Lesley Chamberlain of LC Plants gave a talk about the ‘Life and Gardens of Gertrude Jekyll’
It was an interesting start with brief summaries of the family background. Would you believe that just a few centuries ago, in 1738, a relative of Gertrude’s, Sir Joseph Jekyll, left money in his will to reduce the national debt ? It was then onwards to look at the early influences in Gertude’s life that may have sparked her interest in gardens. The surroundings of Bramley House in Surrey, beacame a wonderful world for her to play in with her six brothers. All that play with boys and no female peers made Gertrude a bit of a tomboy, which definitely helped her stand her ground in her later years as a garden designer.
When she turned 18, Gertrude then became one of the first women to study at South Kensington School of Art. It was there where she studied not only art but also botany, anatomy and the science of colours. Gertrude also enjoyed her time with her father, looking at his scientific approach to things.
Later influenced by the likes of John Ruskin and William Morris, Gertrude started designing gardens in an Arts and Crafts style. Her close friend Edwin Lutyens often designed the houses that Gertrude would design for. This created a wonderful partnership of fluid house and gardens, with a close friendship that never bothered Edwin’s wife as Gertrude was considered one of the family.
Lesley has been lucky enough to visit some of the gardens Gertrude drew up. She showed us photographs of marvellous planting techniques and interesting dry stone pillars and paving, Some of the gardens are:
King Edward V11 Sanatorium
Munstead Wood (Gertrude’s own home, now privately owned but you may be able to visit if you write to the head gardener)
In her later years, Gertrude unfortunately had deteriorating eyesight, which made her stop certain hobbies, but she carried on designing gardens. Never married, Gertrude died in 1932 without any children but with many dear friends. Edwin Lutyens simply describer her gravestone with :
Artist Gardener Craftswoman
One more thing: when you look for pictures of this incredible woman, you’ll never see her without a hat on!