Sunday, May 4, 2014

Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens

In 1897 Gertrude Jekyll moved to Munstead Wood, the home that would serve as her garden laboratory for the next 30 years. To design and build Munstead Wood, Jekyll hired Edwin Lutyens. Lutyens was a young up and coming architect who had a flare for gardens. Gertrude Jekyll was a skilled gardener intent on experimenting with aesthetics. Jekyll and Lutyens quickly developed a close personal friendship that evolved into a successful business partnership. The two began designing country cottages connected to intricate, colorful gardens. Jekyll and Lutyens soon developed a name for themselves as leaders in the arts and crafts movement. 

The arts and crafts movement is an artistic reaction to the industrial revolution and the horrors it produced. Therefore, gardens of this time were focused on aesthetic beauty, color theory and exotic plants. The drab, formal Victorian garden was far to contained and rigid for the arts and crafts movement. However, when it came to gardening the arts and crafts movement was divided into two competing schools of thought. On the one hand were the architects who thought that the garden was an essential part of the house and the house is designed by the architect so the garden too should be designed by the architect. On the other side of the debate were the gardeners who argued that the aesthetic of the garden is only achieved through the planting and since the gardener has an extensive knowledge of plants he should design the garden. This debate was essentially settled by Jekyll and Lutyens who combined architecture and gardening to produce an improved result.

Their style was dynamic and could change according to the style of the surrounding area. However, there are many defining characteristics of a Jekyll, Lutyens garden. Firstly, Jekyll loved to experiment with color theory. She used her time at Munstead Wood to create different configurations of herbaceous borders. In fact, she was partly responsible for the popularity of herbaceous borders in the early 20th century. She would line the edges of pathways with different flowers that would create colorful combinations. Secondly, their gardens tended to focus on aesthetic beauty and would feature bright colors and exotic plants in formal arrangements. The entire garden tended to be asymmetrical and would include different “rooms” or sectioned areas each with a different theme. Artisanship was emphasized in the architecture of the garden. Hand crafted fences and benches were common and as well as pergolas and trellises. The genius of the Lutyens, Jekyll garden was in the combination of architecture and gardening. Both Jekyll and Lutyens used their expertise to design practical, aesthetically pleasing gardens that were fully integrated into the landscape of the house. 

For more information on Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens see below:

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  1. In your opinion, do you think the architect, who Lutyens was in this specific pair, is just as important to the design of the garden as the horticulturist?

    1. Well, I haven't quite made up my mind is the problem. Both the gardener and the architect bring something entirely impossibly to quantify to the table. Their cooperation in turn improves the quality of their work. So the question therein is not so much which is more important, it is, without the combination of the two, who do you want to design your garden, the architect, or the horticulturist?