Gertrude Jekyll: The Queen of Gardens

Described as "a woman of innumerable talents," Jekyll has created over 400 gardens in the UK, Europe and the US.

    Gertrude Jekyll: The Queen of Gardens
    Hestercombe Gardens is considered one of Jekyll's most impressive gardens [Xlibber/CC]

    Described as "a woman of innumerable talents" and hailed as an icon of English garden history, Gertrude Jekyll would have been 174 on Wednesday.

    In her honour, Google is changing its logo to a doodle, or illustration, of her gardens.

    "If not for legendary horticulturist and garden designer Gertrude Jekyll, the world might be a much drabber place," Google said.

    In her lifetime, Jekyll created over 400 gardens in the UK, Europe and the United States.

    Sadly, most of her gardens are lost. A small number have been restored, including her own garden at Munstead Wood. 

    The following are two of her most impressive gardens.

    Hestercombe Gardens

    Commissioned by the Hon EWB Portman, and worked on from 1904 to 1908, Hestercombe Gardens is considered one of Jekyll's most impressive gardens, combining several gardens in one.

    The Oxford Companion to the Garden described it as "remarkable for the bold, concise pattern of its layout, and for the minute attention to detail everywhere to be seen in the variety and imaginative handling of contrasting materials, whether cobble, tile, flint, or thinly coursed local stone."

    Hestercombe Gardens, Taunton, Somerset, UK, completed in 1908. [Scott Zona/CC] 

    Munstead Wood

    Jekyll spent most of her life in Surrey, England, and later moved to Munstead Wood, where she established one of her most famous gardens.

    In 1889, she met architect Edwin Lutyens, who designed a house that fit into the garden she had already created. 

    Together they worked on many house and garden projects, developing one of the most famous partnerships in English garden history.

    Of those gardens that survive, not all are open to visit, and many are in a fragile state.

    The Summer Garden at Munstead Wood (also known as the Three Corner Garden because of its triangular shape) [Gardenvisit/Creative Commons] 

    Medals of Honour

    In 1897, the first 60 Victoria Medals of Honour were awarded by the Royal Horticultural Society to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

    Only two women were among those honoured: Jekyll, and her contemporary, Ellen Willmott.

    Jekyll was influenced by Arts and Crafts principles. She brought this perspective to her work.

    Her designs have been documented in over a dozen books and thousands of magazine articles.

    Decades later, Jekyll was awarded another of the Society's honours, the Veitch Memorial Medal.

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