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.
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