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My Italian friend, Paola, sent me this photo from Simione in Northern Italy. This exquisite little garden has formed in a metal ring used for inserting parking prevention posts. I love the microcosm created from at least four different plants, from little seeds drifting on the wind, landing on a scrap of soil. Weeds are the greatest pioneers and even in the cracks of pavements they can give us hope- little green creatures full of innocent determination.    
Last week we looked at Beth Chatto's series of lakes that she created. This blog looks at her dry gravel garden. When you visit her garden in Essex the first thing you see is a lovely assortment of Mediterranean looking plants ribboned with gravel paths. Forty years ago this was just a car park. Then Beth decided to experiment with dry tolerant plants she had seen in her travels so instead of importing vast amounts of top soil she used the pre existing poor soil and stones as the foundation of the planting beds. In the last 40 years this area of her garden has become world renown as she has not had to water it. In the 70's in England this was unheard of but with her interest in companion planting and carefully selecting plants that she knew originated from a dry environment she brought garden design and ecology effectively together. Her book 'Drought Resistant Gardening' shows a woman interested in the truth of effective gardening. She kept information on the health of plants and how much maintenance the areas required with a real trial and error scientific rigour. These days ever garden designer tries to reduce their ecological footprint and go with nature rather then force things to grow where they don't want to. She was one of the pioneers and just an hour east of London you can see the living manifestation of her insights.        
In 1960 Beth Chatto set about transforming a wasteland on the edges of her husband's family fruit farm near Elmstead Market, Essex.It is now a world renown garden. Her skill was not to fight nature but use species that suited the terrain and soil conditions, creating the intersecting lakes, bog and dry gardens. It seems obvious now but at that time gardeners were still making a garden look like they wanted without regard to the time and effort and expense it needed to have something grow where it didn't want to. One of her mottos was how could a plant thrive under difficult conditions. She is nearly 94 and apparently still zips around on her mobility scooter as she lives within the garden. These pictures are just of the largest lake. This weeks later blogs will also focus on her dry garden. and planting in the beds.