Gertrude Jekyll’s American Garden

Jekyll's bold colored border in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Jekyll’s bold colored border (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Quite often we don’t realize the treasures right around the corner, and such is the case with Gertrude Jekyll’s garden in Woodbury, Connecticut, just 45 minutes from my home.  In 1926 Gertrude Jekyll, a well known English horticultural designer and author, was commissioned to plan a garden to beautify the newly renovated Glebe House Museum.  Although this property was much smaller than most Ms. Jekyll (pronounced jeek uhl) had worked on, she expressed her passion for plants in an equally grand way by designing a classic English border, foundation plantings, a rose allee and planted stone terrace. It is unclear why the garden project was never completed at the time, but fortunately in 1970 Gertrude’s plans were rediscovered by a student from Berkeley College (in New York) and efforts to complete the gardens in accordance to her original design began in 1990. Although Ms. Jekyll had designed hundreds of gardens throughout Britain and Europe, only a few were in the United States, and the Glebe House Museum offers the only American garden planned by Gertrude Jekyll that is still in existence today. Please visit:

Jekyll's softer colored border in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Jekyll’s softer colored border (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Known for her artistic eye (she was also a painter), Jekyll was one of the first of her profession to take into account color and texture, which explains the use of a wide variety of plants and shrubs in her designs.  Her plan for the Glebe House incorporated 13 of what she called “kitchen herbs” such as lavender, rosemary, roses and lilacs, 14 shrubs including holly, wiegela, spirea and red cedar, and 57 perennial selections such as hollyhocks, iris, hosta, phlox, monarda, veronica, delphiniums and anemone.  As you walk along the borders you quickly understand her love of color combinations; groupings of blue salvia and pink turtlehead (chelone) with hits of bold shades like ruby red dahlia and bright orange zinnia balanced with spikes of white veronica and ivory phlox.  Areas of tall golden rudbeckia and light pink thalictrum provide a backdrop, while autumn clematis and sweetpea vines meander casually behind them.  The overall effect of the flowing forms melded with a complimentary color palette is incredibly soothing and well worth experiencing.

** For other wonderful and local places to visit read GREAT DESTINATIONS **

Jekyll's planted stone terrace in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Jekyll’s planted stone terrace (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The history of the Glebe House dates back to 1750 when it was originally built as a private residence, soon changing ownership when an Episcopal priest moved in with his family in 1771.  Due to the volatile times of the Revolutionary War and resulting American independence, the home changed hands several times, eventually falling into disrepair by the 1920’s.  Just months before the home was destined to be torn down, the Seabury Society for the Preservation of the Glebe House was formed, stepping in to stop the destruction.  Home repairs began (with a majority of the materials salvaged and original), period furniture was collected, and by 1925 the property was restored as a museum and opened to the public.

For information about thirteen other historic Connecticut gardens you may want to see, visit: 


  1. I have wanted to visit Glebe House Gardens for years after reading about the garden reconstruction but never got around to it. It’s on my to do list for next summer.
    Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Your photos are always wonderful.

    • I’m always glad to inspire others to visit local gardens. No matter the season, they’re worth the trip. It was especially interesting to view a garden designed in the late 1920’s, and compare the many similarities to designers from the last decade. Thanks so much for writing Jean!

  2. Stephanie says:

    We really enjoyed our trip to the Glebe house last week. The garden was fascinating– I learned a lot just from looking at it, and came home with several ideas of things I wanted to try. The friend with whom I went said that she wished there had been garden labels because we wondered about the identity of some of the plants. Particularly, we wanted to know what kind of rose was on the trellis.

    • I share your wish to know plant identities! Often when visiting a garden, I see a plant that really piques my interest but am unable to find information about it. Even in my own garden, I have lost or misplaced identification tags over time. Your best bet is to try to find a similar rose and enjoy watching as it fills your trellis! Thanks for writing Stephanie ~

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