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May 29, 2024 42 mins

Gertrude Jekyll was born into a 19th-century English family of means, but her life took an unconventional path for a woman in her circumstances, and she became an iconic and legendary horticulturist.

Research:

  • Tooley, Michael. "Jekyll, Gertrude (1843–1932), artist and garden designer." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. June 08, 2023. Oxford University Press. Date of access 13 May. 2024, https://proxy.bostonathenaeum.org:2261/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-37597
  • "Gertrude Jekyll." Encyclopedia of World Biography Online, vol. 38, Gale, 2018. Gale In Context: U.S. History, link.gale.com/apps/doc/K1631010801/GPS?u=mlin_n_melpub&sid=bookmark-GPS&xid=56c7d137. Accessed 13 May 2024.
  • Gertrude Jekyll: The Official Website of the Jekyll Estate https://gertrudejekyll.co.uk/
  • Edwards, Ambra. “Gertrude Jekyll: discover the life of the remarkable garden designer and writer.” Gardens Illustrated. 5/31/2023. https://www.gardensillustrated.com/gardens/gardeners/gertrude-jekyll-life
  • Historic England. “A Brief Introduction to the Remarkable Garden Designer, Gertrude Jekyll.” 11/29/2018. https://heritagecalling.com/2018/11/29/a-brief-introduction-to-the-remarkable-gertrude-jekyll/
  • Van Valkenburgh, Michael R. “The Flower Gardens of Gertrude Jekyll and Their Twentieth-Century Transformations.” Design Quarterly , 1987, No. 137, The Flower Gardens of Gertrude Jekyll and Their Twentieth-Century Transformations. Via JSTOR. URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/4091178
  • Kehler, Grace. “Gertrude Jekyll and the Late-Victorian Garden Book: Representing Nature-Culture Relations.” Victorian Literature and Culture , 2007, Vol. 35, No. 2 (2007). https://www.jstor.org/stable/40347178
  • Arnander, Primrose. “Gertrude Jekyll.” Historic Gardens Review , Autumn 1999, No. 4 (Autumn 1999). https://www.jstor.org/stable/44791169
  • Festing, Sally. “Gertrude Jekyll.” London : Penguin. 1993.
  • Jekyll, Francis. “Getrude Jekyll: A Memoir.” Bishop Round Table. Northampton, MA. 1934.

 

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Stuff You Missed in History Class, a production
of iHeartRadio. Hello, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Tracy V.
Wilson and I'm Holly Frye. A couple of weeks ago,
I was listening to a history talk about a Gilded
Age property, and there was part about how back in

(00:24):
the nineteenth century, guests would have approached this cottage, which
was of course really a mansion on this winding road
that would give little glimpses of the estate through the trees,
and I thought, you know who. I've been meaning to
do an episode of the podcast about that British garden

(00:44):
designer who worked on all those famous estates that our
old coworker Christopher told me about that guy that had
a really funny name. I could not remember the guy's
name beyond the fact that it struck me as funny
in that moment, to be I was not in England,
I was in Massachusetts. But there were parallels to the
way this property was being described in what this guy's

(01:07):
garden designs were like. So when I got home, I
googled the following British garden designer with a funny name.
This seemed very straightforward to me, Google did not come
back with Lancelot Capability Brown, which is who I had
been thinking of. Instead, Google thought that British garden designer

(01:31):
with a funny name must mean Gertrude Jicyl, and I
got totally sidetracked on Gertrude Jicyl. And that's today's episode.
So maybe we'll come back to Capability Brown someday, not
today though today. Gertrude Jicel Gertrude Time. Gertrude Jicel was
born on November twenty ninth, eighteen forty three. She was
the fifth of seven children born to Edward Joseph Hill

(01:54):
Jicel and Julia Hammersley. This was a well established upper
middle class family lived very comfortably thanks to an assortment
of properties and investments and inheritances. Gertrude's father was a
captain in the British infantry unit known as the Grenadier Guards,
but he retired early because of his health. This family

(02:14):
is a great example of how upper middle class could
mean having a lot of money, So much money you
didn't have to work and things were fine. Yeah, and
you had a hall staff in a very big house.
When Gertrude was born the family lived in London, they
regularly visited the green park next to Buckingham Palace. She

(02:36):
later said that her earliest clearest memories of London were
of the grass and the flowers, including the dandelions, which
she really loved, but which her nurse told her were
nasty things. I have feelings you can talk about behind
the scenes. Let's do it. In eighteen forty eight, when
Gertrude was five, the family moved to an estate called

(02:57):
Bramley House in Surrey, and the children did a lot
of rambling and exploring the countryside. Because Gertrude's only sister
was seven years older than she was, her closest companions
were her brothers, too older and too younger, and she
was particularly close to her younger brother, Herbert. She later
wrote quote, it was therefore natural that I should be

(03:19):
more of a boy than a girl in my ideas
and activities, delighting to go up trees and to play
cricket and take wasps nests after dark, and do dreadful
deeds with gunpowder, and all the boy sort of things.
She was independent and high spirited, and her father called
her his little oddity. As an adult, she would simultaneously

(03:39):
defy and follow conventions about things like gender and propriety,
like climbing up ladders while wearing a billowing dress as
a male gardener down below held it steady with his
back to her. The children were educated at home with
governesses from Germany and France, and then the boys eventually
went off to boarding schools. Gertrude also spent a little

(04:01):
time at a boarding school for girls that was opened
in the area, but her parents withdrew her from that
school pretty quickly for reasons that aren't really documented. They
framed her brief time at this school as a failed experiment.
I'm wildly curious. Once all of her brothers were away
at school, Gertrude spent a lot of time left to

(04:24):
her own devices. Her parents were also both musicians, and
her father had a particular interest in science. Gertrude helped
him in his workshop, tinkering and building things, and she
learned pretty much anything the workers around her home and
the rest of Bramley would teach her, including thatching, wall building,
and how to shoe a horse. The family also hosted

(04:45):
a lot of famous and influential guests, including Michael Faraday
and Felix Mendelssohn. Growing up in a house full of
mostly boys and wandering in the woods and tinkering in
a workshop sounds like it might have been a really
boisterous existence. But Gertrude really hated noise. One day when
she was young, she came down to breakfast without her

(05:07):
boots because she had thrown them at nightingales that were
singing outside of her window and keeping her awake. She
didn't like loud dogs or loud children. A nephew later
described her as having a nervous response to noise that
was outside her control. She also liked her solitude. She
claimed the garden shed as a personal refuge, and she

(05:29):
would scatter cinders onto the path as she went out
to it because her father, who also apparently could not
abide noise, hated the sound and feel of walking on them.
This shifted a little as she got older, though she
still detested noise and avoided children and liked her solitude.
But as an adult she also had lots of friends
and took great care in maintaining those relationships. A couple

(05:53):
of years into living at Bramley, Gertrude had an almost
mystical experience looking out a stretch of yellow presses. As
an adult, she described feeling the same sensations while wandering
in a primrose wood, smelling the fragrance of the flowers
and feeling the warm spring air. Quote when I see
and feel and hear all this for a moment, I

(06:15):
am seven years old again, and wandering in the fragrant wood,
hand in hand with the dear God who made it,
who made the child's mind to open wide and receive
the enduring happiness of the gracious gift. So as by
direct divine teaching, the impression of the simple sweetness of
the primrose wood sank deep into the childish heart and laid,

(06:38):
as it were, a foundation stone of immutable belief that
a father in heaven who could make all this, could
make even better if he would when the time should
come that his children should be gathered about him. So
it's pretty obvious that Gertrude was really interested in flowers
and gardens and nature as a child. She also had

(06:58):
a fondness for science and music and art. In eighteen
sixty one, at the age of eighteen, she enrolled at
the National School of Art in the South Kensington district
of London. One of her classmates was Susan Mery Mackenzie,
who became a lifelong friend. Today this is the Royal
College of Art and it had been founded in eighteen
thirty seven as the Government School of Design, and its

(07:21):
courses included a focus on both art and design. After
enrolling at the school, Jiegeles spent her time between studying
art in London and enjoying the countryside in Surrey, and
in both places she was always really active and really busy.
She also started traveling, including a trip to the Mediterranean
with Charles and and Mary Newton in eighteen sixty three.

(07:44):
Charles was an archaeologist and keeper of Greek and Roman
antiquities at the British Museum, and Mary was an artist.
Gertrude and Mary's friendship was sadly cut short when Mary
died of measles in eighteen sixty six at the age
of thirty three. During this trip, Ortrude really fell in
love with the gardens and plant life around the Mediterranean,

(08:04):
and she started collecting samples to send back home and
try to grow there. Of course, this is a fairly
common practice at this point, even though it could be
destructive to the ecosystems that the plants were being taken from,
and it's something that Jicyle continued to do as botanists
and horticulturists became more vocally critical of the practice in
later decades. Yeah, obviously, some of these plants also can

(08:28):
be in damative Yeah, in other places they're introduced to.
In eighteen sixty five, Jekle was exhibiting her artwork at
places like the Royal Academy and the Society of Female Artists.
This artwork has not been the subject of as much
study as her gardens, though, because a lot of it
was in family collections and largely out of the public

(08:50):
eye until the nineteen nineties or later. Like, I read
a biography of her that was written prior to this
that was like, well, we don't know what any of
her art looks like, and then I found scans of
a lot of it. A lot of her study of
art included copying other artists' master works, and she was

(09:11):
reportedly a very good copyist. Some of her copies still
exist and are in the collection of the Godalming Museum.
There were also times when her instructors used her artwork
as a reference or as an example for other students.
Art critic and polymath John Ruskin described her painting Yahoo
driving Furiously as quote very wonderful and interesting and for

(09:34):
a while that was all anybody had to go on.
Did not know what it looked like, but now you
can see a picture of it online. Jicel was always
very fond of cats, and there is a painting of
her cat Thomas as the character of Puss and Boots
in the collection of the Godalming Museum as well. Some
of her work is also in the collection of the

(09:56):
Surrey History Center. Jicyle finished her painting of Tom as
the Cat in eighteen sixty five, and that same year
her sister Caroline known as Carrie, got married. The departure
of her only sister from the household meant that Gertrude
was expected to take up a bigger share of the
domestic work, and this seems to have been really hard

(10:16):
for her. The Jeagles were a close knit family, but
Gertrude also had interests of her own. She was more
interested in studying art than trying to run a household,
and her sister's marriage also emphasized that the expectation was
for Gertrude, who was aged twenty two at this point
to marry as well. She seems to have spent more

(10:36):
of her time in London after her sister's marriage, perhaps
to try to get away from those expectations. In eighteen
sixty eight, the Jakle family moved from Bramley House in
Surrey to Wargrave Hill in Berkshire. This was a property
that had been passed down through the family and it
had become vacant after the death of a tenant. Even

(10:56):
though Gertrude had not been living at Bramley House full time,
she was really sad to leave it. She had fallen
in love with the landscape of Surrey and she just
wasn't as fond of Berkshire. However, this move did give
her a new creative outlet. She was tasked with redecorating
the house, with her parents seeing it as a way

(11:18):
to encourage her creative side, and this involved everything from
sourcing furniture and decorative objects to designing draperies and wall
coverings for the house herself. We'll get in some more
on that after a sponsor break. We said earlier that

(11:42):
Gertrude Jeekles's family was comfortable and well respected comfortable means
pretty rich, though, This meant that there were a lot
of prominent visitors to their home at Wargrave Hill, people
who took notice of the work that she had done
on its interior design. Soon other people were asking her

(12:03):
for her help and redecorating their own homes. This included
Hugh Grovener, first Duke of Westminster, who asked Jekyll to
decorate Eton Hall, which had been newly rebuilt under architect
Alfred Waterhouse. The Duke wrote to her that quote, I
don't see how without your advice it can ever be
satisfactorily accomplished. This was paid work, which meant that it

(12:26):
had to be handled delicately. It was not considered appropriate
for a woman of Jicyll's economic class to work or
to present herself as having a profession, and she got
around this by describing herself as an amateur, which also
meant that she was paid much less than a man
of comparable ability would have been paid. It also helped
that much of this work was done for friends and

(12:48):
acquaintances who heard about her work by word of mouth
or just by visiting one of the homes she had decorated.
Other clients for her interior decoration and design work included
Queen Victoria's daughter, Princess Louise, and artists Frederick Layton and
Hercules Brabazon. Brabazon was another of Jekle's lifelong friends, and
through the eighteen sixties and seventies she made connections to

(13:11):
a lot of other British artists and artisans. This included
William Morris, who she visited for the first time in
eighteen sixty nine. Morris was a social reformer, a poet,
an artist, and a designer whose work included textiles and wallpapers.
Morris was a key figure in the Arts and crafts
movement in Britain. This was an esthetic and reform movement

(13:33):
that developed in response to the Industrial Revolution and a
perception that mechanization and industrialization had led to a proliferation
of unattractive and badly made goods. The Arts and crafts
movement focused on making things by hand and doing it well.
Many in the movement also advocated for the idea of
the unity of the arts, that there really was no

(13:55):
distinction between fine art and decorative art. It all required
skill and care, hair and craftsmanship, and all of it
brought beauty into the world. Yeah, there's a big focus
on creating should be joyful and it all matters. Uh.
That choked me up to say. Gertrude Jiegel had a
lot of connections to the arts and crafts movement, and

(14:17):
these ideas had a big influence on her work. She
incorporated a lot of handcrafted pieces into her interior designs,
and she learned to make a lot of different things herself.
She had a particular focus on painting and embroidery, but
she also learned skills like metalwork, wood carving, gilding, inlaying,

(14:37):
and embossing, and she practiced all of this in a
workshop she set up for herself at home. She was
just continually learning how to do new things and then
finding ways to incorporate any new skill that she learned
into her other creative work. She also made an ongoing
study of the world around her and how people were
using decorative objects and archetecl ure and design. Some of

(15:02):
this was actually difficult because of her eyesight. She had myopia,
so nearby objects were clear, but objects farther away were blurry,
and she wore heavy eyeglasses with steel rims to correct
her vision as much as possible. Even though her close
up vision was clearer, doing fine detail work caused her
a lot of eye stream, and the changes in her

(15:24):
vision were also progressive, so this was something that she
was often very worried about. In addition to all her
study and design work, Jicyle continued to travel, including a
trip through France, Italy and Algiers that lasted for more
than five months. She set out in September of eighteen
seventy two when she was twenty nine. And Algiers she

(15:45):
was once again struck by the plant life, particularly these
large architectural plants that were used as focal points in
some of the gardens. She continued to make things as
she traveled, particularly during the coldest part of the winter months,
when she and her companions were spending more of their
time indoors, and she painted and sketched the people and

(16:06):
places she saw. Jigel had always been interested in plants
and gardening, and she started to focus more on that
after returning from this trip. At some point she had
started redesigning the gardens around Wargrave Manor. She was also
working with the plants that she had gathered, both from
her trips to other countries and from the countryside around

(16:27):
where she lived, propagating them, breeding them, and working to
develop improved cultivars. In eighteen seventy five, Jigell visited Irish
gardener and journalist William Robinson at his office. Robinson had
published books on gardening, including Alpine Flowers for Gardens and
The Wild Garden. He had also established a weekly journal

(16:49):
called The Garden four years before. At this point, Gertrude
was interested in gardening and garden design, and she wanted
to learn more. Her visit with Robinson marked the start
of a friendship that would turn into a professional relationship
six years later, when Jeekles started contributing articles of her
own to The Garden. In eighteen seventy six, Gertrude's father,

(17:11):
Edward died, Her mother, Julia, decided to return to Surrey,
although not to Bramley House. For one, it wasn't available,
but even if it had been, the family was a
lot smaller now. In addition to their father's death, Gertrude's
three other siblings had all gotten married and moved into
homes of their own. Julia decided to have a new

(17:31):
house built to her specifications, and she commissioned architect John
James Stevenson. While the house was being built, the family
lived in a house in Bramley Village. Their new home,
known as Munstead House, was in Munstead Heath, and Gertrude
designed the gardens. She had already started to think of
gardens as works of art, and now she works toward

(17:54):
applying everything she had learned about art and design so
far in her life to her designs for the gardens.
This was something that developed over the course of Jekyll's
career as a landscape designer and architect. She really learned
by doing observing the plants and keeping careful notes on
how they grew and what they did. Year after year.

(18:15):
She incorporated color theory into her designs, including the colors
of flowers and of their foliage. The colors of her
gardens typically moved from cool to warm and back again,
and they were intentionally planted to change with the seasons,
with the plant's life cycles being a part of how
the garden looked and grew. So, for example, if a
flowering plant typically withered and died back after it bloomed,

(18:38):
she might plant it alongside ferns that would conceal those
fading stems, or she might plan for potted plants to
fill in the spaces left by plants that died back
later in the season. One of the garden elements that
Jingle became really known for was her herbaceous borders. These
are long stretches of beds that ran along things like

(18:59):
walls or paths, typically not much wider than the gardener's
arms reach, to make things easier to maintain. She of
course did not invent the idea of herbaceous borders. People
had been planting things alongside walls and paths for as
long as they had been gardening. But she did put
a lot of thought into the use of color and

(19:21):
texture in these borders and the sizes and shapes of
the plants. It wasn't just about the flowers looking pretty.
She used color, space, and texture to create a sense
of perspective and distance, the way a painter can use
light and color and shadow to create a sense of
depth and dimension in a painting. Sometimes she used a

(19:43):
lot of different flowering plants to get the effect she
was looking for here, so, especially when it came to
very large gardens with a lot of borders, this was
something that required a whole team of gardeners to maintain.
Within a few years, Jekyl was applying this philosophy of
gardening to property of her own. She purchased about six

(20:03):
hectares that's almost fifteen acres of Munstead Wood across the
street from her mother's home. She made that purchase in
eighteen eighty two. She knew that when her mother died,
her brother Herbert would be the one inheriting the house,
and since he had recently gotten married, he would be
moving in with his family. Gertrude was not married. There's
really no record of her ever having a romantic relationship

(20:26):
with anyone, at least not in material that's publicly available,
so she needed to plan for a house of her own.
She didn't get started on the house right away, though,
She gardened in Munstead Wood, planning around a space where
a house would eventually go. By this point, Jkyl was
publishing articles about gardening in William Robinson's journal, The Garden

(20:47):
and in other publications. As the changes in her eyesight
continued to progress, she also became an avid photographer, taking
pictures of the plants end of her gardens. She used
these as illustrations for her work. She developed these pictures
herself in her own dark room, and it's estimated that
between eighteen eighty five and eighteen eighty eight she took

(21:08):
at least nine hundred photographs intended for publication. That doesn't
sound like many when we how have phones that have
cameras on them and we can take nine hundred pictures
of a cat in a day. These were like film
pictures that were developed and prepared. In eighteen eighty nine,

(21:30):
Jikell meant architect Edwin Lutians, who, at the age of twenty,
was just starting his career. They meant for the first
time when Jicel was having tea with a neighbor, Henry Mangles.
Jikkel and Lutiens became friends and collaborators for years. There
was both a partnership and a mentoring relationship, with the
much younger Lutians referring to Jicyl as ant bumps, and

(21:52):
Jikyl connecting him to potential clients for his architecture work.
In eighteen ninety one, at the age of forty eight,
Jikel went to an eye doctor because she was concerned
about the changes in her eyesight and she was also
having a lot of headaches. The doctor advised her to
give up things like painting and embroidery that required close
up detail work. She did continue to do all of

(22:16):
these things for the rest of her life, and she
was an avid reader, but she had to limit her
time with this kind of close up focused work. She
instead became increasingly dedicated to gardening rather than to other
arts and crafts, and her words quote, when I was young,
I was hoping to be a painter, but to my
lifelong regret, I was obliged to abandon all hope of

(22:39):
this on account of my extreme and always progressive myopia.
We're going to talk about more about her gardening and
her collaborations with architect Edwin Lutiens after a sponsor break.

(23:00):
Gertrude Jeekle's first home at Munstead Wood was known as
the Hut and it was designed by Edwin Ludiens in
eighteen ninety four. This was a single story home with
whitewashed walls and an oak beam roof covered in simple tile,
and she seems to have genuinely loved it. At the
same time, though, this was always meant to be a

(23:20):
temporary home, and when her mother died the next year,
getting into a bigger house became more urgent. The construction
site for this bigger house, which she called Munstead Wood,
was inside of the hut, just basically right next to it,
and she was fascinated by the whole building process. This
Tudor inspired home was finished in eighteen ninety seven, and

(23:43):
the house and everything in it were inspired by the
principles of the arts and crafts movement. It was made
from local stone and timbers and built by local crafts people,
and she meant for it to look as though it
had grown from the gardens, and it was built to
suit her needs and interests. There were seven bedrooms, including
her room, guest rooms and bedrooms for her staff, as

(24:04):
well as a dark room, a workshop, a writing room,
and a flower shop meaning a workshop for flowers. By
the time Munsteadwood was finished, Jikyle had become widely recognized
for her work in gardening and horticulture. In eighteen ninety seven,
she was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honor by the
Royal Horticultural Society. This was Britain's highest horticultural award and

(24:27):
she was the first woman to be so honored. In
eighteen ninety nine, she published her first book, Wood and
Garden Notes, and thoughts practical and critical of a working amateur.
About a third of this book was expanded from a
column called Notes from Garden and Woodland that Jicele had
published in The Guardian over the previous few years. Most

(24:47):
of the photographs were ones that she took herself in
her own gardens. The book was based on her own
experiences at Munsteadwood and it was full of practical advice
for gardeners. The first twelve chapters are arranged by the
months of the year, covering flowers that bloom during those months,
as well as garden tasks that need to be handled

(25:10):
by the season. After the month by month chapters are
ones for things like large and small gardens, beginning and learning, colors, scents, weeds,
and other more general topics. There's a chapter titled the
Worship of False Gods and she discusses how the popularity
of gardening had led to a big focus on what

(25:31):
she calls florists flowers, that is, the kinds of flowers
that have their own societies and shows, like tulips, dahlia's
and chrysanthemums. But quote I do most strongly urge that
beauty of the highest class should be the aim and
not anything of the nature of fashion or fancy, and

(25:53):
that every effort should be made towards the raising, rather
than lowering of the standard of taste. Jigell wrote this
book in the midst of a huge division in the
world of British gardening, sometimes described as hard or soft,
or the formal school versus the free school, broadly speaking,
on the free school side was William Robinson, who Jicel

(26:15):
wrote for, who thought that gardens should be wild and
that the plants should be the focus. And on the
formal side were John's Setting and Reginald Blomfield, who thought
that a garden is an extension of the house and
should follow the principles of architecture and rules of design
that a house should follow, with the garden itself more
formal and tightly defined. Again, broadly speaking, the free school

(26:38):
had a focus on flowering plants, while the formal school
emphasized features like topiaries and neatly trimmed hedges. Jigel was
really somewhere in between these two schools. She definitely thought
the house and the garden should work together, and this
was really a big part of what drove her ongoing
collaborations with Edwin Lutien's her gardens, though, often had very

(27:01):
carefully planned elements that had a very free or almost
wild look about them, like imagine the English country garden
that just seems to have a profusion of all kinds
of different flowering plants. But this was in a structure
of more formally defined paths and features. These approaches to

(27:23):
gardening were hotly debated through the eighteen nineties, and Jicyl
wrote in eighteen ninety six quote within the last few years,
just such another war of controversy has raged between the
exponents of formal and the free styles of gardening. And
again it is to be regretted that it has taken
a somewhat bitter and personal tone. The formal army has

(27:44):
hurled javelins, poisoned with the damning epithet vulgar. The free
has responded with asseguyes imbued with an equally irritating ignorant
Both are right and both are wrong. Throughout all of this,
Gertrude Jekyl was busy over the course of her career
as a landscape architect and garden designer. She designed or

(28:05):
consulted on at least four hundred gardens about one hundred
of them as collaborations with Edward Lutien's. Their work together
was hugely influential within the arts and crafts movement and
in setting trends of what English houses and gardens were
supposed to look like. She was writing books and articles,

(28:26):
including a gardening book for children in nineteen oh two,
which she did in spite of her general dislike of
how loud they were. In nineteen oh four she also
published a book called Old West Surrey, documenting what life
had been like in that part of England in the
second half of the nineteenth century. She was also a
really avid observer of life and a collector of ordinary

(28:50):
objects related to country life. She donated a lot of
this collection to the Surrey Archaeological Society in nineteen oh seven.
Nineteen oh four, Jikyl did her work almost entirely by correspondents.
She made her last visit to London that year, and
after that she rarely left home. She would write letters

(29:11):
with sketches and thorough descriptions of the plan, using vellum
overlays to add her notations to architectural plans and other designs.
In the early twentieth century, Jekle established a commercial Plant
Nursery at Munsteadwood to make sure that she always had
the plants she would need for a client's designs, and
to discourage the gardeners who would actually be building and

(29:34):
maintaining those gardens from making substitutions. She ran this nursery
until nineteen thirty two, and she continued working on her
own breeds of plants during that whole time. She was
also part of the movement for women's suffrage. She was
elected Vice president of the Godalming branch of the National
Union of Women's Suffrage Societies in nineteen oh nine. One

(29:56):
of her surviving works of embroidery is a banner that
she made for the society. World War One marked a
shift in Jeekle's life and work. A lot of her
writing about gardening was meant to be practical and accessible
to anybody who had a little patch of green space
to grow things in, and some of her design commissions
were for spaces as small as individual window boxes, But

(30:20):
a lot of her commissions were for the types of
estates that had a whole gardening staff. This included her
own home at munstead Wood, which had a staff of
at least ten gardeners. The exact number is not really
clearly documented. It also seems like she had some critics
who just intentionally inflated their estimates of how many gardeners

(30:43):
she was employing to make it seem like the things
she was advocating were totally out of reach. During World
War One and later the Great Depression, people had less
money and other priorities than paying for garden labor. In
the wake of a bunch of social and economic changes,
a lot of Britain's stately mansions and country estates were

(31:05):
also no longer occupied or no longer employing a giant
paid staff. Jikle worried that she might have to give
up munstead Wood, but she got a donation from the
Garden Club of America that helped her keep going. She
also started keeping chickens during the war, which continued after
it was over. She planted more food crops at munstead Wood,

(31:27):
and she wrote about how other people might do the
same in their kitchen gardens. She also organized collections of
sphagnum moss, which was used as a surgical dressing because
of its antimicrobial and absorptive properties. Flowers from Jicyl's nursery
were sent to the continent to be used at burial
sites for Allied soldiers after the end of the war.

(31:48):
In nineteen twenty, Edward Lytiens convinced Gertrude Jekyl to sit
for a portrait, something she was really reluctant to do.
She had never really been fond of her body or
her appearance, to the point that she called herself unpaintable.
She also had so much to do during the day,
and she just refused to lose any daylight hours sitting

(32:09):
for a portrait, so William Nicholson painted her by lamplight
in the evenings. Nicholson spent some of his time during
the day painting a still life of her well worn
men's balmeral boots, which she wore for gardening. One source
that Tracy used in this episode said she had acquired
these boots all the way back in eighteen eighty three,

(32:30):
and they were definitely well worn. She said in a
nineteen hundred letter quote, no carpenter likes a new plane.
No house painter likes a new brush. It is the
same with clothes. The familiar ease can only come of
use and better acquaintance. I suppose no horse likes a
new collar. I am quite sure I do not like
new boots. The painting of the boots is in the

(32:52):
collection of the Tate Museum today, and the boots themselves
are in the collection of the Guildford Museum. The portrait
is on display in the National port Gallery in London.
By the time this portrait was painted, Jicyl was in
her late seventies and was spending one day each week
resting in bed. On the advice of a doctor, she
chose Sunday as her day of rest. Her other days

(33:15):
were tightly scheduled to allow her to both work and
recover from working. But she was generally opposed to various
labor saving devices that were introduced in the early twentieth
century that might have made her work in the gardens
a little less tiring. She was set in her ways
in this aspect. She did, however, get a radio the

(33:37):
year she turned eighty. Jkyl was awarded the Royal Horticultural
Society's Viitch Gold Medal in nineteen twenty nine for quote
persons of any nationality who have made an outstanding contribution
to the advancement and improvement of the science and practice
of horticulture. In nineteen thirty, at the age of eighty six,
she wrote forty articles for Gardening Illustrated, even though she

(34:01):
said she couldn't see her own handwriting anymore. By this point,
she was no longer able to create huge garden plans,
but she still took commissions for flower boarders. Her doctor
ordered rest and perfect quiet during her off hours to
allow herself to continue working. In the last summer of
her life, Jekles started using a wheelchair, which was given

(34:23):
to her by Edwin Lutiens, and she really loved the
mobility that she had reclaimed with it. Gertrude's brother, Herbert,
died on September twenty ninth, nineteen thirty two. She had
been the closest to him of her siblings, and they
had by this point been neighbors for decades. It seems
like she approached the deaths of other family members in
a fairly stoic way, but Herbert's loss was particularly hard.

(34:48):
Gertrude died a few months later, on December eighth, nineteen
thirty two, at the age of eighty nine. She died
in the arms of her maid, Florence Hayter, who had
worked with her since nineteen oh six. Her last words
were reportedly peace, perfect peace in Jesus Christ. Gertrude Jiceyl
was buried at Buzbridge Church near Gadalming. Edwin Lutiens designed

(35:11):
her grave marker and a family monument. The family monument
describes her and her brother Herbert as quote longtime dwellers
in their homes at Munstead, who passed their rest in
the autumn of nineteen thirty two. Their joy was the
work in their hands. Their memorial is the beauty which
lives after them. Herbert's widow, Agnes, was buried with them

(35:31):
after she died in nineteen thirty seven, and the memorial
also reads quote also of Agnes Jgel, whose spirit ever
dwelt in loving kindness. Gertrude's individual gravestone, also designed by Lutiens,
reads artist, gardener, craftswoman. Jigel remembered four household staff members
and her will, including Florence Hayter, and left the rest

(35:53):
of her estate to Agnes. The family sold most of
the estate to raise money for the Red Cross relief
effort during World War II. Many of Jekyll's papers and
garden designs were bought by landscape architect Beatrix farrand Farand
and her mother had visited Jekyl from the United States
during her lifetime, and Farrand was deeply inspired by Jekyll's work.

(36:17):
After Faran's death, these materials were left to the University
of California at Berkeley. Many of Jekyll's notebooks are in
the collection of the Gottalmy Museum, which also has copies
of a lot of these materials that are in the
collection at UC Berkeley. During her lifetime, Jekyl published fourteen
books along with well over one thousand articles. She produced

(36:40):
six volumes of photo notebooks containing roughly two thy one
hundred images, many intended for use in her own publications,
and they're arranged chronologically, beginning in eighteen eighty six and
ending in nineteen fourteen with Britain's declaration of war on Germany.
She developed at least thirty strains of plants, and she
sent sea eds to various botanical gardens with the hope

(37:02):
that they would be preserved. Many of her strains no
longer survive. Some that do include a Columbine known as
Munstead White Munstead Lavender, a love in a miss known
as Miss Jicyle, and Gertrude Jicylvinca minor. There's also an
Old World rose named for her, but it's named in
her honor, not one of her breeds. Yeah. I think

(37:23):
one of the sources that I read said that six
of her strains still survived out of roughly thirty or
so that she created. Jicyl designed more than four hundred
gardens during her career. As we've said, most of these
are in the UK, but some are in other parts
of Europe. There are thirty two gardens associated with her
on England's National Heritage List today, and a few of

(37:46):
them either were maintained with her design or are being
restored to her design. These include the gardens at Munstead,
Linda's Farn Castle, Hestercombe, and the Old manor House at
Upton Gray. There is one remaining garden in the United
States of the three that she designed, and that's at

(38:06):
the Old Glebe House Museum in Woodbury, Connecticut, which commissioned
the garden from her in nineteen twenty six. You can't
get there from here on the train, but I have
this on my list of like a sometime future Connecticut
field trip. In twenty seventeen, Jekyl was honored with a
Google Doodle for her one hundred and seventy fourth birthday.

(38:28):
Just last year, in twenty twenty three, the UK National
Trust acquired Munstead Wood, which is currently undergoing restoration. We'll
end with a couple of quotes from her work that
I just found very dear. Quote the first purpose of
a garden is to be a place of quiet beauty,
such as will give delight to the eye and repose
and refreshment to the mind. That was from a Gardener's Testament,

(38:52):
which she wrote toward the end of her life. The
other is from Wood and Garden quote the size of
a garden has very little to do with its merit.
It is merely an accident relating to the circumstances of
the owner. It is the size of his heart and
brain and goodwill that will make his garden either delightful
or dull, as the case may be, and either leave

(39:13):
it at the usual monotonous dead level, or raise it
in whatever degree may be, towards that of a work
of fine art. As Gertrude Jekyl. She's a delight. I'm
quite fond of her. Yeah, do you have a listener? Mail? Also,
I do you have a listener? Mail listener mail about

(39:33):
Humphrey Davy. This email is from Larry, and Larry wrote
to say, I thoroughly enjoyed your podcast and have learned
some interesting things. I'm about an episode behind in real time,
but appreciate your podcast and my rotation. As a young
man in the early nineteen eighties, I worked in the
coal mines to put myself through mechanical engineering at the

(39:54):
University of Missouri Ralan now Missouri S and T. It
appears that Davy won out in the long run. We
used safety lamps to supplement the electronic methane monitor of
the day, which would false alarm occasionally, and we're mounted
on the machinery, being too heavy to carry. The safety
lamps in use were proudly tagged with a coined brass

(40:17):
label stating Davy Safety Lamp. To miners of the day,
the visual feedback of the flame was much more comforting
than an electronic black box. The safety lamp readily detected
two of the three damps terms still use today. Firedamp,
as you pointed out in the pod, is methane, which
caused the flame to grow and become more blue. Black

(40:41):
damp is poor oxygen content in the atmosphere, causing a shorter,
more yellow flame or in extreme cases, an extinguished flame.
The third ist white damp, which could be detected by
an experienced miner using the lamp and the symptoms of exposure.
Often the lowest effective technology is most helpful. Here's my
obligatory pet photo. Here is Cole. He turns one this week.

(41:06):
Cole is a very very like. I see a lot
of people posting pictures of black cats with the note
that they are avoid This is a dog void of
just inky, solid black coat on this dog within the
first picture a very happy, long tongue panting expression. Second

(41:30):
picture just sacked out next to the door. Love it,
I love it. So thank you so much Larry for this.
Larry ended upy saying today is writing out a thunderstorm
with a tornado warning. So thank you so much Larry
for sending this, for thanking us for our hard work.
If you'd like to send us a note, where at
History Podcasts at iHeartRadio dot com and you can subscribe

(41:54):
to the show on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you
like to get your podcasts. Stuff you missed in History
Class is a production of iHeartRadio. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio,
visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple podcasts, or wherever you listen
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