Friday, October 18, 2013

Part 1: Change in a Garden

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena'

"Nothing is static. Everything living has its beginning and its end."

- Elizabeth Lawrence
Lob's Wood

Sometimes it is harder to make changes in a garden than one would like. It was certainly difficult to make the final decision to take down the once-magnificent witch hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena', in front of Elizabeth Lawrence's house. Dealing with terminally ill plants is inevitable in gardening, especially in a garden with so many mature specimens. 

Every plant loss in Miss Lawrence's garden weighs much more heavily on my mind than those in my own garden, for those are my (much) younger plants; they are not on public display, or documented on small index cards or large maps... much less, an integral part of a garden that is a Preservation Project of the The Garden Conservancy, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, entered into the Smithsonian's Archives of American Gardens, a recognized local historic landmark... and, oh yes, have I mentioned that this is the garden of the South's most pre-eminent garden writer of the twentieth century? 

Honestly, all of that aside, what I attach to more than anything else is imagining the years of care and attention that Elizabeth gave to each plant. I imagine all of the knowledge she gained over the years, and then documented so eloquently for all of us to learn in perpetuity. Seeing all of this, like movie clips in my mind's eye, does not make it any easier to decide that an original Lawrence plant needs to go. But there are times when decisions must be made - as in the case of the Jelena witch hazel - because the plant is telling you - perhaps with its very last breath - that it is time to make a change. 

If there's one thing I've learned as a gardener, it's that dying plants don't get any greener.  Then again, the loss of a plant is really an opportunity to try something new!

Stay tuned for the story of the witch hazel in "Part 2: Change is a Garden".

Yours in Dirt,
Andrea Sprott
Elizabeth Lawrence Garden Curator

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Creatures Add to a Garden

" is said that a toad is worth twenty dollars a year, and I suppose a frog helps, too.  In my garden there are more frogs than toads, as we have a pool, and their evening chorus is such a din I have been expecting the neighbors to complain, but all I have heard them say is they like it."
Elizabeth Lawrence
the Charlotte Observer
February 5, 1961

Indeed, creatures do add to a garden, and this little fellow was just as happy as can be perched lazily atop the leaf of a crinum.  The observant eyes of Sukey Pratt and Ellen Archer, two of our wonderful garden Keepers, caught this tree frog hanging out in the humid morning air.

Yours in Dirt,

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Summersweet... for your nose, a treat

"Walking down the garden path on a sultry afternoon in late July, I met a fragrance that took some time to trace. It was the mountain summersweet, Clethra acuminata, a delicate, elusive perfume that comes and goes with the breeze."
Elizabeth Lawrence
the Charlotte Observer
November 30, 1969

The summersweet to which Miss Lawrence refers is still in her garden, just beginning to reveal its first delicate fragrant blooms.  I experienced the same wonder on a hot July afternoon as I walked down her garden path two years ago.  The fragrance of the mountain summersweet is said to smell like heliotrope, but I agree with Miss Lawrence - it is more like vanilla.  It's a scent I never tire of noticing.

Come delight in the fragrance - and many blooms - of July in the Elizabeth Lawrence Garden!  As always, I am...

Yours in Dirt,

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Continuing Parade of Blooms

"Sometimes an unseasonable season - one that is exceedingly wet or dry, a summer of record heat, or a winter milder than usual - brings about the flowering of a plant that has been existing in the garden for quite a while without finding the right conditions for blooming."
Elizabeth Lawrence
The Little Bulbs 

And so it is in Miss Lawrence's Garden even today.  It has been a little over two and a half years since I started tending this awesome plot, and I am still amazed and delightfully surprised - on a nearly daily basis - by "new" blooming plants.  The plants are in no way new to the garden, they just have not found, as Elizabeth says, "the right conditions for blooming".  Some of them have been so well hidden, had I not seen them blooming, they may well have gone undetected for another two and a half years!

Some of the loveliest flowers in the garden today are crinums.  And Elizabeth Lawrence so loved her crinums.  As far as my research shows, all of the crinums in the garden are original to Miss Lawrence planting them during the 35 years she lived and gardened here.  Talk about a tried and true plant!

Today's blooming "surprises" include a very delicately scented one I have not yet correctly identified.  If anyone has any ideas, let me know, and I will cross-reference them with Miss Lawrence's massive database of hand-written index cards.

Come by and be surprised by the continuing parade of blooms in Elizabeth Lawrence's Garden!  Until then, I remain...

Yours in Dirt,