Sunday, 2 October 2011

Gertrude Jekyll

Gertrude Jekyll ( 29 November 1843 – 8 December 1932) was an influential British garden designer, writer, and artist. She created over 400 gardens in the UK, Europe and the USA and contributed over 1,000 articles to Country Life, The Garden and other magazines.

Gertrude Jekyll was born at 2 Grafton Street, Mayfair, London, the fifth of the seven children of Captain Edward Joseph Hill Jekyll, an officer in the Grenadier Guards, and his wife Julia Hammersley. Her younger brother, the Reverend Walter Jekyll, was a friend of Robert Louis Stevenson, who borrowed the family name for his famous novella Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In 1848 her family left London and moved to Bramley House, Surrey, where she spent her formative years. She always liked gardens with pretty flowers in them.

Jekyll should be more correctly categorized as a planter than as a "designer". She did indeed design, but did it through her plantings rather than traditional design aspects. She was one half of one of the most influential and historical partnerships of the Arts and Crafts movement, thanks to her association with the English architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, for whose projects she created numerous landscapes, and who designed her home Munstead Wood, near Godalming in Surrey. (In 1900, Lutyens and Jekyll's brother Herbert designed the British Pavilion for the Paris Exposition.)

Jekyll is remembered less for her outstanding designs but instead for her subtle, painterly approach to the arrangement of the gardens she created, particularly her "hardy flower borders" (not herbaceous borders). Her work is known for its radiant colour and the brush-like strokes of her plantings; it is suggested by some that the Impressionistic-style schemes may have been due to Jekyll's deteriorating eyesight, which largely put an end to her career as a painter and watercolourist. In works like Color Schemes for the Flower Garden (reprinted 1988) she put her imprint on modern uses of "warm" and "cool" flower colours in gardens.

Jekyll was one of the first of her profession to take into account the colour, texture, and experience of gardens as the prominent authorities in her designs, and she was a life-long fan of plants of all genres. Her theory of how to design with colour was influenced by painter J.M.W. Turner and by Impressionism, and by the theoretical colour wheel. Later in life, Jekyll collected and contributed a vast array of plants solely for the purpose of preservation to numerous institutions across Britain. This pure passion for gardening was started at South Kensington School of Art,[4] where she fell in love with the creative art of planting, and even more specifically, gardening. At the time of her death, she had designed over 400 gardens in Britain, Europe and even a few in North America. Jekyll was also known for her prolific writing. She penned over fifteen books, ranging from Wood and Garden and her most famous book Colour in the Flower Garden, to memoirs of her youth. Jekyll did not want to limit her influence to teaching the practice of gardening, but to take it a step further to the quiet study of gardening and the plants themselves.

Jekyll later returned to her childhood home in the village of Bramley, Surrey to design a garden in Snowdenham Lane called Millmead. She was also interested in traditional cottage furnishings and rural crafts, and concerned that they were disappearing. Her book Old West Surrey (1904) records many aspects of 19th century country life, with over 300 photographs taken by Jekyll.

She is buried in the churchyard of St. John the Baptist, Busbridge, Godalming, next to her brother and sister-in-law, Sir Herbert Jekyll, KCMG and Lady Agnes Jekyll, DBE. The monument was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Gertrude Jekyll and the Country House Garden

Credited with popularizing an informal, naturalistic look in counterpoint to the rigid, formal landscapes of the Victorian era, Gertrude Jekyll (1843–1932) laid the basis for modern garden design. Her collaboration with Edwin Lutyens produced seminal garden masterpieces of the Arts & Crafts movement, including Hestercombe and Folly Farm. Also known as a prolific and influential writer, Jekyll contributed more than a hundred articles to Country Life and designed three gardens for the publication’s founder, Edward Hudson. As a result, the Country Life archive contains an unrivaled record of her work. In her most recent book, author Judith Tankard explores Jekyll’s legacy with a survey of both archival black-and-white and contemporary color photographs highlighting a selection of the more than 350 gardens Jekyll created.

Judith B. Tankard is a landscape historian, author, and preservation consultant. She received an master’s degree in art history from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University and has taught at the Landscape Institute at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, since 1987. Her articles and book reviews have been published in many magazines, including Hortus, Apollo and Country Life. She lectures regularly both in the United States and Britain. She is the author or co-author of nine illustrated books on landscape history, including most recently Beatrix Farrand: Private Gardens, Public Landscapes and Gardens of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

The Times 10th December 1932
Gardener and Artist

We regret to announce that Miss Gertrude Jekyll died at her home at Godalming on Thursday evening, at the age of 89. She had been failing for some weeks and had felt the recent death of her brother, Sir Herbert Jekyll, very much. She was a great gardener, second only, if indeed she was second, to her friend William Robinson, of Gravetye. To these two, more than to any others, are due, not only the complete transformation of English horticultural method and design, but also that wide diffusion of knowledge and taste which has made us almost a nation of gardeners. Miss Jekyll was also a true artist with an exquisite sense of colour.
She was born on November 29, 1843, at 2, Grafton Street, the fourth child and second daughter of Edward Jekyll, captain in the Grenadier Guards, and Julia, née Hammersley. In 1848 the family moved to Bramley House, Surrey, and there she developed a strong interest in botany and gardening, in horses and all country pursuits, and especially in painting. About 1861 she began to study in the art schools in South Kensington, and in 1866 she worked in Paris. Later the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Louvre, the Brera, and the galleries of Venice and Rome offered her invaluable opportunity and experience.
A succession of German and French governesses of the early Victorian type left no more than a resentful impression on her independent mind and character. A brief incursion into boarding school life only deepened her sense of aloofness, and yet no one had a kinder heart, a more truly helpful and sympathetic spirit, a readier sense of humour and good comradeship. Not that her home circle was narrow, or wanting in intellectual or artistic opportunity. Her mother was a good musician, and Mendelssohn was a constant visitor at her London home. Leighton, Watts, and Poynter, among many others, gave help and encouragement to the young artist.
An early acquaintance with Charles Newton, then Keeper of the Greek and Roman collections in the British Museum, led to a fruitful friendship with him and his wife, Mary Severn, with whom, in 1863, she visited Rhodes, Constantinople, and Athens and acquired a knowledge of Greek art. While in Italy she obtained practical instruction in several handicrafts, such as the use of gesso, watergilding, inlaying, repoussé work, and wood-carving. Indeed, there was little her skilful fingers could not bring to perfection, from a piece of finely wrought decorative silver down to the making of her gardening boots. She could toss an omelette and brew Turkish coffee or elderberry wine, compose a liqueur, or manufacture her own incomporable pot-pourri. Embroideries designed by herself, repairs to ancient church work so skilful that they amounted to creation, patchworks of intricate pattern, quilting of medieval fineness, shell pictures such as only a real artist could conceive, banner-making for philanthropic friends, village-inn signs for Surrey neighbours – all were achieved with equal skill and enjoyment.
In 1871 Miss Jekyll formed an enduring frienship with Jacques Blumenthal and his wife, he a musician of distinction, she unusually gifted in all manner of minor arts. Their famous hospitalities in London and at their lovely chalet above Montreux brought her into happy relations with many artists, musicians and social notabilities. Another inspiring friend of the seventies was Hercules Brabazon, who profoundly impressed a small circle in those days, but whose wide recognition only came after he had laid down his brush. He introduced Miss Jekyll to Mme. Bodichon (Barbara Leigh Smith), a gifted painter, but better known in connexion with Girton College. Together they spent a happy winter in 1873-74 in Algiers and there making friends with the artist Frederick Walker.

A Centre of Enthusiasts

Her father’s death in 1876 at Wargrave Hill, Henley, led to the return of the family to West Surrey, and there Miss Jekyll settled with her mother in a house they built on Munstead Hill, above Godalming, in 1878. This soon became a meeting ground for a group of enthusiastic gardeners, amateur and professional, who helped her in the pursuit which henceforward was to be her main employment and delight. House decoration and furnishing, of which her most extensive work was done at Eaton Hall in 1882, had already for some years occupied and interested her, but these activities waned as her horticultural knowledge and taste developed.
In 1882 Canon Hole, afterwards Dean of Rochester, for ever pre-eminent among rose growers, brought with him on a visit to Munstead House Mr. William Robinson, who in his championship of hardy flowers versus the prevailing bedding-out system, found in Miss Jekyll an enthusiastic fellow-worker. Their activities were soon shared by a remarkable group of ardent amateurs, all busy re-discovering neglected plants and popularising better ways of gardening. The disability of restricted sight, which had prevented Miss Jekyll from painting pictures with brushes, was by the law of compensation turned into an unexpected development of painting living pictures with growing plants. The late Mr. Lathbury first induced her to write for his paper, the Guardian, and she expanded her articles into a book, “Wood and Garden,” published in 1899. This was followed in 1900 by “Home and Garden,” and in the ensuing years by other books on “Lilies,” “Wall and Water Gardens,” “Children’s Gardening,” “Colour Schemes for the Garden,” and “Flower Arrangements,” besides one entitled “Old West Surrey,” embodying recollections of bygone country ways, to be re-issued, with amplification, in 1925, under the title of “Old English Household Life.” All these books were copiously illustrated with photographs, taken and developed by Miss Jekyll’s own hand.
From the beginning of 1900, when the Garden newspaper became the property of Country Life, Miss Jekyll undertook its co-editorship with Mr. Ernest Cook, and only relinquished it after 2½ years owing to the strain on her eyesight. But her interest in garden schemes, her own horticultural work including the distribution through the trade of improved strains of some of her favourite flowers, the recapture of many sweet and almost vanished climbing roses and garden plants, and the planning and beautifying of gardens of all sorts and sizes, went on to the end of her life.
From 1895, when her mother died, onwards, this work was carried out from her own home at Munstead Wood, where she had made herself, with the help of Sir Edwin Lutyens, who had begun his professional career in her workshop in the early eighties, the home of her delight, surrounded by some 15 acres of typical Surrey woodland. In that year she was gratified to receive from the Royal Horticultural Society the Victorian medal of honour, just then instituted, and again in February, 1929, the Veitchian gold cup and 50 guineas prize. In later years she kept in touch by correspondence with her numerous clients and private friends, and with a widening circle at home and oversea, attracted by her writings. To her correspondents, enthusiastic, but often horticulturally inexperienced, she owed many a humorous twinkle and quiet chuckle. “Could you spare me some of those lovely flowers I saw in your garden last time I came; I think you called them Peacocks?” Some moments of hard thinking ensued, and a parcel of Narcissus Pallidus Praecox was presently dispatched with an informative postscript. “What is the aspect of the flower border you asked me to plan?” inquired Miss Jekyll of an enthusiastic correspondent, who baffled her by replying, “Most of the day it faces south-east, but due north all the morning.”
In the House of Nature there are many mansions, inhabited by widely divergent spirits. Darwin and Wallace took continents and oceans as their laboratories wherein to study strange and living creations; Wordsworth and Tennyson, lifting their eyes to the hills and the sky, discoursed of religion and philosophy. Gertrude Jekyll, to whom we now bid a grateful “Hail and Farewell,” sought ever for practical knowledge allied to beauty, and in that quest, whereby she may truly be said to have transfigured the gardens of England, she never grew old at heart or wearied in mind, was never discouraged by difficulty or defeated by failure, neither did she cease to share widely the fruits of her long and loving apprenticeship to Nature.

Queen of the mixed border
Miss Jekyll's instructions are still worth following in Martin Wood's The Unknown Gertrude Jekyll, says Jill Sinclair

Jill Sinclair
The Guardian, Saturday 17 June 2006
Article history
The title of this book is rather misleading. Designer Gertrude Jekyll is well known to anyone interested in gardening - her ideas and techniques continue to be taught and discussed much as if she were a green-fingered equivalent of Shakespeare. Rather than reveal something new about Miss Jekyll, as she was always known, this book does much to reinforce her reputation as the woman who "changed the face of England more than any, save the Creator himself and, perhaps, Capability Brown" by reproducing a selection of her articles for the first time since they were written in the late 1890s and early 1900s.
These essays - originally published in magazines including Country Life, Homes and Gardens and Gardening Illustrated - are written in Jekyll's rather domineering voice which supposes that the reader, as she herself, has little else to occupy their thoughts other than making beautiful every bit of earth, however small or inhospitable. In one article she gives instructions on how to create a small garden at the foot of a wall to enliven the view from the kitchen window for the servants; in the next, she details the planting plan for a 100ft-carriage drive and one of her trademark mixed borders.
Already a talented painter when she enrolled at the South Kensington School of Art in London to study botany, anatomy, optics and the science of colour, Jekyll used gardens as if she were an artist working on canvas: "A border may be brilliant with bright-coloured flowers alone, but if it is to be a picture, it wants some of its brightness to be relieved by something quiet, in good harmony, but comparatively neutral".
Describing herself modestly as a "working amateur", Jekyll designed more than 400 gardens, many with her collaborator, the architect Edwin Lutyens, and the 100 or so articles selected for this book cover a wide range of garden-related topics. Loosely grouped together by theme, some are little more than a paragraph or two and many have no practical application, but they are all full of Jekyll's famous passion and the beautifully crafted prose which prompted one of her editors to remark that he "would rather have clipped the wings of an archangel" than tamper with her work. Despite the antiquated language and references to garden practices that are long forgotten there's no mistaking the ideas which made Jekyll such an innovative designer.
A knowledgeable plantswoman, Jekyll was always experimenting and would often redefine the way plants were used. Writing about the common laurel, she says: "Just because it is so patient and accommodating, and has been used as such a common hack, we have come to look upon it with a kind of distaste . . ." Her view was that any plant was worth having as long as it was in the right place and with the right company.
This book includes some fascinating archive photographs as well as some of Jeykll's drawings and planting plans. There are previously unpublished black and white photographs, along with eight curious autochrome pictures of Munstead Wood in Surrey, the home built by Jekyll's mother after her father died, and where Jekyll created one of her earliest design successes.
The planting plans give the best clue to her attitude to gardening. Her borders, packed with colour, require regular replanting - not just season by season, but often month by month. She is unequivocal about gardening and warns that "the giving of this necessary attention is the test of the love of a garden, showing whether it is genuine or whether it is only an affection, or, at best, a matter of only half-hearted interest".
There is one intriguing photograph of a portly and austere looking Miss Jekyll, taken in her Spring Garden in 1923 and looking more like Queen Victoria than a designer or artist. And it seems something of a shame that she shares her name with one of the most notorious characters in European literature. Gertrude's brother, Walter Jekyll, was a friend of Robert Louis Stevenson, who asked if he could borrow their surname for his new book The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Gertrude's family had always pronounced their name "Jeekyll", with a long "e", as do her garden enthusiast followers, so the link to the novel is not usually made. That may be something relatively unknown about Gertrude Jekyll

Named after a famous garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll is a classic English rose from the 1980s, which is a creation of David Austin Roses. Producing his first rose in 1961, rose breeding has been the Austin family business to the present day since 1969. Old English roses though lacking the abundance of floral flurry, possessed unique fragrances and forms that had numerous variations. The company specializes in breeding English roses focused on combining the forms and fragrances of old roses with the repeat flowering characteristics of modern roses. The Gertrude Jekyll was the result of experiments that involved in crossing the Wife of Bath rose and the Portland rose. Owing to its characteristics, the Gertrude Jekyll won the James Mason awards in 2002 from the Royal National Rose Society.


It’s deep pink all the way when it comes to the Gertrude Jekyll rose. The rosette-shaped blossoms start as perfect little scrolled buds that open into the large, double petalled, glowing pink flowers. English roses have significantly strong fragrances and the Gertrude Jekyll is no exception. It has a balanced old rose scent. The fragrance of the Gertrude Jekyll truly is amazing . A vase of Gertrude Jekyll in the morning will fill up your house with rose scent by the afternoon. Fragrance being its top characteristic, this rose was used as the first rose essence in England for quite some number of years. The foliage consists of widely spread leaflets which is a characteristic of a Portland rose. Blossoms appear through early summer and through the fall.


The Gertrude Jekyll rose grows as a shrub-climber or even as a regular climber in warmer climates as the optimum height is reached only in warmer article. The plant is very disease resistant and can be seen growing upright and in a vigorous manner. The rose is ideal as asmall climbing shrub where space is an issue. Shrubs reach a height around 4 – 5ft whilst the climber can reach even higher heights. The bush has healthy foliage, quite tall and strong, growing to its maximum heights in the warmer climates.

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