Elizabeth Lawrence is my hero. She was a pioneer in her field. She was the first woman to graduate from North Carolina State University with a degree in landscape design. Please go with me and tour her gardens through the eyes and thoughts of Flowergardengirl.
Elizabeth moved to this Charlotte, NC home in 1948 so she could be near her sister who owned the adjoining property. Her father had passed away 12 years previously and her gardens in Raleigh, North Carolina had become too burdensome for her to care for. The home in Raleigh no longer stands today. The gardens and memories of her ever living there have been erased. We are so fortunate to have her recent home in the the protection of the Wing Haven foundation.
She, her mother, and so many guest enjoyed the view out the living room window where beyond the bamboo leaves welcome nature and rustled in the wind. And look at her wall upon wall of bookshelves. Oh how she loved to read and the room was alive with memory even though there was no presence of furniture or adornments on the wall. Her life lived beyond the walls and in to the garden.
Her father was in the quarry business and then working to help build the railway system in NC. From her childhood to her married life, she had traveled extensively. She was a devoted daughter and took care of her mother after her father’s death.
From her office on the back side of the house, she sat at her window and referenced her many books lining the walls. She was inspired to write wonderful descriptive letters to all her gardening friends across the miles. She wrote of the little things and she wrote of the trials. She wrote of things that lived and those that never bloomed. She planned and continued to hope that she woul inspire more gardens and spread hope to those that struggled in the southern soil. She wrote weekly of what worked and didn’t work and she was encouraging in her honesty.
Recently, I visited Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary which are the neighboring gardens of Elizabeth Lawrence and belong to Elizabeth Clarkson. The two Elizabeths were very good friends. The Clarkson’s left a trust which owns both gardens and they are open to the public. Since the two are a mere few houses apart, I visited both.
The Lawrence gardens were recently purchased by the Wing Haven foundation. I ask what the plans were for the Lawrence gardens and was informed it was for educational purposes and perhaps luncheons and weddings. The gardens are open to the public on specified days.
I observed a climbing hydrangea that grew as tall as the tree.
The gardens haven’t changed much since the former owner but there have been some cosmetic improvements. Read in the Wing Haven Warbler( PDF file), a newsletter, about those changes such as a new fence and paint. The very large tree that stood in front of the house is no longer there. But the personality of Miss Lawrence is everywhere.
The back gardens are just as lovely as the front. There is so much more to tell about Elizabeth Lawrence. I’ve only scraped the surface.
Dee over at Red Dirt Ramblings wrote two articles on Elizabeth Lawrence: Saving Elizabeth Lawrence’s Garden and Beautiful in All Seasons: Souther Gardening and Beyond with Elizabeth Lawrence. I was a bit jealous that I have lived in North Carolina all my life except for a short 20 years that my husband was in the military yet had not visited this famous garden. Dee had gone to the Elizabeth Lawrence Gardens in Charlotte, North Carolina but I had not. It was a long drive for Dee and she stopped on one of her vacations. It was only a two hour drive for me and why hadn’t I gone?
I enjoyed my visit and it was emotional as I had expected. Sometimes I am more interested in the gardener than the garden. I was especially moved by Miss Lawrence’s love for communication with other gardeners. I’m currently reading No One Gardens Alone: A Life of Elizabeth Lawrence by Emily Herring Wilson. I bought it at the Elizabeth Lawrence Gardens and they told me that Miss Wilson, the author, lives not far from me. Perhaps I can get her to sign my book! I have a hard time putting this book down and it is one I will read again.