- Author: Pegi Palmes, Master Gardener
In the first few months of the year—that time between the hectic holiday season and busy spring gardening—I like to sit in a comfortable chair with a cup of something warm to drink next to a stack of good books. These books capture the nurturing quality in nature that has inspired poets and writers and just plain folks for centuries; they entertain, amuse, humble, and enlighten.
The books I've chosen to highlight in this article contain poetry, history, quotable quotes, humor, art, and a few insights into the lives of gardens and gardeners. Some are out of print but are available used or at the library.
Emily Dickinson's Gardens, by Marta McDowell. Filled with quotations from Emily's personal letters and poems, each
The Quotable Gardener, edited by Charles Elliott. This is a collection of wisdom, insight, and humor from several well-known people. This is an entertaining book, one in which you can randomly choose a page and read a quote or two about the world's most popular hobby: gardening. There are over four hundred quotations, one line zingers, stanzas of verse, and full narrative paragraphs on gardening. A few of those quoted in this book are Woody Allen, Groucho Marx, Charles Darwin, Voltaire, the Bible, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Thomas Jefferson, and Gertrude Jekyll.
The Complete Language of Flowers, by Sheila Pickles. In this book, the author explains the meanings of both cultivated and wild flowers and accompanies her text with selections of poetry and prose by writers of every age. Throughout the book are images of paintings from mostly nineteenth-century artists, as well as several flower studies by Victorian painters and illustrators, all selected to complement the text. Every page of this book is a visual floral feast.
Two Gardeners, A Friendship in Letters, edited by Emily Herring Wilson. This is a collection of letters between the legendary New Yorker editor Katherine S. White and noted southern garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence. The letters, spanning the years 1958-1977, bring to life a unique friendship between two intelligent women. The formidable Mrs. White and the shy Miss Lawrence, both avid gardeners and readers, exchanged more than 150 letters, although they only met in person once. In 1958, Mrs. White (who was also the wife of Charlotte's Web author E. B. White), began writing a gardening column for The New Yorker Magazine from their farm in Maine. Miss Lawrence, who never married, was the first woman to graduate from the North Carolina State program in landscape design. She began by writing articles for House & Garden and other magazines, and designing landscapes for friends. She later wrote several garden books and a weekly column for The Charlotte Observer, and she often opened her private garden to the public. The letters between these two women discussed subjects ranging from bloom times in their respective zones to their families, meetings with cantankerous plantsmen, and later, the unwelcome changes that come with age. The book is illustrated with photographs of Katherine and Elizabeth, their families, gardens, and homes. The letters ended when Katharine died at the age of eighty-four in 1977.