gertrude jekyll & the country house garden

by Amy Azzarito

For a span of probably three years (before I became a teenager and everything hit the fan), I was a huge Secret Garden fan. Meaning that I basically wore out my copy of the book, and spent hot Arkansas summers dreaming of the moors, a rambling old house and an English maid to make tea. Which is why I was so excited to see this this new Gertrude Jekyll book. Gertrude Jekyll was, arguably, the most important garden designer of the 20th century. She was the gardener who popularized the informal, naturalistic look that we identify with English country gardens today like the one that Mary jumped rope through. Flipping through this book is probably as close as I’m going to get to my own Secret Garden but hey, a girl can dream. (Oh and if you’re also a Secret Garden fan, don’t miss Living In: Secret Garden) {Photographs: © Country Life Picture Library, from Gertrude Jekyll and the Country House Garden by Judith B. Tankard, Rizzoli New York, 2011 }

The garden photos continue after the jump…

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  • ahhh, so pretty! I grew up in an English country garden (literally) but not quite as ‘secret garden’ as these pictures. Now the sun had decided to pop it’s head out in England I should get my mum (a keen gardener) to send over some pics of this years progress for me to share on my blog. martine x

  • WOOOOOOOOOOOW. I have to get this. this is my dream garden… we have 5 acres to work with…… where to start?! thank you!

  • Gertrude Jekyll is the undisputed master of the Secret Garden and a great inspiration for my work. And speaking of The Secret Garden, Tasha Tudor’s private garden (illustrator of Burnett’s The Secret Garden) is just across the river from me here in Vermont. Visiting it while she was still alive was a great experience. Talk about whimsical inspiration! The books about Tasha’s garden (especially the one by Tovah Martin) are fascinating too.

  • Beautiful! I have to recommend Longwood Gardens in PA as a MUST VISIT for Design Sponge, if you haven’t already. LOVE. Its my favorite place in the world.

  • I love country style gardens, it makes me wish our lavender would hurry up and grow nice a big. Also it means I’ll have enough lavender to make lavender tea.


  • Here’s my questiong for all those omygosh fabulous! gardens and gardeners out there. The edge of my flowerbed is not flawless; it is riddled with grass. I don’t have a columbine; I have a columbine married to grass. No amount of pulling it out including the roots seems to get rid of it; and edging is practically useless. How on earth do these fabulous gardens(ers) keep the grass off and out of the edges of their beds?

  • You can visit the only US garden designed by Jekyll at the Glebe House in Woodbury, CT. It was originally installed per her plan, but the curators found that some of the plants she specified couldn’t survive in the climate and they needed to make adjustments.

  • To Twyla: turfgrass is always a problem, as it spreads by underground roots. You’re right, edging is not a perfect answer because the roots will just go under it. The answer lies in continuous maintenance. I run around my edges every week with a hoe, but the spots with plants that spill out over the edge must be dealt with by hand. Keep in mind the Jekyll gardens were designed for properties with a full-time gardening staff.

  • Amy! I too grew up in hot Arkansas summers, dreaming of English gardens and rooms filled with flowers and books! and Gertrude Jekyll has been my gardening guru for so long — I’m trying to recreate my outdoors childhoold with a Jekyll style now at my home in Hudson, New York. Christopher Lloyd, too, is a great inspiration. Progress is slow — the interiors are much further along than the garden, where mistakes proliferate.

  • You guys it’s the Keukenhof you want to visit in Holland – the largest garden in the world. I went this year too late and missed the tulip display, but it’s still the neatest place to be. It’s so much more than a garden, they have photo op displays they’ve made around every corner and there’s jungle gyms for kids…I think one was meant for adults and I tried it and almost fell in the river. hahah


  • I have a Herbert Baker home in South Africa. For a few years Gertrude lived in South Africa and worked with Baker. The garden was left in ruins when we moved in in November. I am trying to re establish it. Thanks so much these pictures are a real treat and inspiration.

  • I seriously want to get lost in those gardens! English gardens are my FAVORITE! Those are absolutely gorgeous! They make you feel as if you can wander and get lost in your own imagination there. Beautiful!

  • I grew up reading the Secret Garden, and have recently re read it as we moved house to the wilds of West Yorkshire, over looking Ilkley Moor. Every other village is Thwaite-something. Which always makes me think of Misslethwaite Manor. This book is lovely. Thank you for the reccomendation!

  • This garden is so achingly beautiful, I too have a beautiful garden but I have years to go still :-)

  • I would be interested in any information on Gertrude Jekyll’s garden design for Kildonnan Country house, Barrhill Scotland.

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