New Book: Gertrude Jekyll at Munstead Wood by Martin Wood & Judith Tankard

Reviewed by Christina Freyberg

As Gertrude Jekyll was so interested in the visual world it seems appropriate that this redesigned edition of a book first published in 1996 contains more of her own photographs than have been seen before (Pimpernel Press, £25). These, together with her eloquent texts, help paint a fuller picture of this remarkable garden designer, exploring her many varied interests, activities and enterprises. How she saw and responded to the world around her all came together in the creation of the setting for Munstead Wood and, with Edwin Lutyens, of the house itself — a building that became a legend even in her own lifetime.

The book touches on Munstead Wood’s various outbuildings, and how these illustrate Lutyens’s knack, even early in his career, for seamlessly knitting together old and new buildings, in this case the barn, shed, stables and main house itself. There are amusing anecdotes throughout of the many visitors to the house, from Lutyens and Lady Emily arriving for a surprise dinner with “Bumps” with supplies they all proceeded to prepare and cook, to visits from such US gardening luminaries as Mrs Francis King and Beatrix Farrand. This is a book that enriches our understanding of an extraordinary gardening writer, placing her achievements in the context of a fast-changing world.