Gertrude Jekyll

From Academic Kids

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

A rotund, bespectacled spinster who was one of seven children, the Surrey-born Jekyll (pronounced JEE-kul) should be mostly categorized as a planter then a "designer". She did indeed design, but did it through her plantings rather than traditional design aspects. She also 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. (In 1900, Lutyens and Jekyll's brother Hubert designed the British Pavilion for the Paris Exposition.) Jekyll is not remembered for her outstanding designs but instead for her subtle, painterly approach to the arrangement of the gardens she created, particularly her herbaceous borders. Her work is known for its radiant color and the brush-like strokes of her plantings; the Impressionistic-style schemes may have had something to do with Jekyll's deteriorating eyesight, which largely put an end to her career as a painter and watercolorist.

Jekyll was one of the first of her profession to take into account the color, texture, and experience of gardens as the prominent authorities in her designs, and she was a life-long fan of plants of all genres. Later in her life, she 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, 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. All were known for their meticulous attention to color detail, and the lack of consideration to fads of the day like the angular modernist gardens that were popular, to a degree, in England and France in the 1920s. This characteristic of "going against the grain" is a large part of the reason that Jekyll is remembered today.

Jekyll was not only an inspiring garden designer, but is also know for her prolific writing career. She has penned over fifteen books, ranging from "Wood and Gardening" to memoirs of her youth. Jekyll did not want to limit her influence of teaching to just the practice of gardening, but to take it a step further to the quiet study of gardening and the plants themselves.

In 1986, the rose breeder David Austin created a deep-pink, old-fashioned-style shrub rose and named it in Jekyll's honor. A cross between Austin's own 'Wife of Bath' and the Portland rose 'Comte de Chambord,' it won, in 2002, the James Mason award from the Royal National Rose Society. 'Gertrude Jekyll' also received, in 1993, a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.

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