Thursday, March 8, 2012

For the Love of Gardening

I live a few miles, as the crow flies, from the site of the garden in Raleigh that famed garden designer and writer Elizabeth Lawrence wrote about in My Southern Garden.  It will be a book that I will return to time and again when finally I settle in my own home and garden. 

Like myself, Elizabeth came from the deep South, and loved the Market bulletins put out  in her native Georgia, as well as Alabama and Mississipi where the rural folks would advertise plants for sale or exchange.  It was a way for them to also earn some pocket money.   Her book,  For the Love of Gardening, is a most unusual and unique story of her interactions with rural Southern gardeners and her pursuit of rare plants.

My mother, four years younger than Elizabeth , lived in that era and gardened for the love of it.  She was a tall, big-boned no-nonsense woman who farmed right along with my Father, took care of four children, tended the vegetable garden, milked the cows, churned butter, made all our clothes, cooked, and canned and without the luxury of any modern conveniences.  Flower gardening was a luxury and time wasted in many farmer's opinions.    But in her spare time my mother took much delight in planting a garden of flowers with seeds and plants she had swapped with friends and neighbors or ordered from a catalogue.   Her most cherished treasure was her rose garden which was the envy of everyone.   My mother passed at age 40 and my most precious memory  as a child was a visit to what remained of the garden she planted.   Much of it had perished but the gnarled old apple trees and a few roses remained.

Today we are so blessed to have garden centers and cyber nurseries where we can buy almost every plant imaginable.   While visiting the nearby garden center recently I realized just how many  of the plants in My Southern Garden were still popular here -Crape Myrtle, Magnolia, Mahonia, Yaupon Holly, Firethorn,  Viburnum fragrans and  Flowering Plum to name a few.  A gnarled rosemary was named as one of Elizabeth's most treasured plants and I marvel at how well it grows here.  In my Chicago garden I had to coddle it inside under grow lights to keep it until Spring.

This big guy  has spent many winters in the ground outside the fence of the garden center and has been neatly shaped.  I see many growing wild and blooming this winter.

I also happened upon a Viburnum in bloom and it had the most beautiful glossy evergreen leaves.  A Viburnum in bloom in March .  Be still my heart.

This winter of my content has been spent reading the classic works of Elizabeth Lawrence.  I have read them before but this time they have so much more meaning now that I live in her beloved North Carolina.


  1. Hi Caroline! It sounds wonderful down there and I'm going to enjoy reading your newest blog! (So glad you can't keep away from your computer!) :-)

  2. Hi Shady Lady,

    So glad to hear from you again. Yes it is wonderful to have such a mild winter this year, although I've heard that they also have one in Chicago. Wouldn't you know it, as soon as I left, it warmed up !

  3. To have anything blooming outside in the month of March would make my heart flutter. Wishing all good things for you in North Carolina.

  4. Does mine, too, Donna. We've had things blooming ever since I got here last August. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. You are so fortunate. North Carolina is such a wonderful state. I love your new blog.

  6. Thank you, Angela. I agree that North Carolina is wonderful and I am so enjoying the mild winter we've had. Please visit often. I will also add your blog to my list. It's always nice to meet fellow gardening lovers.

  7. Carolyn, Your mother sounds so much like my mother and especially my grandmother. I often wondered what my grandfather thought of Grandma's flowers...I suppose as long as she got the chickens and cows fed and supper on the table, he didn't mind too much:)

    Your new home state sounds wonderful, especially the thought of blooms throughout the year. Looking forward to seeing some of North Carolina for the first time and to meeting you again in May!

  8. Thank you Rose. So good of you to stop by. I look forward to seeing you in Asheville this May as well. Maybe have more time to get acquainted -last we met in my garden there were about 50 queen bees humming around my garden :-)


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