Beautiful at All Seasons: Southern Gardening and Beyond with Elizabeth Lawrence


Elizabeth Lawrence\'s Front Door

Riding down the highway, from Tennessee to North Carolina, listening to the car tires hum against the pavement, I finished our Garden Bloggers’ Book Club selection for April/May. Halfway into it, I sent up a prayer of gratitude for Ann L. Armstrong and Lindie Wilson, who worked so hard to bring us another work of Elizabeth Lawrence. Together, they poured over and discussed 720 columns that Miss Lawrence wrote for the Charlotte Oberserver and included the most relevant 132.

I’m also grateful to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for creating the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club. Otherwise, I might never have read Beautiful at All Seasons because I didn’t know it existed.

Previously, I read A Southern Garden and Through the Garden Gate also by Lawrence, so I was familiar with her intelligent and accessible writing style. Garden Gate was the first compilation of Lawrence’s columns edited by her friend, Bill Neal. Now, after reading this book, I’m on the lookout for the The Little Bulbs and The Garden in Winter.

Unlike Garden Gate, this compilation is grouped by subject instead of chronologically. The result is we read Lawrence’s thoughts on a particular subject as they were honed over the years. It is a pleasant, meandering stroll through the garden with her. Some plants remained favorites throughout her lifetime. Others were culled.

Her writing is fresh and opinionated. Although most articles were written in the 1960s and 70s, surprisingly, she was growing plants in 1962 only now available in the trade.

Although this book would be great for anyone with an interest in gardening, I believe those with a southern climate would especially find her advice helpful. Others in more northern climes would still enjoy reading her likes and dislikes. I nearly shuddered when she wrote about the improved variety of pear tree, the ‘Bradford.’ It has become a splintering pest in Oklahoma.

My favorite article was on the surprise lily, Lycoris squamigera, because it is something I’ve wanted to add to my garden for sometime. Perhaps, this year, I will.

Stop by Carol’s blog to see other reviews. It is always pleasurable reading because we each see something different in a book.

One thing struck me throughout her articles. Because of her extensive correspondence with other gardeners, nurserymen, scientists, etc., she was the forebear to garden bloggers. I like to think we carry on her tradition by keeping in touch with one another all over the country and even the world. We try different plants and tell what works for us and what doesn’t, just like she did. It is a great tradition we keep.

I’ll end with a quote by the Lawrence, from the article title Tender Perennials for Hot-Weather Gardens, but be sure to stop by in the next day or two. I have a surprise for you.

For late summer I depend on lantana to fill in the gaps left by the earlier perennials that have finished blooming. It blooms best when the nights are cool, and comes into its own when its fresh foliage and gay flowers are most needed.

In summer I always like some plants with fragrant foliage, lemon verbena, lemon-, apple- and rose-scented geraniums, peppermint, and some of the salvias with scented leaves.

Last year, Mrs. Chalfin sent me Salvia dorrii, one I never heard of. It never bloomed, though it is said to have pink flowers, but it grew to be a sprawling plant of three to four feet. The enormous velvet leaves have the most delightful scent of any plant that I know.

March 22, 1959

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10 comments on “Beautiful at All Seasons: Southern Gardening and Beyond with Elizabeth Lawrence

  1. Pingback: In to the garden of Elizabeth Lawrence « Flowergardengirl

  2. Ann L. Armstrong

    I am one of the editors of ‘Beautiful at All Seasons.” I appreciate your kind words about the book. Having known E.L. reading her columns is like sitting and listening to her comment on various subjects. She had a strong voice, a gentle wit and a great feeling for the garden. She wrote about what she grew or what her correspondents grew and many of her plants are still in the garden. Ann

    Ann, I truly enjoyed the book. Did you read my post where I got to visit Miss Lawrence’s garden? I enjoyed meeting Lindie Wilson. Thanks for helping to choose and edit it.~~Dee

  3. Lisa at Greenbow

    A good review of EL’s book Dee. It makes me want to read them all.

    Oh, Lisa, you should.~~Dee

  4. Pingback: Red Dirt Ramblings » Blog Archive » Saving Elizabeth Lawrence’s Garden

  5. entangled

    You’ve written a beautiful review of a beautiful book 😉

    I had totally forgotten about her praise of the evil Bradford pears. Our neighbor planted one on the lot line 20+ years ago and there’s an ever-expanding dead zone in my yard underneath its dense shade and above its thirsty roots. And all the wretched seedlings I have to pull out every year!

    Yeah, everyone thought they were good 20 or 30 years ago. I’m lucky I didn’t plant one.~~Dee

  6. linda

    Very nice review Dee. You make me want to read Elizabeth Lawrence’s books.

    Thank you, Linda. I hope you will.~~Dee

  7. Melissa

    It’s interesting that you say you think people from southern climates would identify better with this book than northerners. While reading “Two Gardeners” I immediately identified with Katharine White and not quite as much with Lawrence. I wonder how much our real gardening “friendships” are based on our locations.

    Hi Melissa, I didn’t mean their styles of writing. I meant the plants themselves. Some of the plants Miss Lawrence grew in her garden can’t even be grown in mine. It gets too cold here.~~Dee

  8. Annie in Austin

    Good Morning, Dee!

    I love the photo of EL’s house and sure feel bonded with you in loving her writing! Through The Garden Gate is a longtime favorite.

    Is Carol right? Did you get to see Elizabeth Lawrence’s house in person?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Hi Annie, you’ll just have to wait and see . . . . ~~Dee

  9. Gail

    Dee,

    You have written a wonderful review of EL’s book….let me urge you to get The Little Bulbs and Gardens in Winter, I even have a copy of Lob’s Garden…A book seller found it for me, she is a collector of EL’s books. Reading her is always a delight, even we can’t grow all the plants.

    I can recommend the Surprise Lilies, they are a great deal of fun….plant them where the yellowing leaves won’t be a problem.

    Gail

    Gail, I’m going to take you up on both of your recommendations.~~Dee

  10. Carol, May Dreams Gardens

    Hi, Dee. What a great review! I agree on your sentiment that in some way, garden bloggers carry on the tradition of corresponding with gardeners across the country, comparing our gardens and the plants we grow. We obviously do it at a much faster speed than EL did, since she relied on the U.S. Mail to keep in touch with so many other gardeners.

    Thanks for participating in the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club, and did you take that picture yourself when you were in Charlotte?

    Ah, you noticed . . . .~~Dee