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.
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.