Mention the name, Bret Favre, and people think football or Michelangelo, and they think art, but say, Gertrude Jekyll, and you get a blank stare, unless those people are avid gardeners, then you get wistful sighs.
Gertrude Jekyll, doyenne of late 20th century British gardening and mother of the awe-inspiring herbaceous boarders, has had a long lasting influence on modern gardens. Following the advice of doctors, Miss Jekyll gave up her passion for painting due to deteriorating eyesight. She channeled her artistic talent to the landscape with astounding results, creating some of the most beautiful gardens in England and America. The Impressionist Movement’s influence can be seen in her use of color, en-mass plantings and contrasting foliage textures. She treated the garden as a whole, with sections within, but each part complimenting the other. She also popularized the informal, naturalistic look which we equate with cottage gardens.
Gertrude Jekyll inspires me, especially when she says things like: “There is no spot of ground, however arid, bare or ugly, that cannot be tamed into such a state as may give an impression of beauty and delight”. It gives me hope for my garden.
Whether your style is the billowing boarders of Gertrude Jekyll or the symmetrical , clipped hedged parterre style of Charles Bridgeman or the majestic beauty of Fredrick Law Olmsted, designer of the Biltmore Estate, studying the designs of experts can help you pull it all together or at least help you find direction. I will never have a true Gertrude Jekyll garden, (I do not own a huge English Estate) but I can at least strive to incorporate some of her ideas into my landscaping.
More than eighty years after her death, Gertrude Jekyll’s gardens continue to influence, and the simple epitaph on her tombstone sums it up – “Artist, Gardener, Craftswoman”.