Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932)

LOSEleypark

Gertrude Jekyll is well known to many enthusiastic gardeners and landscape designers alike. She was held in high esteem by the gardening world earlier this century, when she was acknowledged for her extensive design work, alone and in partnership with Sir Edwin Lutyens, the architect.

This successful partnership, with each influencing the other, resulted in one hundred Lutyens/Jekyll designs and greatly contributed to the English way of life.

Gertrude Jekylls’ influence on modern day landscaping can be attributed to the firm principles she laid down regarding garden design and planting schemes.

She believed passionately in the understanding of beauty in the natural landscape and strived to create it in her work. Her dedication, industriousness, and no-nonsense approach were all aspects of her philosophy which led to the creation of some memorable garden design.

Although few modern gardens could accommodate an authentic Jekyll design, any gardener could study and adapt her colour schemes to suit their own garden space and time constraints. Gertrude loved gardening for beautiful effect and is best known for huge herbaceous borders with colour schemes running from cold ( white, blue ) to hot ( orange, red ) and back to cold again.

manor house upton grey

She was a formidable plants-woman, who experimented with plants in her own garden at Munstead Wood in Surrey before recommending them to anyone. She taught the value of ordinary plants familiar to gardeners today, Hostas, Bergenias, Lavender and old fashioned roses.

Gertrude Jekyll concentrated her design work on applying plants in a variety of settings, woodland gardens, water gardens and herbaceous borders always striving to achieve the most natural effect. She had an artists eye for colour and contrasted plant textures to great effect.

Any garden was treated as a whole with sections within, but each part complimenting the other.

Gertrude Jekyll became involved in gardening relatively late in life, having been instructed by doctors to abandon her main passions, painting and embroidery, due to severe and progressive myopia. She channelled her creativity into gardening, having a background of knowledge and love of the subject which had developed since childhood.

Gertrude became a prolific designer, completing around 350 commissions in England and America, executed without leaving her home, but by often extensive correspondence with her clients.

Gertrude Jekylls’ design principles were simple but effective. Architecture was the main frame work of the garden, with hard landscape features to display certain plants. Her feeling for the correct use of materials in design, respect for craftsmanship and understanding and implementation of planting schemes has left a lasting legacy for gardeners to enjoy today.

Sarah Topp is a garden designer based in Wiltshire. She studied garden design at Merrist Wood College, Surrey and can be contacted via her website www.toppdesigns.co.uk