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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Book Club


Any passage from A Southern Garden or The Little Bulbs by Elizabeth Lawrence is a gentle reminder of my earliest gardening experiences. Both books were read cover to cover and are still used as reference books. All the velvet has been rubbed away from both of them.

Tucked in the back of A Southern Garden is my planting plan for the first Daylilies I ever bought from a mail order catalog. I do believe that it was the chapter on Daylilies from A Southern Garden that opened my eyes to one of my favorites, Hyperion, a Daylily that Ms Lawrence wrote about. Here is what she said:

"Hyperion still holds its own among the pale day-lilies, in spite of the seasons that have passed since its introduction in 1925...it is one of the late varieties; usually it doesn't bloom before the middle of June..."

She wrote that in 1942 and Hyperion is now 83 years old and still being sold. I wonder if she would be pleased by the variety of late bloomers available today and the introduction of new varieties all the time? I am sure she would be, although, she might be surprised by how really expensive new introductions can be. She would find a way to get a little start from one of her many gardening friends. Gardeners are generous and she had wonderfully generous friends.

What Elizabeth Lawrence really did was open my eyes to gardening in the south. Everything that I read before A Southern Garden was actually a reflection of New England Gardening or English Gardening. But I was living in the Middle South and needed to learn to garden here.

I did learn and it has been a solid foundation. Her writing made it easy. I learned that Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) was difficult to transplant, when to plant Poppy seeds, that New England Aster (A novae-angliae) blooms earlier than September and that I could have a summer garden and not water so much, if I didn't mind courser flowers. I planted the Little Sweet Bay Magnolias even thought I knew they needed moisture and humus rich soil...she had told me that, but I planted them anyway. Of course they died. But the one thing I cannot get out of my head is the image of one of my favorite trees, The Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginica) as cole slaw. Ms Lawrence didn't like the tree at all and said it had shredded petals and pale leaves, like slaw.

She gave attention to natives plants. It's quite possible that the seeds of Clay and Limestone where sowed early on when I read her books. She loved the native viburnums, hawthorns, the red buckeye....and if she didn't like it you knew. Just think coleslaw.


Thank you Elizabeth Lawrence for Daylilies, they still make my garden shine; for a good foundation of garden knowledge, for an early introduction to Southeastern Native plants and for a darn good read, again and again.

Gail

You can read other Elizabeth Lawrence posts by visiting Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Once she posts all the links I will link to her blog. In the meantime you can visit her blog from links on the right.

23 comments:

  1. Gail, What a wonderful tribute to a great gardener and garden writer. I think Elizabeth Lawrence would be amazed at how many gardeners she has helped and influenced both in the southern states and around the world. Like you, I read some of her passages over and over again.

    I hadn't read what she wrote about the 'Hyperion' daylilies. That's one I have in my garden, too, further connecting me with her and no doubt countless other gardeners who grow this old variety of daylily.

    Thank you for joining in with your wonderful post for the book club.

    Maybe sometime, we garden bloggers ought to meet up at her restored gardens in Charlotte, NC?

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

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  2. Carol,

    Thanks for the praise it means a lot coming from you!

    I would love meeting up at her garden...it would be so much fun.

    Gail

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  3. A great review, Gail. I haven't participated in the book club yet, but perhaps I should pick up one of her books sometimes. Carol has included so many interesting quotes in her posts.
    By the way, forgot to mention on yesterday's post, I love the name of part (?) of your garden--the Garden of Benign Neglect. If you don't mind, maybe I could copy that for my own garden when visitors come--it sounds so much better than the weedy garden!

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  4. I don't believe I have ever read this book but will look for it now. I love the Hyperion daylily because is has a sweet fragrance.

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  5. Gail,
    What a beautiful post. I'm glad to meet another fan of Elizabeth Lawrence. It is her connection to other gardeners that I find so appealing. Friedship, happily, doesn't depend on geographic proximity. Or similar climates.
    Pat
    commonweeder.blogspot.com

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  6. Rose,

    Please borrow it, it's completely possible that I borrowed it from someone!

    Elizabeth Lawrence was a great garden writer and would have loved blogging! I wasn't sure how I felt about writing a book report! It made sense that I talk about how personally she effected me as a gardener.

    Gail

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  7. Hi Gail,

    I feel the same as you do about Lawrence. She was the first writer who wrote close to my zone. I'm in seven. She in eight. Loved your post. Very lyrical.~~Dee

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  8. Pat,

    She was a remarkable gardener and writer and I think she must also have been a good and dutiful daughter of her times. She created a wonderful picture of her gardens and I have always wanted to visit them.

    So very glad you stopped by.

    gail

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  9. Tina,

    Read A Southern Garden or The Little Bulbs well, those are my favorites.

    Hyperion does smell good!


    Gail

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  10. Hi Gail,

    This post was very inspiring. I might take a look at that book now. :-) There are a few gardening books in my grandmother's basement that seem ancient (from the 1920 and 30s), but I'll have to take a look to see if I can find a copy of this!

    -DP

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  11. DP,

    I hope you give her a read, How's the garden coming along, I'm thinking we are all grateful for the rain last night.

    Gail

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  12. Reading your post gave me a different perspective on EL, Gail... because you read her for practical advice when you lived in a more southerly region.
    I lived in the North when I first heard about her. Her books were recommended to me as garden literature, and even though many of the plants she mentioned wouldn't grow for me there, I fell in love with her writing.

    We took different paths but we both ended up in Elizabeth Lawrence's garden!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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  13. Annie,

    Isn't it rather fun in her garden! She had to deal with the heat, humidity and lack of water, too.

    Those early gardening years I was desperate to learn and needed mentors. her books were a great help to me. I was fortunate to find others who understood we weren't gardening in New England, but on serious limestone and plenty of clay!

    I am always glad when you stop by.

    Gail

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  14. Dee,

    Thank you...I couldn't have gardened without her help. We are now able to grow even more of her then Zone 7 plantings, a blessing and a curse!

    Gail

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  15. Hi Gail, you have painted a lovely picture of Ms. Lawrence, a gifted writer and talented opinionated gardener, the best kind. Slaw. Hmm, my neightbor has a very large specimen of that tree and loves it to pieces. All the literature praises it to high heaven, this is the first negative, and accurate portrayal of the fringe tree I have heard of. We have hyperion, came with the house, so tall and fragrant, and tough. Thanks for your insight.

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  16. Frances,

    She was the best kind....in my opinion, too! I like opinionated as a gardener and garden writer, perhaps that's why I blog!

    I have a Fringe tree somewhere in the Bush Honeysuckle Woods, I forget it is back there...it has a nice fragrance! My real favorites are the native Viburnums....and I will plant more of them.

    Glad it's raining your way, I know you needed it. Good time to weed.

    Gail

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  17. Hi Gail. I love the image of cole slaw. Lawrence could certainly create an image couldn't she? I'll remember cole slaw for a long time

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  18. melissa,

    Yes she was good with a phrase! What garden writer writing now do you think comes close to having any of her style or passion for plants?

    Gail

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  19. Gee, I found a little fringe tree blooming at the edge of the woods this year, and thought I was fortunate ;-) But I like cole slaw too.

    Even though I've been in Virginia for a long time, I still have a midwestern mindset when it comes to gardening. And even though EL's gardens were south of here, she was willing to push the hardiness envelope even more and grow things that might not make it through NC winters. That's an important lesson to me, as I keep selecting zone 5 and 6 plants.

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  20. Add me to the list of Elizabeth Lawrence admirers. 'A Southern Garden' is my favorite gardening book and I still re-read parts of it now and then. I remember her saying that someone had told her that they didn't like Japanese maples and she replied "then you obviously have never lay under one and looked up at it" or something like that. Do you remember reading this? I've tried to locate that passage again and can't find it. Have you read the book that has her correspondence with Katherine White?

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  21. entangled,

    Cole slaw, Grandfather's Whiskers or your favorite little tree...it smells lovely and is sweet looking to many.

    Go for it and try some...I am not embarrassed to cover my zone pushing plants when it gets too cold. I have a potted Rosemary that is backbreaking to move into the storage shed but I do whenever the temps go below 25 degrees.

    Gail

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  22. Phillip,
    I haven't read it completely just excerpts at google reader...I have it on my to buy list.

    The quote is in Through the Garden Gate...in the introduction...Phillip, I google the info and it popped up! I wish I could say I have all her best quotes memorized!

    Gail

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  23. She was just like my Great Aunt who I love so greatly. I would like to think they met and were friends. My great Aunt was in this crowd of women in NC at the time. No one but me is interested in this part of my Aunt's life and she passed on in the 1980's.

    I live so close and haven't been to her gardens. I was just reading from Dee@ Red Dirt Ramblings that the current owner indicates it will be public in the not so distant future. I would love to go but knew it wasn't open to the public. I'm jealous she got to go.

    You did a grand job on this report. We NC gardeners think she ranks up there with Godiva chocolates.

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


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