Gertrude Jekyll was without doubt the person who most influenced the style of English gardening and gardening worldwide through the 19th and 20th centuries. However, she was much more than a gardener; her talents elsewhere were equally gifted and this book gives a wider view of the person and the breadth of her achievements.
Gertrude Jekyll (1843 – 1932) could be described as the greatest of the artist gardeners. She selected plants for their artistic merits, for how they would contribute form, shape, texture and colour to the picture she was creating. It was said of her that a plant was “a colour in her paint box”. She approached horticulture from the perspective of a painter and garden planning as a series of pictures. Of course, the most famous and best known of her garden paintings was the hardy herbaceous border in her garden at Munstead Wood, created in the early 1890s and measuring 200 feet x 14 feet, backed by a high wall and featuring the harmonious colour relationships she developed and which became de rigueur in all better gardens. It is estimated she designed over 400 gardens many in partnership with the successful and famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Parallel with this wonderful ability she was also a talented silversmith, woodworker, craftswoman and photographer; she was extraordinarily interested in vernacular architecture and domestic design. Of course, she was a very successful author writing over 1,000 articles for gardening magazines; generally, illustrating them with her own photographs and also wrote a list of very successful and influential books.
This book is neither a biography nor a discussion of her contribution to garden design but, rather, it explores the many activities and enterprise in which she was engaged and so presents us with a fuller picture of this remarkable woman – artist, craftswoman, designer, photographer and author.
It is an excellent book, interesting, informative and enjoyable to read.
[Gertrude Jekyll at Munstead Wood, Judith Tankard & Martin Wood, Pimpernel Press, London, 2015, first published 1996, HB, 207pp, £25, ISBN: 978-1-9102-5805-7]