Guest Rant: Becoming Elizabeth Lawrence


Date: Thursday, April 22 at 7:00 p.m.
Venue: The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth Street
Durham, NC 27705
Phone: 919-286-2700

Date: Friday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Venue: Quail Ridge Books
3522 Wade Avenue
Raleigh, NC 27607
Phone: 919-828-7912

Date: Wednesday, April 28 at 3:00 p.m.
Venue: Atlanta History Center
Woodruff Auditorium/McElreath Hall
130 West Paces Ferry Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30305
Phone: 404-814-4046

Date: Saturday, May 8 at 11:00 a.m.
Venue: McIntyre's Fine Books and Bookends
2000 Fearrington Village
Pittsboro, NC 27312
Phone: 919-542-3030

Date: Thursday, May 13 at 7:00 p.m.
Venue: Pomegranate Books
4418 Park Avenue
Wilmington, NC 28403
Phone: 910-452-1107

Date: Thursday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m.
Friends of the Arboretum Lecture
Venue: Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd.
Raleigh, NC
Phone: 919-515-3132

Date: Tuesday, May 25 at 10:00 a.m.
Venue: Wing Haven Garden and Bird Sanctuary
248 Ridgewood Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28209
Phone: 704-331-0664

Date: Thursday, May 27 at 7:00 p.m.
Venue: Malaprop's Bookstore
55 Haywood Street
Asheville, NC 28801
Phone: 828-254-6734

Date: Friday, May 28 at 7:00 p.m.
Venue: City Lights Bookstore
3 East Jackson Street
Sylva, NC 28779
Phone: 828-586-9499

Date: Friday, June 11 and Saturday, June 12
Venue: 5th Annual Galax Book Festival
Organizer: Chapters Books
Phone: 276-236-9703
Date: Saturday, September 11 TBD
Venue: Bookmarks Festival
Winston-Salem, NC


  1. My admiration of Elizabeth Lawrence is all wrapped up with my delight in her writing and nostalgia for my grandmother’s generation of hard-working, genteel women in the red clay of the NC piedmont, as well as her scientific approach to plant selections and identification. I have a collection of her books and books about her, including the pamphlet form of the coffee-table book she desired to honor Lob’s Wood. I look forward to reading and owning this book. (Even if I have to buy it!)

  2. How lovely. It also reminds me of my grandmothers, although both of them would have denied that they knew much about plants, other than growing vegetables. I wish there were more of these women left. The neighbours on my street who are all between about 70 and 102 (no kidding) ask me for advice on plants. I need more mentors to become a better gardener. There is nothing better than walking through an elderly person’s garden with them beside you, telling the stories of each item.

  3. Somehow I have missed Elizabeth Lawrence. Probably because I have concentrated on garden writiers of the teens and twenties. I need to be introduced! Reading Lisa’s post I realize in a few more decades I will be that elderly gardener. I hope there will be lots of young persons wanting to walk with me and hear about the plants and other gardenting stories.

  4. I’m throwing in my bid for the book because I’ve lived in the Charlotte, NC area for 9 years now and have *just now* heard of Ms. Lawrence. One of her gardens is only a short drive away and I’ve never been. I’ve embarked on a Southern Garden and I would love a chance to read about her journey as a southern gardener. I’ll be at Winghaven Gardens May 25th for sure.

  5. I was raised in the South & now only get back once or twice a year. Oh ! I miss Southern Gardens with their lush foliage & vibrant blooms ! Even more, I miss Southern Gardeners – Mom & my sisters still living there, & the friends & relatives willing to share with you over a glass of iced tea what makes their garden so profoundly special.

    Hmmmm, maybe it’s time to book another flight home.

  6. Having been raised in the gardening mecca of eastern Long Island by parents whose extraordinary gardening skills were regularly featured in various publications: I was exposed to and learned to appreciate real gardening at a tender age. It wasn’t until I moved south however that I became a real gardener myself. There is just something about the blurring of the seasons; the lack of those clear lines when the jonquils come up in the spring or the mums bloom on schedule in the autumn. It is not an exact science in the Carolinas and it is one that keeps you guessing and involved closely with the soil. Elizabeth Lawrence embraced the possibilities.
    We are all better off for her having done so and sharing that knowledge with the world.

  7. I like her comment about being “architecturally minded.” Something to remember as I lay out my own new garden!

  8. I am thrilled to hear of this book. I read Two Gardeners, a Friendship in Letters, which was a compilation of Elizabeth’s correspondence with Katherine White from the New Yorker. The book was wonderful, I felt I was evesdropping on their conversations and that they had become my fast friends. I’ve been fascinated about these two women every since. I can’t wait to get this book and find out what else my old friend Elizabeth had to say.

  9. Thanks for the excerpt; I’d love to read this book. I completely agree with the comment, “A garden must be a portrait of a person.” Far too many one-size-fits-all gardens around these parts!

  10. Miss Lawrence’s ability to pay attention to detail is aptly illustrated in that passage, as in her writings. Thanks for posting that vivid bit.

  11. As a new resident of Raleigh NC I find the area haunted by ghosts of great gardeners past. JC Raulston and Ms Lawrence are at the top of that list. I already own books written by or about both of them and can’t wait to add this one to my library. Makes me glad I moved here.

  12. My favorite Lawrence is still The Little Bulbs. Useful to gardeners north and south, it draws attention to plants that are STILL underused. I feel the need for more tiny daffodils now.

  13. I love Elizabeth Lawrence. My greatest hope would be that somehow by reading this book, I could “Become Elizabeth Lawrence.” Or some close approximation! I secretly hoped that she would tell Ellen Shipman that the “plant material” really does matter.

  14. Hi Emily,
    Did you know that in February 2007, May Dreams Carol held a Garden Bloggers Book Club meeting with your Two Gardeners book as the subject for our book club posts? I’m so glad Carol encouraged us to buy it! Here’s my post:

    ‘Through the Garden Gate’ is still my favorite collection of Elizabeth Lawrence columns – it’s such a pleasure to see both breadth & depth of her curiosity, and I love the way she reveals her garden prejudices and weaknesses…the plants she tries over and over but kills, her problems with pronouncing botanical names, and my favorite – admitting that if a plant such as a special quince was too large for her garden, she’d grow it anyway and just keep hacking it back.

    Your new book sounds terrific!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  15. Emily, Many, many thanks for giving us this new treasure of Elizabeth Lawrence’s letters. I’ve been enjoying reading it these past few weeks, just as I enjoyed your other two books, Two Gardeners and No One Gardens Alone, plus all the books Lawrence wrote. I think I have everything she had published. I included a few of my favorite “snippets” from this new collection of letters in a post on my blog yesterday. If I lived closer to North Carolina, I’d come to one or more of your book tour stops!

  16. I love the way Elizabeth respected the plant knowledge of gardeners far removed from her own circumstances, as is evident in Gardening for Love: The Market Bulletins, but my favorite has to be The Little Bulbs, perhaps because Mr. Krippendorf had a climate similar to mine. Or maybe it’s just because I like little flowering bulbs.

  17. Not a single stop in South Carolina? Too, too bad!

    I read as much of Elizabeth Lawrence’s writing as I could last year before moving to the Carolinas. I read Two Gardeners and love it. A really fascinating look at two women in completely different climates both struggling with their gardens. I’ve also read A Garden of One’s Own, Beautiful at All Seasons, A Southern Garden, and Little Bulbs. Now I find myself gardening in pure sand, but Ms. Lawrence’s writing helps me nonetheless as I re-learn how to garden in this strange climate.

    Whenever I have people stop from the Charlotte by the garden, I tell them to go see the Elizabeth Lawrence garden, now owned by Wing Haven and undergoing restoration. Not a single person that I have met has heard of it. I find this very sad so I send as many people there as I can.

    For Southern gardeners, Ms. Lawrence is a goldmine of information. Today, there appears to be a dearth of garden writers in the Southeast. While I search for a reliable source of information, Ms. Lawrence will remain my standby.

  18. I am new to the South and new to gardening and I once asked a seasoned friend in Seattle why she had so many gardening books. Of course there couldn’t possibly be anything new…I thought to myself. She warned me if I ever decided to get my hands in the dirt that my heart would open to the books and I’d search for more. Today I found myself in a used bookstore purchasing four books about gardening! I intend for my garden to be an extension of the life I live and desire to share. Naturally I would love to read just “one more book” while sipping tea in my garden.

  19. Hooray for this event!

    Date: Thursday, May 13 at 7:00 p.m.
    Venue: Pomegranate Books
    4418 Park Avenue
    Wilmington, NC 28403
    Phone: 910-452-1107

    I do their social media! How funny that today is BLOOM DAY, inspired by an E.L. quote. I was just at Pom this afternoon, explaining Bloom Day, when the owner showed me the flyer for your event! I’m so excited to meet you and to read your book 🙂

  20. I would like to become an Elizabeth Lawrence convert. Although my family came from New Orleans, I have been living as a Yankee In Disguise for 40 years. The gardeners I’ve loved reading, with the exception of the encylopedic Dirr, are Yankees: Katherine White, Celia Thaxter, and denizens of Vermont and Connecticut.

    Warm me up! Color my imagination with sub-tropicals! Make me swoon with the fragrance of camellias and gardenias!

    Widen my horizons and my planting vocabulary. And send that book tour up our way.

    Marie in Lexington Massachusetts, a Yankee town if there ever was one.

  21. The gardening subject aside, I love how this letter captures the sparring style of these two women, and how Elizabeth got Ann Shipman to admit indirectly that she, a landscape architect, doesn’t know much about plants at all–which is the perennial criticism gardeners have about landscape architects.

  22. For me, personally, Elizabeth Lawrence’s observation that “no one gardens alone” is a touchstone in my love of gardening, which often is a solitary activity for me, but one where I am always aware of those who taught me a particular garden practice, gave or recommended to me a particular plant, commiserated about the often cruel forces of nature, and so on.

  23. Well at least I’m not the only one who needs an introduction. I think what I love most about her right now is how graceful she looks sweeping down the stone stairs with the dog, when she’s got to be as earthy as they come to live so close to the soil. Kind of surprised to hear her use the term, “plant material” though–thought that was an unfortunate factor of late 20th century removal from the land.

  24. I agree that it doesn’t matter where you create gardens…the principles are the same. But this passage is key in that it shows not only more about Shipman’s personality but that it also unlocks the thinking behind her designs. I would love to read and learn more about Elizabeth Lawrence! She is obviously a fellow lover of gardens and a keen observer. Without such women, I think the profession of landscape design would not be what it is today. (Hope to receive the book and explore her life further!)

  25. Invite me to South Carolina, or other places within driving distance, and I’ll come, and we’ll talk about elizabeth Lawrence.
    Thanks for the posts.
    Emily Herring Wilson

  26. I’ve loved all of Elizabeth Lawrence’s writings, as well as the book about her life, ‘No One Gardens Alone’. Maybe it’s because it evokes a simpler time, a slower pace; certainly, a life totally wrapped in gardening. I’m excited to hear of this new book!
    Thank you!

  27. Uh oh, how come I’ve never heard of Elizabeth Lawrence? I now want to read her everything, but especially her correspondence with Katherine White, whom I adore.

    But really, what I really want is to LOOK like Elizabeth Lawrence — I assume that is she, on the cover of the new book? Is she gorgeous/cool/chic or what?! I want that dress! Those cheekbones! (she can keep the dog). Or maybe it’s the the vaguely beautiful trees seen behind her in the landscape. I love her look as she steps down the stone pathway — she just looks determined and self-contained and just slightly mischievous.

  28. I have never read her, but now I will have to. I love the articulation of the ideas that “no one gardens alone” and that “a garden must be a portrait of a person.”

  29. I know nothing about her, but would like to. I think that’s a fantastic reason for me to win the book. Right? Teach me, I’m hungry, and my garden is so full of plants I now turn to reading about them (or I’m just lazy and prefer to read).

  30. When I bought my first house and decided to create a garden I went through the library and raided the gardening section. I found a book of her columns and read it in no time.

    I read everything I could find from her and then found out she was friends with Eudora Welty who was also a lover of gardening (who is one of my favorite writers)

    It was Elizabeth Lawrence’s writing that encouraged me along. I would LOVE this book.

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