This book is the result of good teamwork. First I would like to acknowledge the contribution of my staff. Without their devoted care the gardens and nursery could not exist. Every member, whether in the garden, the nursery, the office or the tea room is important. We rely on each other, as links in a chain, whether producing plants, grooming the garden, dealing with enquiries or offering refreshments, for body and mind. Everyone is involved in a very personal way in helping maintain a way of life, which we share with our visitors – whose appreciation and support provides the final, vital link.
Much unseen work is involved in preparing a gardening book for publication. Writing, it seems to me, is only the beginning. I was most fortunate to have Erica Hunningher as my sensitive editor. Like a skilled midwife she took on the task of delivering her author’s work, with the clearsighted ability to prune and reshape, letting in the light on my intentions.
Tricia Brett, long my secretary, business manager and PA, typed the copy from my handwritten script and zealously checked the latest Latin names, while, for both the original book and this reprint, Tony Lord gave us his final decision on plant nomenclature. Chrissy McDonald drew and painted the garden plan on pages 12–13.
Steven Wooster brings the eye of an artist to the camera lens, finding beauty in the unexpected and capturing fleeting moments that come only once. Every year the garden develops and changes. Nothing is repeated exactly.
More than sixty years ago I began gardening as an amateur, unaware of the endless interest and possibilities that lay ahead. At that time reading was the entrance into other people’s gardens, and I read hungrily the writings of Margery Fish and E.A. Bowles, and later, as I found them, books by Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson. There were few illustrations and those were all in black and white, allowing the imagination of the reader to paint the words in colour. As my vocabulary of garden plants grew, I think I read these books as a conductor reads the pages of a music score, sitting in a silent room, hearing the symphony in his head. Much as I value and admire the high standard of garden photography today, I am grateful for those years when I read and re-read, without distractions, the experiences of the great gardeners of the past, realizing how much that we do today has been done and written in great detail before us. But, as my old friend Cedric Morris said when we were discussing this fact, ‘We may all have similar palettes but we all paint different pictures.’ We all have freedom of choice. Some of my best-used books of today are included in ‘Further reading’ on page 221.
Beth’s woodland garden was looking great when I started taking pictures in April 1999, but Beth wanted a month-by-month record and I was anxious about how it would be looking in July and August. In most gardens these are difficult months for photography, as many of the plants have ‘done their stuff ’ and are starting to look tired and lifeless. But this was not the case in Beth’s shade garden. There was always something to photograph, no matter what time of year.
On my first few visits I concentrated on getting ‘scene setters’ of the garden as a whole. This was helped greatly by a fantastic display of forget-me-nots in 1999 (obviously a vintage year). Over the course of the following three years I visited the garden between thirty and forty times. I would walk with Beth around the gardens and she would show me the plants that she wanted photographed (generally listing Latin names in spidery writing on a piece of cardboard!) This proved invaluable, as it made me focus on plants that I would otherwise have overlooked, as I seem to be drawn to the obvious rather than the ‘enchanting horticultural delight’.
I found in general that the garden looked best through the camera in golden evening light as opposed to the blue morning light. For the technophiles, in general the landscape and scenic pictures were taken on medium format and the plant details and clos-ups on 35mm with a macro lens. Panoramic pictures were taken with a Hasselblad XPan – great for creating a different look and for making me think differently about the pictures I am trying to achieve. A colour meter also proved invaluable.
232 BETH CHATTO’S SHADE GARDEN