Gertrude Jekyll as a Plantswoman
Gertrude Jekyll collected plants from the wild in Britain, Italy, Algeria and elsewhere, selecting them for their hardiness and improving them. In her home county of Surrey, she scoured cottage gardens to find hardy plants to add to her collection. She was always on the look-out for unusual plants on her travels; no mountain or desert blunted her determination, as illustrated by an affectionate cartoon of Edwin Lutyens (right). She described her practices as follows: ‘As the collection increased I began to compare and discriminate, and of various kinds of one plant to throw out the worse and retain the better and to train myself to see what made a good garden plant’.
Often she sent specimens to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, in order to improve their chances of conservation. She developed a plant nursery, from which she supplied plants both to her garden design clients and to other gardeners. Her role as a plantswoman and operator of a garden nursery at Munstead Wood are fully documented in many of the biographies about her. Among the plants developed by her was the Munstead Poppy (left).
She won many honours for her plants; most of them have not survived, but some can still be acquired through seed merchants. Plants have also been named after her, for example the Gertrude Jekyll rose, developed by the leading British rose breeder, David Austin (right).