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In the works of Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee and Henry Moore, Jellicoe recognised the artists’ concern to tackle issues beyond colour and form, to delve outside the confines of the visual world. “Like the portrait painter, the landscape designer needs to be a psychologist first and then a technician afterwards. He needs to dig into the subconscious,” wrote Jellicoe.
A group including Queen Elizabeth, Jackie Kennedy and Prince Philip at the John F Kennedy memorial site in Runnymede
Jellicoe’s interest in the writings of Carl Jung lead him to explore the ways in which people are influenced by their surroundings. At the JFK memorial site, for instance, visitors walk through woodland on a path made of hand-cut stones, each symbolising a year of Kennedy’s life.
“The Water Gardens at Hemel Hempstead were one of Jellicoe’s first experiments in exploring, like Paul Klee, the role of the subconscious in design,” says Tom Turner, principal lecturer in garden history and landscape architecture at the University of Greenwich.
The canal with arum lilies at Dorset’s Shute House
“At Grove Terrace [Jellicoe’s north London home], while Jellicoe fell asleep in his chair, his wife Susan plied me with sherry while I asked about the projects they had done and the places they had seen. She said the Water Gardens in Hemel Hempstead were their favourite and best project.”
Hemel Hempstead was one of several towns in the UK that was redeveloped to house the population displaced by the Blitz. Jellicoe designed the Water Gardens with the conviction that a relatively small, urban garden could dramatically enhance the lives of the town’s residents.
Jellicoe built a canal with weirs and delicate footbridges that lead visitors from the town car park to the shopping centre. He added a lawn so visitors could walk along the waterfront. Towards the south of the garden, Susan Jellicoe, a skilled plantswoman, created a rose garden.
Inspired by one of Paul Klee’s paintings, Jellicoe designed the canal in the shape of a serpent. “The lake is the head and the canal is the body,” wrote Jellicoe in his book Studies in Landscape Design. “The eye is the fountain; the mouth is where the water passes over the weir. The formal and partly classical flower gardens are like a howdah strapped to its back. In short, the beast is harnessed, docile, and in the service of man.”