Take a garden on the wild side

The owner of the only remaining fully-intact garden made by the designer Gertrude Jekyll, Ros Wallinger knows her subject inside out.

Raised in rural Surrey in the 1840s, Jekyll was an independent-minded tomboy in her youth. She was allowed to wander the lanes and villages of the Surrey Hills which perhaps explains her appreciation for the building craft in this most hilly, wooded of counties.

Jekyll’s garden design at Upton Grey Manor in north Hampshire is notable for the carving out of two distinct zones: a tamed and an untamed garden, one on either side of the house. She carried out the design when she was in her early 60s, at the height of her creative powers.

Ros has done a valiant job of restoring and then maintaining each part to a high standard.

I have to say that my preference is towards the wild garden. It is a loose, naturalistic fusion of shrubs, trees and understorey planting. Unlike the structured garden, it is relatively low maintenance, not demanding a hoard of gardeners on a scale that few could afford today.

As a side note, in her talk Ros referred to Gertrude Jekyll’s connection with the architect Edwin Lutyens. The pair are always referred to in the same breath. Yet I had no idea that Jekyll was very much the senior member of the working partnership. Lutyens was only 20 years old to her 38 when their collaboration began. Jekyll imparted to Lutyens her appreciation of the vernacular and the need to define a contemporary yet craft-based response to the Home Counties landscape.

A little closer to where I am based, the garden of the Manor on Three Gates Lane in Haslemere is purported to be a Jekyll creation in parts. Although it has evolved and been adapted more than Upton Grey, it contains a magical blend of the structured and unstructured. It is open to the public periodically via the NGS.

The same goes for a handsome house and garden nearby called Vann in the village of Hambledon in Surrey. Here the Water Garden is a Gertrude Jekyll creation. Again it’s a heightened wilderness, in this case one that exploits the prevailing dampness and shade of the site. And thanks to another fearless lady owner, Mary Caroe, it is maintained in a perfect state of abundance nowadays, and can be visited on Wednesdays between April and June, as well as other dates via the NGS.

Gertrude Jekyll's water garden at Vann in Hambledon, Surrey 

Gertrude Jekyll's water garden at Vann in Hambledon, Surrey