Gertrude Jekyll was born on November 29, 1843, at 2, Grafton Street, the fourth child and second daughter of Edward Jekyll, captain in the Grenadier Guards, and Julia, née Hammersley.
In her formative years, she rebelled against the strictness and narrowness of boarding school education but became fascinated with painting, gardening, botany and a developed a great love of nature.
After school she concentrated on gardening and attracted a range of gardeners both amateur and professional to her side as she sought to share effective gardening techniques and revive old plants and old planting ideas.
She was influenced by impressionist painters and this infused her own garden designs. She loved to use architectural plants and plant great swathes and clumps of plants to give a powerful impression of continuity. Her garden design was dominated by the planting rather than architectural props. She is said to have created over 350-400 gardens in the UK and America. Many have disappeared, but, with exisiting plans still surviving her old plans have been replanted in certain gardens. Gertrude formed an important partnership with Sir Edward Lutyens, an English architect – whom she designed many gardens for.
Gertrude had a particular fondness for old cottage garden plants and helped re-establish some sweet smelling traditional climbing roses.
Throughout her gardening career she paid little attention to passing fashions and fads and this may explain her enduring appeal. A great believer in bringing nature’s beauty and naturalness into the form of a garden.
Gertrude died aged 89 at her home in Godalming, Surry. The Times obituary of the time closed with the words:
“Gertrude Jekyll, to whom we now bid a grateful “Hail and Farewell,” sought ever for practical knowledge allied to beauty, and in that quest, whereby she may truly be said to have transfigured the gardens of England, she never grew old at heart or wearied in mind, was never discouraged by difficulty or defeated by failure, neither did she cease to share widely the fruits of her long and loving apprenticeship to Nature.”