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Patience: A garden has many lessons to teach

  • Subject: [cg] Patience: A garden has many lessons to teach
  • From: Don Boekelheide <dboekelheide@yahoo.com>
  • Date: Sun, 5 Dec 2004 16:31:51 -0800 (PST)

Winston-Salem, NC, Journal

Patience: A garden has many lessons to teach

By Jann Malone

RICHMOND - Ask Emily Herring Wilson of Winston-Salem
what she is and she'll tell you that she's a writer,
not a gardener. But when she started working on the
first biography of Southern gardener Elizabeth
Lawrence, she decided that she had better plant a
garden of her own.

"I thought I should start gardening to try to
understand," she said the other day. "One thing I
understood is it's a whole lot of work."

But, then, so is writing, and Wilson has done a lot of
that. Her latest book is the Lawrence biography, No
One Gardens Alone: A Life of Elizabeth Lawrence. (It
was reviewed Nov. 21 in the Journal.) Earlier, Wilson
edited Two Gardeners: A Friendship in Letters, a
collection of 20 years of correspondence between
Lawrence and a New Yorker editor, Katharine White.

Wilson was in Richmond this month and made time for
some conversation between a lunch lecture at the Lewis
Ginter Botanical Garden and a book signing later that
afternoon at Book People.

At lunch, she talked about Lawrence, who lived in
North Carolina and wrote extensively about gardening,
including the classic, A Southern Garden. Many of her
books are still in print.

The biography's title comes from something Lawrence
said about the community of gardeners. "She used her
own garden as a laboratory to learn all she could
about plants," Wilson said, "so she gardened, and she
exchanged plant information with other gardeners. And
she did that in thousands and thousands of letters."

She also exchanged plants. "When she walked out into
her garden she could see the plants that came from
friends, and it was a sort of friendship garden. Today
people treasure plants they have that grew in her

While gardeners still pass along plants today, times
have definitely changed. "I think one thing Elizabeth
would have regretted is how often young families are
too busy to garden, because the garden does take, as
she said, so much time.

"There's still a community, but it's changing because
it competes with so many things. How could children
ever learn gardening with all their distractions? And
how could a young mother ever be home enough to

But that's all the more reason to start one. "I think
that the garden takes you off that fast-paced time
schedule and puts you in nature's time, which is
seasonal. A day is still going to have 24 hours; there
are still going to be four seasons; you're still going
to have to wait a full year to see something bloom.

"I think learning that kind of patience is probably a
good thing."

Another way a garden slows a fast-paced life is by
offering a little peace and quiet. "It's a place of
repose, it's an escape, it's a refuge and a sanctuary.

"I think Elizabeth used her garden a lot. She sat in
it, and she walked in it. A lot of people, when they
think about gardens, they think about show gardens.
Hers was not a show garden. It was a garden she used
every day of the year."

Maybe it wasn't a show garden, but people were always
coming by to see it, and Lawrence enjoyed showing it

That's one area where Wilson's path diverges from
Lawrence's. Wilson calls what she has created "a
novice garden," so beginners will appreciate her

"It's not a garden for anybody but me. Elizabeth had
wide paths. I have really narrow paths. I don't want
anybody but me. Whenever someone says, 'I want to come
see your garden,' I say, 'Not today.'"

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org

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