Breathing New Life into the Historic Garden Setting
The elegant gardens of the King Edward VII Hospital were designed by the highly acclaimed garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll. She worked closely with Percy Adams to allow the integration of the architecture and gardens that can still be seen today.
The gardens are an early 20th Century example of a therapeutic garden and are of considerable historic interest in their own right, which is recognised by their listing on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens. They have further significance in the combination of the Percy Adams and Charles Holden designed Sanatorium and the Jekyll designed landscape, their unity encapsulating many of the aspirations of the Edwardian era.
In 1906 when Gertrude Jekyll designed the gardens for the hospital she was 63 years old and was at the height of her career. She had written six books and dozens of articles and was joint editor of the Garden Magazine and gardens advisor to Country Life. She had already collaborated on several highly successful gardens with the leading architect Sir Edward Lutyens.
Gertrude Jekyll stressed the importance of linking a building to its surroundings and for the garden in turn to merge into the landscape. She was therefore a natural choice for the design for the gardens at the prestigious new hospital.
She was also a keen and active exponent of wall gardening she had published ‘Wall and Water Gardens’ in 1901 and used several photographs of the Sanatorium to illustrate her later editions of the book.
This was one of Jekyll’s most ambitious and complex projects, she produced 40 planting drawings for both the formal gardens to the south and the main drive way to the north where the planting merged into the natural vegetation. Although since the setting out of the original design over 100 years ago, some of the Jekyll gardens have succumbed to the need for new buildings, extensions and car parking, the gardens to the south of the hospital remain remarkably intact.
The gardens are a nationally important heritage asset, and a unique example of Jekyll’s belief in the benevolence of plants and their benefits to patients, in their restored form they will continue to deliver these benefits for both residents and visitors. Detailed planting plans, based on the original drawings will be drawn up to restore the original intention of the planting which in many areas has become impoverished, and it is intended to restore some areas of the garden which have been ‘lost’ for decades below car parks and hospital out buildings.