In to the garden of Elizabeth Lawrence

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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12 comments on “In to the garden of Elizabeth Lawrence

  1. Thank you so much for these wonderful photos! You capture the magic of Elizabeth’s garden so beautifully. I really appreciate your efforts and willingness to share!

    • You are welcome Shelly and I’m glad you stopped by. I have almost all of her books. The Elizabeth Clarkson foundation is doing an excellent job of restoring the place. I also did a post on the Clarkson gardens. Did you see that too?

  2. Thank you so much for writing of Elizabeth and her home and garden in Charlotte… I have just started working for Wing Haven in the Lawrence Garden, and hope to provide the garden with the “loving hand” as Elizabeth did. I have to say that, as an avid gardener, I cannot imagine a more fulfilling place to work… such peace and inspiration!

    Please come see the progress in the garden… I would love to meet a fellow garden enthusiast and Elizabeth Lawrence fan! I invite all of your blog readers to come and visit Wing Haven. Two very different and wonderful gardens on the same street, lovingly created and tended by two Elizabeths, now under the excellent care of one foundation… Wing Haven is truly a special place.

    Again, thanks for writing of Elizabeth and her garden. I love seeing the pictures you took… they remind me of how much the garden changes and grows!

    Happy Gardening!
    Andrea

  3. I’ve really enjoyed writing about Elizabeth Lawrence over the last decade and appreciate all of the blogs about her. I’m in Winston-Salem and available for book discussions. You can contact me through Blair Publisher. The best books on Elizabeth Lawrence she wrote herself!
    Bes wishes, Emiy

  4. Thanks for the tour posts, I can tell you put a lot of work into them, but it shows that you enjoyed it as well. I trying to think how I can get to Charlotte.
    Thanks Les and I did work hard on them and also enjoyed every minute of the tour and preparing the post. I enjoyed Wing Haven a bit more than Miss Lawrence’s garden. I guess it was because Mrs. Clarkson’s gardens have been preserved a bit better. Both were lovely though and the Wing Haven foundation is working on both continuously.

  5. That climbing hydrangea is amazing! Very nice garden, thanks for sharing this, will have to read more about her….a new name for me.
    Gosh I loved your garden series! I love the way they used the blues to marry it all together.

    That is a very large and old climbing hydrangea. I found it amazing.

  6. What a delightful garden grown by a real gardener — I hope it won’t lose the charm under the foundation’s direction. I’ve not been down to the her gardens or Wing Haven. Grumpy told me that I must see Wing Haven. So many gardens… so little time to see them all because I have trouble dragging myself away from my own garden during the seasons when all gardens are at their best! Does any other gardener have this problem?

    Cameron
    I’m usually at Tanglewood, Reynolda, or Old Salem. Enough there to fill a book several times over.

    You could tell that a foundation owned the house now as it was set up with a long table and chairs all around. It was clean and the upkeep looks good as far as paint and such. But the gardens need a loving hand. Someone to plant lantana when the perennials are tired—just as Elizabeth had done. There was a wonderful patch of hellebores on the backside of the gardens. That must have been grand when it bloomed.

  7. Anna, thanks for the link love. I am amazed at how much the grounds have changed in the year since I was there. I’m glad you finally got to go and visit. She is one of my heroes too.~~Dee
    I thought you would think that as you came to see my blog. A garden needs a full time care taker doesn’t it? Someone who will love it. You could tell these gardens needed someone to be there all the time.

    Wing Haven hasn’t owned it very long and there was someone there working. They are trying. Some of the plants are overgrown and a few need dividing. Should I go and help—take a few home along the way.

  8. Wonderful. That book sounds like one I need to check in to.
    Unlike other books that Lawrence wrote which read more like reference books at times, this book is a story. It is very good and I think even non gardeners would like it.

  9. Wow, I like these and those views out of her windows. I do so enjoy these tours Anna and don’t feel guilty I feel just the same about some gardens not that far from me. A lot of other gardeners are just so inspirational.
    I do feel as though I personally let some of these folks down. They worked so hard to build and keep a garden and then I don’t even go by. I’m trying to see as many NC gardens as I can. I want to visit small and large–famous and just plain grown love. I want to know the gardener. I find that most are good hearted and sharing folks.

    It’s the mountain gardeners I would like to do a special on. They garden by folklore and long passed down traditions. They incorporate so many native plants in to their gardens. They grow them for medicine and food. Ila Hatter is one I’m itching to interview.

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