Gertrude Jekyll's 5 tips to make any garden look great

The gardener and subject of today's Google Doodle was born on this day in 1843
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Munstead Wood
Munstead Wood

Munstead Wood was a horticultural experimentation centre for the famous English 19th century gardener, pioneering spirit and subject of today's Google Doodle, Gertrude Jekyll, whose gardens feature among the 250 plus designs in our book The Gardener’s Garden.

 

The Google Doodle marking Gertrude Jekyll's 174th birthday. Image courtesy of Google
The Google Doodle marking Gertrude Jekyll's 174th birthday. Image courtesy of Google

After creating a huge sprawling outdoor laboratory of plantlife, Jekyll commissioned the young Edwin Lutyens to design the house in Munstead Wood that she would live in while continuing her plant life explorations. It was the start of a fruitful partnership that would come to define the accepted notion of home and garden.

We asked Munstead Wood’s head gardner, Annabel Watts, for five Gertrude Jekyll rules to help even the greenest novice gardener. This is what she said: 

 

Munstead Wood
Munstead Wood

USE COLOUR Even the colour of say, barrels you're putting plants in. Jekyll recommended a colour called 'invisible green' - just a green that sort of retreats into the background, one that’s not an eyesore. 

BUT WHITE'S ALL RIGHT It's OK to focus on just one colour. If it’s white, as it was with Miss Jekyll, you have a natural look that also gives a great feeling of serenity. In Munstead Wood you can see the remnants of the white Foxglove she bred here. If any pink ones appear we pull them out. The white Foxgloves reflect the silver birches that are prominent around the woodland. She chose to have a lot more birches than were grown naturally here, purely because the white shows up against the green background.

LOSE THE LABELS Jekyll couldn’t bear them. She hated seeing plants with labels sticking out of the ground. She always said if you must have a label, drive it right down into the ground. As soon as you've done that you’ll be surprised at how seldom you have to refer to it anyway.

 

Munstead Wood
Munstead Wood

ROLL AWAY THE STONE But, she said, if you absolutely have to label something (underneath, say, an apple tree) she would have a natural stone, and, in white paint she would just put the name underneath it so that she always knew the type or variety of apples above. Again, it’s all about nature - or back to nature - with Jekyll.

ABOVE ALL, THINK! Don’t just go and buy plants just because you like them - give thought to them. Make sure you put them in a place where they will thrive -  otherwise it’s pointless choosing that particular plant.

 

Munstead Wood
Munstead Wood

The Gardener’s Garden is the ultimate garden book - both a collection of gardens from around the world and a resource for those seeking inspiration on garden design and planting. Featuring over 250 permanent gardens by leading garden designers, horticulturalists and landscape architects, from the 14th century to the present day, and covering all key types and styles of garden, it features images, text and key information for each of the featured gardens which will appeal to both amateur and pro gardeners and garden designers alike. Learn more about it here. And if The Japanese Garden is more your think we have that covered too with Sophie Walker's new book. Another great Christmas present for garden lovers. 


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