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June 2009

Rose of the Week – 'Gertrude Jekyll'


It’s one thing to know and love a rose and quite another to know and revere it’s namesake. I can’t just plunge in with glitzy photos and a few words about this particular entry. Hands down – the rose is great – in fact it’s one of David Austin's best, but Gertrude Jekyll (the woman), according to Graham Stuart Thomas, didn’t even like roses this color. However, she would have loved its growth habit. More on that later – let’s talk about the lady.


Gertrude Jekyll – An Artist First

Black-&-white-photoArtist, craftswoman, writer, gardener, garden designer, photographer, pioneer, trailblazer – all apply to this woman who lived for eighty-nine very active years, from 1843-1932. In his wonderful introduction to "Roses" by Gertrude Jekyll and Edward Mawley, Graham Thomas writes that Gertrude’s proficiency in drawing, painting, carving, gilding, inlaying, embroidery and a dozen other specialties, prepared her for impressive accomplishments throughout a life devoted to gardens and design. By 1891,  poor eyesight impeded certain artistic pursuits, which led Gertrude to concentrate more on writing, gardening, and photography. Thanks to the exquisite black and white garden and floral design images she illustrated her books with, we have a record not only of her talent as a photographer, but a wonderful record of how she felt roses should be lived with. Gertrude thought of roses as “garden furniture” and showcased their many growth habits in all her work. For more information about Gertrude Jekyll, search amazon etc... for the books by and about her. The link above is the best source for the beautifully illustrated book I have, which I highly recommend.

Above, Ms Jekyll's namesake rose in a homage to her black and white images.


Gertrude Jekyll – The Rose 


 Lovely buds are an enduring trait on a lush healthy shrub that can also be trained as a climber, and pegged to suit whatever you might have in mind. Check out how I've pegged GJ here .



My shurb faces West at the side of our house and is planted with Coleonema pulchellum 'Pink Breath of Heaven' and Spiraea thunbergii 'Ogon'. It tends to be nicely disease resistant in my San Francisco Bay Area garden.


Gertrude Jekyll in the Vase


First comes the harvest picture, then . . .



a vase shaped like a drawstring pouch. The narrow neck gathers in the stems showcasing the healthy attractive leaves. When I was done with this photo I had a few errands to run and realized I'd be seeing two people who might like a fragrant rose bouquet, so I grabbed a couple of olive jars and divided the roses.



With or without ribbon, the roses do the talking.