Legends in the Garden: Who in the World is Nellie Stevens?

Overview

One spring morning a lady walking through a garden in the Midwest was fascinated by a row of handsome, vigorous hollies. They were just what she needed for her own garden, and she asked her host what they were. "Those are Nellie Stevens hollies," was the reply. She looked again and couldn't help but wonder about the name. Who in the world is Nellie Stevens, and how did her name ever become associated with this plant?

She noted other intriguing names, and she asked similar ...

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Overview

One spring morning a lady walking through a garden in the Midwest was fascinated by a row of handsome, vigorous hollies. They were just what she needed for her own garden, and she asked her host what they were. "Those are Nellie Stevens hollies," was the reply. She looked again and couldn't help but wonder about the name. Who in the world is Nellie Stevens, and how did her name ever become associated with this plant?

She noted other intriguing names, and she asked similar questions. She saw a beautifulblue clematis and wondered if Betty Corning was still alive and what stories she had to tell.She wondered about the places and people whose names are associated with so many popular garden plants. She is not alone.

If necessity is the mother of invention, curiosity is the mother of research.

In many cases, we wonder not what our gardens grow, but who our gardens grow.
Until now, these accounts have not been compiled and unfortunately, many of the people are disappearing, their stories with them. Now gardeners can enjoy the beauty of their plants and delight in the tales they tell.

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Editorial Reviews

Horticulture
"People and plant stories intertwine, greatly enlivening the history of horticulture."
Horticulture, January 2003
Detroit Free Press
"Those curious about the origins of plant names like Annabelle hydrangea and Arnold Promise witchhazel will enjoy Legends in the Garden."

—Marty Hair, Detroit Free Press, December 15, 2002

The Washington Post
"A unique little hardcover that will put faces with the names of a number of those cultivars, or hybrids, that have become so popular ... Stimulating, educational reading."

—Joel M. Lerner, Washington Post, November 30, 2002

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591865230
  • Publisher: Allan Armitage
  • Publication date: 5/9/2011
  • Pages: 210
  • Sales rank: 805,809
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Langston Copeland grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, and graduated from Wheaton College, Norton, and Massachusetts, with a BA in Economics. Always passionate about flowers and gardens, her serious studies in the field of horticulture began at the University of Georgia in 1992, where she took related courses for the next five years. Linda lives and gardens in Atlanta, Georgia, where she has served as a volunteer and board member of the Atlanta History Center, the Southeastern Flower Show, Northwood Garden Club, the Georgia Perennial Plant Association, and Gardens for Peace. Presently, she serves on the Board of the Cherokee Garden Library. Gardening is also a favorite pastime at the family's cabin on Lake Rabun. For the last seventeen years, she has coordinated garden tours in the United States and abroad for Garden Vistas. She and her husband, Dean, have a son who lives in Atlanta and a daughter who, with her husband and three sons, lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

Allan M. Armitage is widely considered one of the world's foremost horticulturists. Armitage is a well-known professor, teacher, writer, speaker, and researcher throughout the world. He holds a B.S. from MacDonald College of McGill University, Quebec; an M.S. from University of Guelph, Ontario, and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University. At the University of Georgia (UGA), he runs the research gardens where new plant material from most of the flower breeders of the world is tested. The Trial Gardens at UGA are among the finest in the nation. His teaching and writing awards are many and include the Golden Trowel Award from Garden Writers of America for his book Allan Armitage on Perennials. Additionally, his book Herbaceous Perennial Plants is an industry standard. Greenhouse Grower magazine named Armitage one of the ten most influential people or organizations--ever--in the floriculture industry. Armitage's engaging style is widely appreciated for being charming and lively as well as knowledgeable. He is in constant demand as a speaker, and he considers his work with plants to be therapeutic, exciting, and creative.

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Read an Excerpt


It was a close call. According to Mrs. Van Lennep, the 'Nellie R. Stevens' holly almost had her "head chopped off" before she was ever known. Having become holly collectors, Vida Stockwell Van Lennep and her husband, Gustav (Gus), were avid gardeners and had planted their own holly orchard in St. Michael's, a picturesque town on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The Van Lenneps were well-known for their holly interest and in 1952, Vida made a report about their holly orchard at a plant meeting of the Talbot County (Maryland) Garden Club. Eunice Parsons Highley, a friend from the neighboring town of Oxford, was also at the meeting, and when she heard about the Van Lennep's interest, she immediately asked them to visit her at her home, Maplehurst, to look at three unidentified hollies she was preparing to remove to make way for adjacent magnolias. Vida and Gus accepted the invitation and drove to Oxford.

In the world of holly enthusiasts, the Van Lenneps were still neophytes, but they compared each of Highley's hollies with the hollies they knew and realized each was different and unlike the other. They took cuttings of the plants, one female and two males to show at the Holly Society of America's annual meeting. The holly experts at the gathering were also mystified by the cuttings. Full of new hope for the previously doomed hollies, the Van Lenneps returned to St. Michael's and propagated the cuttings. After evaluating the plants, Gus Van Lennep was most impressed with the female clone and named it 'Nellie R. Stevens' to honor the lady who originally planted the seeds of the now-famous holly in her garden at Maplehurst. He introduced it to the commercial trade in 1954.

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