The Literary Garden – Famous Gardeners

Part 2 of my powerpoint presentation on books and gardening.

John Beverley Nichols (September 9, 1898 – September 15, 1983), was an English writer, playwright, actor, novelist and composer.

Between his first novel published in 1920 and his last in 1982 he wrote over 60 books and plays on topics such as travel, politics, religion, cats, novels, mysteries and children’s stories. He is perhaps best remembered, for his gardening books, the first of which Down the Garden Path, This best seller — which has had 32 editions and has been in print almost continuously since 1932 — was the first of his trilogy about Allways, his Tudor thatched cottage in Glatton, Cambridgeshire.

Another trilogy written between 1951 and 1956 documents his travails in renovating Merry Hall, a Georgian manor house in Agates Lane, Ashtead, Surrey, where he lived from 1946 to 1956, and its gardens.

Vita Sackville-West, The Hon Lady Nicolson (March 9, 1892 – June 2, 1962) was an English poet, novelist and gardener. She helped create her own gardens in Sissinghurst, Kent which provide the backdrop to Sissinghurst Castle. She was famous for her exuberant aristocratic life, her strong marriage, and her passionate affairs.

Sissinghurst’s garden was created in the 1930s. Although Sissinghurst was derelict, they purchased the ruins and the farm around it and began constructing the garden we know today. The layout by Nicolson and planting by Sackville-West were both strongly influenced by the gardens of Gertrude Jekyll.

Gertrude Jekyll, (November 29, 1843 – December 8, 1932) Garden designer and prolific writer on gardens and gardening. She wrote 13 books and over 1,000 published articles, as well as leaving over 2,000 plans for some 250 gardens. Her name is associated with the development of herbaceous borders, arranged and grouped in individual colors (i.e. ‘gold’ borders composed entirely of material in various shades of yellow and orange). Jekyll’s influence is still strong, fuelled by her powerfully evocative writing in such books as Wood and Garden, Old West Surrey, and Colour in the Flower Garden. Examples of her gardens such as Hestercombe (Somerset) and Upton Grey (Hampshire) have been restored, as have parts of her own much-loved garden at Munstead Wood in Surrey.


Gertrude Jekyll started as an artist, studying painting under William Morris and John Ruskin, leaders of the Arts and Crafts Movement. One aspect of this movement involved the concept of unity of the arts. When Gertrude settled in Munstead, she became enamored with garden design and incorporated the Arts and Crafts movement into her borders. She advocated a naturalistic design, using large, asymmetrical sweeps of herbaceous borders, for a less formal look then had previously been used.

Miss Jekyll was an expert of garden color. In her own garden at Munstead, the Grey Garden was celebrated for its subtlety and grace. Miss Jekyll had written of color, which applied perfectly to her own Munstead creation. “The grey garden is so called because most of its plants have grey foliage, and all the carpeting and bordering plants are grey or whitish. The flowers are white, lilac, purple and pink.


She designed borders so they could be appreciated at 4 levels. From a distance, the border appears as a single colorful panorama within a frame of leafy trees and shrubs. Seen across the lawn, the border occupies the whole field of vision creating a picture with the cool colors at the ends enhancing the bright warm colors in the middle. As the visitor comes closer and walks along the borders, its various sections are seen in turn and in greater detail; each portion becomes a picture in itself. Finally, as the visitor arrives at the border, there are the small details that encourages them to stop to look closely in “contemplation”.


About Jill-O

a girl who likes lakes, trees and critters; making an attempt at living the artistic life.
This entry was posted in books, gardening, gardens, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Literary Garden – Famous Gardeners

  1. Pingback: Literary Garden – Armchair Traveler « Through the Looking Glass

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s