The death of her father in 1876 was followed by a move back to Surrey, which consolidated her garden design ambition. Her mother built a house on Munstead Heath, near Godalming. Gertrude’s success in designing the garden was such that, by 1880, horticultural experts were beating a path to her door, in order to see her work.
Her attitude towards garden design was influenced by Arts and Crafts principles, absorbed from John Ruskin (pictured) and William Morris. A sympathetic relationship between house and surroundings was vital; each individual plant should be studied for culture, habit, foliage and colour to achieve a practical, beautiful and appropriate effect. The garden should reveal unexpected views and pictorial surprises.
In his book The Wild Garden, published in 1870, William Robinson advocated a break from the accepted Victorian garden, he favoured more freedom in planting and a wider choice of plants, to give a picturesque and natural appearance. Gertrude agreed and they became close friends, she collaborated with him on The English Flower Garden, published in 1883 and on the house which he bought in 1884, Gravetye Manor, Sussex.