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Pioneering Women Gardeners

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Publisher: Bloombox Club
Bloombox Club



History has little to say about women gardeners before the early 20th century. For the most part, the physical work of gardening was considered a form of rudimentary labour (as opposed to a hobby), while the learned feats of design and horticulture were strictly the purview of men.

But there are some accounts of aristocratic women taking to the soil, such a Henry I’s wife Matilda, who grew roses in the palace courtyard, and Marie Antoinette with her mock-provincial cottage garden.

The following women were part of a sea change which saw some (exceptional) female gardeners gain recognition for their skills, knowledge and creativity. 

Edith (Lady) Londonderry

Not only a gardener, but an outspoken supporter of the women’s suffrage movement, Edith Londonderry is an important figure to remember on International Women’s Day. 

Edith Vane-Tempest-Stewart was born into a political, land-owning family, and married into the Londonderry household, ultimately gaining sway over large swathes of land in Norther Ireland, upon which she cultivated a series of gardens that are now protected by UNESCO. 

Gertrude Jekyll

Gertrudy Jekyll was perhaps the first truly prolific women gardener. She worked with the architect Edwin Lutyens to create over a hundred gardens that are considered by many to be amongst the best of Edwardian design. Her taste was less garish than that of the popular 19th century gardener, and more in line with oncoming twentieth century trends in landscaping.  

Vita Sackville-West

Aristocrat and writer, Vita Sackville-West is remembered for her work on the much-visited gardens at Sissinghurst and connection to the National Trust owned stately home Knole.

With a weekly gardening column in The Observer, she was seen as an authority on the subject. Sackville-West immortalised her work at Sissingurst and passion for the natural landscape in epic poem The Land. 

Beth Chatto

Beth Chatto, who sadly passed away last year, made a monumental contribution to garden design over the course of her life.  

Like Gertrude Jekyll, part of her success is down to her partnership with husband Andrew Chatto, a fruit farmer who cultivated her passion for plants. Upon Andrew's retirement, the couple built a their new home on one of his plantations: a boggy wasteland which would become Chatto's greatest gardening achievement. The Beth Chatto gardens can now be visited by the public, and are located in Colchester. 

Who are your gardening heroines? Let us know on @BloomboxClub

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