Her Lasting Achievements
Although most of them do not survive, a number of her gardens can be visited. Gertrude Jekyll’s lasting achievement is seen through her books and hundreds of articles; they were written not only with strong artistic feeling, but also with meticulous attention to detail, as can be seen from her remarks on the printer’s proof of the first edition of Old West Surrey, which is in the possession of the Surrey History Centre. Her advice is timeless, her mastery of plant culture and aesthetic observation in the garden unsurpassed. Study of her garden plans shows that they possessed infinite ingenuity and variety. From cottage to mansion, she devised appropriate rather than merely fashionable solutions; a surveyor’s grasp of line and contour, allied to understanding of colour and plants, gave distinction to her designs.
Her success led to an inevitable reaction: ‘Time to debunk the goddess’ ran a recent headline. Equally damning is the dismissive and inaccurate description of her as merely the inventor of herbaceous borders, although she made excellent use of them; many modern gardeners have used her plans to restore or design borders. Neither comment shows proper understanding of a great Victorian lady, who, in her own house and garden, her plant nursery, her garden designs and her writing, imparts practical wisdom which is still valid for the gardener and entrepreneur of today.