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Gertrude Jekyll

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Gertrude Jekyll
painting of an old woman with glasses and grey hair in a chair, by lamplight
Portrait of Jekyll by William Nicholson, painted October 1920; commissioned by Edwin Lutyens, donated to the Tate Gallery in 1921.
Born29 November 1843
Mayfair, London, England
Died8 December 1932(1932-12-08) (aged 89)
Munstead Wood, Busbridge, Surrey, England

Gertrude Jekyll VMH (/ˈkəl/ JEE-kəl; 29 November 1843 – 8 December 1932) was a British horticulturist, garden designer, craftswoman, photographer, writer and artist.[1] She created over 400 gardens in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States, and wrote over 1000 articles[1] for magazines such as Country Life and William Robinson's The Garden.[2] Jekyll has been described as "a premier influence in garden design" by British and American gardening enthusiasts.[1]

Early life[edit]

Jekyll was born at 2 Grafton Street, Mayfair, London, the fifth of the seven children of Captain Edward Joseph Hill Jekyll, Esquire, an officer in the Grenadier Guards, and his wife Julia, née Hammersley. In 1848 her family left London and moved to Bramley House in Surrey.[3] She never married and had no children.

Her younger brother, Walter Jekyll (an Anglican priest; sometime Minor Canon of Worcester Cathedral and Chaplain of Malta), was a friend of Robert Louis Stevenson, who borrowed the family name for his 1886 novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.[4]


Jekyll 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 Edwin Lutyens, for whose projects she created numerous landscapes and who designed her home Munstead Wood, near Godalming in Surrey.[5] (In 1900, Lutyens and Jekyll's brother Herbert designed the British Pavilion for the Paris Exposition.)

Jekyll is remembered for her outstanding designs and subtle, painterly approach to the arrangement of the gardens she created, particularly her "hardy flower borders".[6] Her work is known for its radiant colour and the brush-like strokes of her plantings; it is suggested by some that the Impressionistic-style schemes may have been due to Jekyll's deteriorating eyesight, which largely put an end to her career as a painter and watercolourist.[7] Her artistic ability had been evident when she was a child and she had trained as an artist.[8]

Jekyll's plan of the main flower-border at Munstead

She was one of the first of her profession to take into account the colour, texture, and experience of gardens as aspects of her designs. Jekyll's theory of how to design with colour was influenced by painter J. M. W. Turner and by Impressionism, and by the theoretical colour wheel. Her focus on gardening began at South Kensington School of Art,[9] where she became interested in the creative art of planting, and more specifically, gardening. In 1904, Jekyll returned to her childhood home in the village of Bramley to design a garden for Millmead House in Snowdenham Lane.[10][11]

Not wanting to limit her influence to teaching the practice of gardening, Jekyll incorporated in her work the theory of gardening and an understanding of the plants themselves.[12] Her writing was influenced by her friend Theresa Earle who had published her "Pot-pourri" books.[13] In works like Colour Schemes for the Flower Garden (reprinted 1988) she put her imprint on modern uses of "warm" and "cool" flower colours in gardens. Her concern that plants should be displayed to best effect even when cut for the house, led her to design her own range of glass flower vases.[14]

Later in life, Jekyll collected and contributed a vast array of plants solely for the purpose of preservation to numerous institutions across Britain. At the time of her death, she had designed over 400 gardens in Britain, Europe and a few in North America. Jekyll was also known for her prolific writing. She wrote fourteen books,[15] ranging from Wood and Garden and her most famous book, Colour in the Flower Garden, to memoirs of her youth.[citation needed]

She was also interested in traditional cottage furnishings and rural crafts, and concerned that they were disappearing. Her book Old West Surrey (1904) records many aspects of 19th-century country life, with over 300 photographs taken by Jekyll.


Durmast House and Gardens

From 1881, when she laid out the gardens for Munstead House, built for her mother by John James Stevenson, Jekyll provided designs or planned planting for some four hundred gardens. More than half were directly commissioned, but many were created in collaboration with architects such as Lutyens and Robert Lorimer.[15] Most of her gardens are lost. A small number have been restored, including her own garden at Munstead Wood, the gardens of Hestercombe House and The Croft in Brook, Surrey, and those of Woolverstone House and the Manor House in Upton Grey that she designed for the magazine editor Charles Holme.[15][16] Miss Jekyll designed the plans at Durmast House and Gardens and has recently been restored, including a Summer House designed by her long standing friend, Sir Edward Lutyens.


Jekyll was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1897 and the Veitch Memorial Medal of the society in 1929. Also in 1929, she was given the George Robert White Medal of Honor of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.[15][17]

Death and burial[edit]

The Jekyll Memorial in Busbridge churchyard

Jekyll died on 8 December 1932 at her home, Munstead Wood, in Surrey.[3] She was buried in the churchyard of St John the Baptist, Busbridge, Godalming, next to her brother, Herbert Jekyll, and his wife, the artist, writer and philanthropist Dame Agnes Jekyll. The Jekyll family memorial was designed by Edwin Lutyens.[18]


In 1907, Jekyll donated her collection of traditional household items and objects relating to "Old Surrey" to the Surrey Archaeological Society. Much of this donation is still on display at Guildford Museum. In 1911, the Corporation of Guildford built an extension to the museum to house the collection.[8] Some artefacts associated with her life and work are also housed there.

On 29 November 2017, a Google Doodle was released honouring Jekyll on what would have been her 174th birthday.[19][20]

In 2023, the National Trust bought her home Munstead Wood through a private sale.[21]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Van Matre, Lynn (26 February 1989). "In Bloom Again: Gertrude Jekyll's Cult Status Is In Full Flower". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
  2. ^ Bisgrove, Richard. The Gardens of Gertrude Jekyll.London: Frances Lincoln, 2006.
  3. ^ a b "Miss Gertrude Jekyll". The Times. No. 46313. London. 10 December 1932. p. 12.
  4. ^ Sinclair, Jill (16 June 2006). "Queen of the mixed border". The Guardian.
  5. ^ Tankard, Judith B. and Martin A. Wood. Gertrude Jekyll at Munstead Wood. Bramley Books, 1998.
  6. ^ Bisgrove, Richard (15 October 1992). The Gardens of Gertrude Jekyll. Frances Lincoln. ISBN 0711207461.
  7. ^ Rutherford, Sarah (2013). The Arts and Crafts Garden. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 62. ISBN 9780747813446.
  8. ^ a b "Gertrude Jekyll's sketch book". Guildford Museum. Guildford Borough Council. Archived from the original on 21 November 2018. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  9. ^ "About Gertrude Jekyll". Archived from the original on 27 October 2007. Retrieved 19 December 2007.
  10. ^ Elwes, Annunciata (17 June 2022). "A sensational country home built by Edwin Lutyens with gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll — now for sale for the first time in 50 years". Country Life. Retrieved 12 January 2024.
  11. ^ Historic England. "Millmead House (Grade II) (1378321)". National Heritage List for England.
  12. ^ Wood, Martin. The Unknown Gertrude Jekyll.London: Frances Lincoln, 2006.
  13. ^ "Earle [née Villiers], (Maria) Theresa [known as Mrs C. W. Earle] (1836–1925), horticulturist". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/48832. Retrieved 4 October 2020. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  14. ^ Swengley, Nicole (24 November 2010). "Gertrude Jekyll vase designs set to sparkle again". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
  15. ^ a b c d Michael Tooley (2004). Jekyll, Gertrude (1843–1932). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/37597
  16. ^ Betty Massingham (2006 [1975]). Gertrude Jekyll: An Illustrated Life of Gertrude Jekyll, 1843–1932. Princes Risborough: Shire Press. p. 44.
  17. ^ Desmond, Steven (23 January 2010). "Great British Garden-Makers: Gertrude Jekyll". Country Life Magazine. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
  18. ^ Historic England. "Busbridge War Memorial (1044531)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  19. ^ Sheridan, Wade (29 November 2017). "Google honors garden designer Gertrude Jekyll with new Doodle". UPI.
  20. ^ White, Jeremy B. (29 November 2017). "Gertrude Jekyll: Who was the horticulturist who made the world a more beautiful place?". The Independent. Retrieved 12 January 2024.
  21. ^ "Pioneering garden designer Gertrude Jekyll's home acquired by National Trust". Gardens Illustrated. Retrieved 1 June 2023.
  22. ^ International Plant Names Index.  Jekyll.

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