From the Archives of Country Life
by Judith Tankard

Publisher Arum Press (May 2011)
ISBN 978-184516246


Gertrude Jekyll is said to be our greatest and most famous garden designer but landscape historian Judith Tankard presents a wider view of her life and talents through the archives of Jekyll’s writings in Country Life magazine. Of interest to garden historians and anyone who would like to know much more about this widely talented woman, this is a book to dip into or an excellent read. Disappointingly about half the photos are in black and white, but were taken when that was the only medium available and thus give a fresh view of the gardens no longer kept up. No examples are Cornish, the nearest being Hestercombe in Somerset.

This is a large glossy book written in six chapters. The introduction outlines Jekyll’s family background to illustrate early influences. She originally trained as an artist and pursued arts, crafts, writing, gardening and design during her life. Home and Garden tells the story of the building of her own home, Munstead Wood, where she developed much of her naturalistic style. The house was designed by architect Edwin Lutyens with whom she already had a close friendship through her wide social circle.  Gardens Old and New is based on her prolific writings both for the magazine and her books, about houses and gardens which influenced her style.

Gardens for Small Country Houses chooses 13 collaborations with Lutyens.  It is said that with his mathematical skills he provided the formal geometry and she the informal texture thus bringing the essence of the Arts and Crafts style to homes. Using local materials and traditions in small-scale close collaboration produced houses and gardens where planting stayed close to the house and all angles and views were designed to enhance each other.

Colour in the Flower Garden looks at gardens designed without Lutyens and shows her talent for using texture and colour. Examples illustrate her collaboration with other architects or helping neighbours using plants from her Munstead Wood nursery. Finally a chapter on ornaments and furniture completes the Arts and Crafts style for which Jekyll was so famous.

Rachel Fisher