Elizabeth Lawrence’s “Southern Garden” still inspires 70 years later

Elizabeth Lawrence  ( 1904-1985) is an internationally known garden writer and was the first female graduate of the first program of landscape architecture ever offered in the South . She is listed amongst the top twenty-five gardeners of all time!

Last week a friend and I went to tour Elizabeth Lawrence’s House and Garden in Charlotte.

Elizabeth Lawrence’s House
Elizabeth Lawrence’s garden and ‘laboratory’

Elizabeth Lawrence is my inspiration as a gardener and landscape designer. When I first started gardening in the South in 1996,  I realized that it was going to be very different from gardening in Great Britain when I had to wield a pick axe to break into the heavy clay soil. I almost gave up in despair until I found Elizabeth Lawrence’s  book “The Southern Garden .”  I needed help in selecting suitable plants that would survive the acidic clay soil and intense summer heat and this book does that and more. The writing style is very knowledgeable, practical and soothing and focused on the very real conditions of gardening in the South. Elizabeth Lawrence used her garden as a laboratory for growing trees, shrubs and plants to find out their best growing conditions and with this information, she could design landscapes with the optimum plants for the landscape. She had a huge network of gardeners and nursery people who sent her plants to trial and test out in her garden, which she would then write about in her books and garden columns.


Like Elizabeth, I keep my own records of when plants bloom, in a small notebook that I put together every year. I jot down the earliest blooms,  brief notes about the weather, notes on when the plants stop blooming and any ideas for improvements for the next year. Sometimes I  print out photos of different plant combos that  look good together in the garden. This information is invaluable for designing landscapes and for planning horticultural therapy activities.


2 thoughts on “Elizabeth Lawrence’s “Southern Garden” still inspires 70 years later

    1. She really was ahead of her time, and was able to trace back many of the plants she grew to the actual person who brought the original plants to America !! It seems now that it would be impossible to keep track of the new plants are introduced by “plant hunters” from all over the globe- and to keep track of all the new plant hybrids that are developed every year by the different nurseries and universities.


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