgeable, and her gardens and nursery near Elmstead Market in Essex have been a continual draw to enthusiasts for half a century. Catherine Horwood’s authorised biography, based on diaries, notes and conversations, is a faithful, workmanlike account of a truly remarkable plantswoman and artistic gardener."

Spectator Ursula Buchan

"Catherine Horwood's book is a triumph, beautifully crafted by an author who has thoroughly researched and understood her subject. From start to finish, this publication gives us a real understanding of Beth's life. There is so much here to keep the reader gripped."

Gardens Illustrated Fergus Garrett

"The life story of this elegant plant guru contains enough drive and determination to inspire any modern  woman...To meet, Beth was an inscrutable coiled spring of a person, beautifully composed, a brilliant lecturer and writer and, of course, a terrific grower...This book shows what a remarkable woman she was."

Country Life Mary Keen

"A compelling and revealing read, enhanced by Catherine's talents for research and tellling a good story."

The English Garden

"Brilliant, charming and beautiful, she was a horticultural pioneer whose impact continues to this day. Her gardening genius made her the darling of pop stars, aristocrats and royalty — yet as this sympathetically written biography reveals, her apparently gilded life was far more turbulent than anyone could have suspected."

Daily Mail

"Catherine Horwood more than does justice to this iconic gardening legend...a delightful memoir of a remarkable woman. Beautifully illustrated and superbly written...a fitting tribute to one of horticulture's most iconic women."

Reckless Gardener

"This fascinating, beautifully-written biography paints a fond and intimate portrait of one of the true greats of the gardening world."

Irish Times

"Impeccably researched."

House & Garden
The Pimpernel Press Ltd
The Pimpernel Press Ltd
Product Format
230 x 170
Publication Date
Sep 5, 2019
Country of Manufacture
Number of Pages