Gertrude Jekyll is the subject of a new BBC Radio 4 profile, which includes an interview with Country Life's Gardens Editor Kathryn Bradley-Hole.
Here, we present some extraordinary and rare photographs of Miss Jekyll’s garden at Munstead Wood near Godalming, courtesy of the Country Life Picture Library.
The pictures were taken in 1912, when the great Miss Jekyll was at the height of her powers. Originally thought to have been taken by Miss Jekyll herself, they were later attributed to Herb Cowley, then the Gardens Editor of Country Life.
We’ve also included some biographical information on this page about this most gifted and influential of garden designers.
You’ll be able to listen to the documentary via the BBC Radio 4 website following its initial broadcast at 3pm on Thursday, May 10.
The life and times of Gertrude Jekyll
Gertrude Jekyll was a difficult child. Her father called her a ‘queer fish’; she infuriated her mother by clumping through the best rooms of their Surrey country house in her gardening boots.
As a young woman, she attended the South Kensington School of Art, where, as a disciple of John Ruskin and William Morris, she imagined herself embarking on a career as a painter and artist-craftswoman.
On the title page of her first book, she described herself as a ‘working amateur’.
As a painter, she was unsuccessful, but enjoyed a certain Society fame for her decorative work in inlay, silverwork and interior fabrics.
And thus she might have remained, a talented but obscure figure on the fringes of the rising Arts-and-Crafts movement from the mid 19th century.
Of all those who have attempted to design gardens according to artistic principles, Miss Jekyll was perhaps the most conscientious.
She observed the way Michel-Eugène Chevreul’s mid-19th-century theories of colour combination had been applied to annual bedding schemes and applied them to the use of hardy plants, establishing an approach to garden design that remains the basis of much modern work.
Miss Jekyll formed alliances with the garden writer William Robinson and the architect Edwin Lutyens, which resolved ideological struggles and set new standards for garden-making by thoughtful experiment and reasoned moderation.
Her clients were typically drawn from her own background of prosperous gentlefolk. Her design ideas, divided between the neat geometry of her terraced parterres (reinforced with strong evergreens such as yuccas, right, and bergenias) and the sinuous lines of her woodland-edge shrubberies, were spelt out in informative but ponderous books in the years between 1899 and 1914.
After her pre-war success, the changed nature of society after the horrors of the First World War and her own advancing years meant a quiet final chapter.
Many of her gardens declined in the mid 20th century, but several modern restorations have ensured a renewed and lasting interest in her work, which has influenced successive designers from Karl Foerster (1874-1970) to Piet Oudolf in the present day. Miss Jekyll died in 1932 and was buried in Busbridge churchyard, Surrey.
Her monument, by Lutyens, records her as ‘Artist, Gardener, Craftswoman’. Her obituary in The Times recorded that she did not cease ‘to share widely the fruits of her long and loving apprenticeship to Nature’.
In the first of our new series we examine the genius of Gertrude Jekyll
Legh Manor: The Tudor mansion in Sussex where Lutyens and Jekyll worked together
A magnificent Surrey manor house that boasts gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll
How a little-known early example of the architect’s work was brought to life.