Gertrude Jekyll was a highly influential landscape gardener
. Many a fine property in Britain boasts a distinctive "Jekyll garden
", and her style is reproduced by many more gardener
s brought up on her books and articles. She favoured rich and varied concentrations of colourful
plants in border
s, ranged from tall at the back to low at the front; and also specific colours, such as a White Garden. She often worked with the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens
, whom she met in 1889.
Born in London on 29 November 1843, she was educated at South Kensington School of Art in painting, music, and architecture, and travelled the Greek islands. The artistic tenets of the critic John Ruskin and the Arts and Crafts movement helped form her taste. Because of failing eyesight, from 1891 she turned her attention to gardening. She developed her characteristic style of cottage garden, simple and direct, but full of life, an always pleasing mixture of wild and formal. Instead of the older formality, the herbaceous borders spill onto the lawns and paths.
Her own property at Munstead Wood, near Godalming in Surrey, is now a museum. The house was designed by Lutyens. She designed about 400 gardens in total. Her thirteen books include Wood and Garden, Old West Surrey, Roses for English Gardens*, and Colour in the Flower Garden. She died on 8 December 1932 and is buried in St John's churchyard at Busbridge.
When she travelled, to Italy and Algeria, she was on the look-out for interesting new plants, and would send specimens to Kew Gardens for preservation.
Her surname is pronounced Jeekil, not Jeckil the way the fictional doctor is usually said; but there is reason to suppose Stevenson intended his doctor to be Jeekil also, as this is the usual pronunciation of the name. It may be Danish in origin; they were a distinguished family since the sixteenth century.
Official but not very informative website at www.gertrudejekyll.co.uk
* This 1902 book can be read on line at www.rosarian.com/jekyll/roses
I am finding it surprisingly hard to find good pictures of her gardens on the Web. Here is one:
There is a pink David Austin rose named after her: