Growing Concerns: British designer brought arts and crafts to the garden

November 26, 2018

Gertrude Jekyll was a British horticulturist, garden designer, writer and so much more. She created more than 400 gardens during her lifetime.

Gertrude was born on Nov. 29, 175 years ago, in London. She received awards from the Royal Horticultural Society and the Massachusetts Horticultural Society for her work. Her influence on garden style persists to this day.

Gertrude’s gardens created an atmosphere of timeless serenity. She was the first to consider color, texture, and the garden experience as important elements of garden design. She is known for her use of vibrant color and meticulous attention to detail.

She wrote more than 15 books, the most famous of which was “Colour in the Flower Garden.” Her theory of color was influenced by impressionism. Impressionist artists paint pictures with a lot of color.

Although Gertrude never traveled to the United States, she designed three gardens here. The gardens were in Elmhurst, Ohio, Cotswold Cottage in Greenwich, Conn., and Glebe House in Woodbury, Conn.. The gardens at Glebe house were restored in the 1990s and are open for visitors.

Gertrude created numerous landscapes for architect Edwin Lutyens’ projects. Their partnership was one of the most influential of the arts and crafts movement. The movement was a reaction against industrial mass production.

The arts and crafts movement was not long-lived, but it greatly influenced garden design. The movement borrowed the ideas of regionalism and craftsmanship from medieval times.

The movement introduced the concept of garden rooms. The larger garden was partitioned into separate rooms, each having different planting schemes, ornamentals, water features or hardscaping.

Design features in the house were reflected in the garden. Hedges were used to create the walls of the garden rooms. Tall, clipped hedges backed wide, herbaceous perennial borders. Hedging brought back the use of topiary.

Planting schemes moved away from the formal Victorian garden style and became more naturalistic or cottage style. Plants were grown in drifts, spilling over paths and edging softening the hard lines. The tapestry of perennials provided color from early spring to late autumn. Claire-voies, allée and rills were common.

A claire-voies or clearway is a gate or fence set at the end of a walk or allée. The gate or fence is openwork, providing a view to a wilder part of the garden or landscape.

Water features were understated. Linear paths and terraces were combined with mirrored water channels or rills.

The arts and crafts movement celebrated local materials and hand crafting. It was common for paths to be made from locally made brick and mirrored the brickwork used in the house. The herringbone and basket weave patterns were most commonly used.

Components of the original arts and crafts garden style include linear paths, terraces, hedges, full herbaceous perennial borders and topiary. The garden style combines formal hardscape with informal plantings.

Gertrude Jekyll was an advocate for the arts and crafts movement which replaced Victorian garden design.

Update hourly