Gertrude Jekyll: Gardener Extraordinaire
by Kate McIntyre
Old House Web Columnist
If you are interested in gardening history, you should know about Gertrude Jekyll. She is a prolific garden designer and author, and her work in garden design complemented the architecture of the Arts and Crafts movement. Her gardening philosophies are still important today.
Gertrude Jekyll's Life
Gertrude Jekyll was born in 1819 in England. She spent much of her early life traveling and pursuing her passion for photography, painting, embroidery, and plant collecting. Her eyesight was poor, though, so she could not continue to do activities that required perfectly clear vision. She switched her energies from painting and embroidery to landscape design.
In her work as a landscape designer, she created around 400 gardens in Britain, the United States, and Europe. In her garden designs, Jekyll sought to integrate her gardens with their surroundings so that they did not feel as stiff and formal as earlier Victorian gardens. She also brought her extensive knowledge of plants to her designs, making sure that each species she selected had the right light and care requirements, foliage, and blossoms for the place it was to be planted. She became friends with William Morris, one of the leaders of the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain. Jekyll found that her philosophy of gardening aligned with the Arts and Crafts style.
Jekyll's Lasting Contribution
Gertrude Jekyll's books are still fun and illuminating reads today, and many are in print. Arts and Crafts Gardens includes garden plans and advice for creating gardens that complement the architecture of the homes they surround. Gertrude Jekyll's Colour Schemes for the Flower Garden offers advice on designing seasonal plantings and pleasing arrangements of color. Written at a level children can understand, Children and Gardens describes Jekyll's early love for plants and gardening. If you enjoy learning about historic gardens, or good gardening in general, you might enjoy her books and designs.
About the Author
Kate McIntyre is a writer in Portland, Oregon. She holds a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Oregon State University.