Gardening seems a solitary endeavor, perfect for those who like to be alone with nature without leaving their own yard. But this biography of renowned Southern gardening expert Lawrence tells of a time when getting your hands on an Algerian iris was not as easy as opening a nursery catalogue. Lawrence (1904 1985), author of A Southern Garden, Two Gardeners and numerous articles in House & Garden magazine and the Charlotte Observer, spent her life collecting different bulbs and clippings from the "friendly society" of gardeners across the country. Her love for gardens stretched beyond her own, and she often incorporated tips and accomplishments from the giant, informal association of green thumbs in her columns. According to Lawrence, "Gardening, reading about gardening, and writing about gardening are all one. No one can garden alone." Admired by writers such as Joseph Mitchell and Eudora Welty, Lawrence's writing was often about people and philosophy as well as planting. North Carolina writer Wilson's account is clear and unembellished, and her work provides a complete portrait of an independent, private and multifaceted woman. Photos. (Oct.) Forecast: With a national publicity campaign, ads in Carolina Gardener and events throughout the South, this biography of a legendary female gardener could gain traction among women green thumbs. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
As evidenced by this respectful biography of noted gardening scribe Elizabeth Lawrence (1904-85), a great writer does not necessarily lead an interesting life; Lawrence's consisted mainly of being a dutiful daughter and loving sister. Lawrence spent most of her life in North Carolina, where she created two gardens that served as laboratories for her work and informed her writing. Her combination of objective reporting with lively portraits of other gardeners whom she knew through her extensive correspondence and reading gave her classic works, A Southern Garden, The Little Bulbs, and Gardens in Winter, broader appeal. Unfortunately, the most exciting parts of Wilson's biography focus on Lawrence's relationships with other gardeners and authors, and since most of these were carried out through correspondence, one wishes that Wilson had instead compiled another collection of letters (she previously edited Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence; A Friendship in Letters). Still, given Lawrence's importance, this worthwhile endeavor is recommended for large gardening collections and gardening collections in the Southeast.-Daniel Starr, Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., New York Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A perceptive biography of one of the country's great gardeners and gardening writers. Wilson, who previously edited her subject's correspondence with Katharine S. White (Two Gardeners, 2002), atmospherically evokes the life, milieu, and work of Elizabeth Lawrence (1904-85), who cared as much about the meaning as the making of gardens. Though she traveled and had a wide circle of friends, Lawrence never really left home, Wilson notes; her house, garden, family, and church were the cornerstones of her existence. Except for her years at Barnard College in New York, she lived in North Carolina with her widowed mother, first in the family home in Raleigh, and then in Charlotte. In Raleigh she and her mother together created a showcase garden, but the Charlotte grounds and house were both designed by Lawrence, who used her garden as a laboratory as well as a refuge. The eldest daughter of a well-born southern family, she had, since childhood, been interested in plants, which she collected and studied. Originally intending to be a poet, she abandoned the idea after numerous rejections, but her nonfiction, including a weekly gardening column in the Charlotte Observer, was infused with a distinctive literary sensibility that won her a wide circle of general readers. An intensely private person who valued solitude (though she advised that no one can garden alone), Lawrence was reticent about her own emotions. Wilson does track down a failed love affair in New York, but Lawrence never married, remained close to her family, and enjoyed a wide circle of interesting friends that numbered White and Eudora Welty among them. Her books, especially A Southern Garden, The Little Bulbs, and Gardens in Winter,are now regarded as classic examples of the best garden-writing, combining as they do practical information with personal observation, and evincing an abiding sense of gardening as a metaphor for life. Sensitive and luminously written.
This is the biography of Elizabeth Lawrence that we have all been waiting for. Even though Lawrence's writings are legendary among southern gardeners, her personal life has always been somewhat elusive. Emily Herring Wilson deftly weaves together Lawrence's passions-her gardens, family circle, cherished friendships, and even her religious beliefs-in a compelling narrative.Judith B. Tankard, Landscape Institute, Harvard University
"Elizabeth Lawrence, who was my friend and mentor, would be delighted with Emily's Wilson's writing style and sensitive approach. Steeped as she is in the lore and history of the Southeast, Wilson is the perfect biographer for this southern lady."Pamela Harper, author of Time-Tested Plants
"The great merit in Emily Wilson's biography of Elizabeth Lawrence is the meticulous piecing together of the facts of Lawrence's lifethe people who influenced and goaded her, her gardening correspondents, and her inquisitive and determined mind-all of which set the stage for the garden observations and writings that have become American classics." Bobby J. Ward, author of The Plant Hunter's Garden: The Explorers and Their Discoveries
"Elizabeth Lawrence's life, like her gardens and her writing, reflects the richness that comes from patient observation and acceptance of life's most evanescent changes. Emily Herring Wilson has captured Lawrence's 'gardener's spirit' with all its interior complexity, joy of discovery, and delight in sharing. Wilson is cautious not to trample or invade, but with candor and insight she uncovers the gardener's own bloom-time and poetic voice. This biography unlocks Lawrence's secret garden as only another gifted southern poet and writer could do." Linda Lear, author of Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature
"A touching, insightful, and always engaging account of the complicated life of a talented southern woman finding her way over the course of the twentieth century. Based on painstaking research and extensive interviews, Wilson places the professional life of Elizabeth Lawrence, the ultimate gardener's icon, within the larger context of Elizabeth Lawrence, the living, breathing, gracious-but-fallible, irritating-but-illuminating daughter, friend, and author we wish lived next door."Michele Gillespie, Kahle Associate Professor of History, Wake Forest University