Gertrudy Jekyll (1843-1932) was one of the great British gardeners. It is her gardens and writings that
essentially define the British perennial garden to this day. This is the 169th anniversary of her birth in in London. Though she did travel throughout England, Europe and even the United States she spent most of her life in Surrey, England. There she built her final house and garden, Munstead Wood, with Edward Luytens, the well known architect.Most of the photographs show her as a plump old woman so it is hard to imagine her as a young woman, but she was a lively member of a large family; her nieces and nephews called her ‘Bump’.She was first a painter, but as her eyesight deteriorated she turned to gardening and garden design, which she thought of as painting with flowers. Her ideas about using color in large drifts remains important today. Her work was a part of the great Arts and Crafts movement led by William Morris.
In all she designed over 400 gardens in England, wrote over 1000 articles and several books including the most famous Colour in the Flower Garden. Her book Roses is one of the first rose books I bought.
It is no surprise that David Austin, the famous Bristish rose hybridizer named one of his roses after this great British gardener. These large, pink fragrant roses grow on a bush that can reach 10 feet. At least in England. One of Elsa Bakalar’s stories about how roses grow in Heath describe a visit her brother from England. He toured Elsa’s garden and stopped at the single rose bush and asked what variety it was. She bristled and replied, “Queen Elizabeth, of course!” He turned to her his eyebrows lifted in surprise. “Oh, I didn’t know there was a dwarf Queen Elizabeth.”