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Book Recommendation: A Southern Garden by Elizabeth Lawrence

Winter is obviously a great time to catch up on your reading list. If you can find it, then add Elizabeth Lawrence's “A Southern Garden” to your list. Although it was originally published in 1942, the observations and instructions are still relevant today, as attested by the numerous reprints. There are very few illustrations, but the content is full of insights that would benefit gardeners, especially those located in the southern United States. After all, Ms. Lawrence's garden was located in North Carolina.


A Southern Garden book

While describing scented evergreens for winter, she reveals this nugget:

 

“One of the most pervasive scents of winter is that of the sweet olive, Osmanthus fragrans. In Thomasville, Georgia, there is one at every doorstep; in mid-winter the town smells like a perfume shop.”

 

Can't you just imagine it? Her description of Osmanthus fragrans, also known as the tea olive tree, was the deciding factor for including this fragrant tree in our collection. Her description did not disappoint. When the container is brought indoors for winter, many compliments are received regarding the fragrance. We are located right at the boundary for Osmanthus fragrans to remain outdoors, but the container goes indoors, just in case.

 

Besides her easy-going prose, she includes a long list of plants with the earliest and latest bloom times over several seasons, based on observations within her garden. Obviously, the list may not coincide with that of readers in other geographic locations, but it demonstrates her commitment to provide thorough information. As a trained landscape architect, she was also known as an ardent horticulturist. Her advice was highly sought-after, because she could seamlessly bridge both disciplines of landscape design and horticulture.

 

If you are looking for older varieties of plants, then this volume will help immensely. It identifies many of the “old-time” plants, based on both the Latin botanical names and nicknames. For anyone who has tried to research an oddly named plant from centuries ago, then you may know the frustration of searching the internet for that term. One would think that old plant names are easy to find, but they are sometimes confused with other types of plants. This book may help you clarify some of those mysteries.

 

Elizabeth Lawrence's writing style is not flashy, but it is more like a leisurely stroll throughout her garden, punctuated with her observations about how plants perform in other gardens, too. Her timeless wisdom has already proven helpful, so perhaps this pleasant tome will prove the same for you!


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