Girl History Month – Gertrude Jekyll ‘Artist Gardener Craftswoman’

There is no spot of ground, however arid, bare or ugly, that cannot be tamed into such a state as may give an impression of beauty and delight.

Gertrude Jekyll

Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) was an influential British horticulturist, garden designer, artist and writer. Her brilliant designs continue to inspire gardeners everywhere.

Hidcote Manor Garden

Hidcote Manor Garden

Gertrude was born into a prosperous family and was educated in the arts from an early age. Jekyll’s brother, Walter, was a friend of the author, Robert Louis Stevenson, who borrowed the Jekyll family name for the title of his psychological thriller, Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde.

Young Gertrude

Young Gertrude

When she was 18, Jekyll was admitted to the South Kensington School of Art, where she studied painting, as well as botany, optics and the science of color. She would have had a career as a painter had not her sight begun to fail.

Watercolor by Gertrude Jekyll

Watercolor by Gertrude Jekyll

As her eyesight dimmed, Jekyll conceived the idea of creating art works from flowers and shrubs, and turning the design of gardens into an art form. She started to design simple cottage gardens and, as her career advanced, produced grand designs for country houses.

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Jekyll was greatly influenced by William Morris, one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts Movement in art, architecture, and crafts during the late 19th century.  Morris advocated a return to an informal planting style based upon an idealized English cottage garden.  Jekyll shared Morris’s mystical view of nature and drew on the floral designs in his textiles for her garden designs.

William Morris Textile Design

William Morris Textile Design

In 1889, Jekyll was introduced to the architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, with whom she began an association, creating landscapes for his avant-garde constructions. This successful partnership, with each influencing the other, resulted in one hundred Lutyens/Jekyll designs and greatly contributed to the English way of life.

Hestercombe House Garden

Hestercombe House Garden

Jekyll 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.

Glebe House

Glebe House

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 artist’s eye for color and contrasted plant textures to great effect.

Munstead Wood, Surrey

Munstead Wood, Surrey

Jekyll was the author of 15 books, her most famous being Wood and Gardening, a guide to the creation of gardens in a variety of climates and conditions. She was a prolific designer, completing around 350 commissions in England and America, many of which still exist today.

In 1986, the rose breeder David Austin created a deep-pink shrub rose and named it in Jekyll’s honor.

David Austin's "Gertrude Jekyll" Rose

David Austin’s “Gertrude Jekyll” Rose

Jekyll died on December 9, 1932 at Munstead Wood, Surrey. She is buried in St John’s Churchyard, Busbridge. On her tombstone is inscribed the simple epitaph by Sir Edwin Lutyens, ‘Artist Gardener Craftswoman’.

grave stone

4 thoughts on “Girl History Month – Gertrude Jekyll ‘Artist Gardener Craftswoman’

  1. Jueseppi B. says:

    Reblogged this on The ObamaCrat.Com™ and commented:
    The “Girl History Month” series continues….Thank you Ms. DeLong.

  2. Wonderful post about an amazing woman (and I may try the cake you posted in latter post – looks and sounds delicious).

  3. What a great tribute to a great woman! I’ve read many of her books and have been deeply influenced by her approach to color in the garden. I was lucky enough to visit Hestercombe several years ago. She and Lutyens were a great team – the design and structure of the garden was perfect and the plantings were lush and romantic. I didn’t know about Lutyens epitaph – how fitting. Thanks for a wonderful post!

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