Beautiful at All Seasons

Southern Gardening and Beyond with Elizabeth Lawrence

Beautiful at All Seasons

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 9 illustrations, 1 map Published: February 2007

General Interest > Gardening, NC and Regional U.S.

Elizabeth Lawrence (1904–85) is recognized as one of America’s most important gardeners and garden writers. In 1957, Lawrence began a weekly column for the Charlotte Observer, blending gardening lore and horticultural expertise gained from her own gardens in Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina, and from her many gardener friends. This book presents 132 of her beloved columns. Never before published in book form, they were chosen from the more than 700 pieces that she wrote for the Observer over fourteen years.

Lawrence exchanged plants and gardening tips with everyone from southern “farm ladies” trading bulbs in garden bulletins to prominent regional gardeners. She corresponded with nursery owners, everyday backyard gardeners, and literary luminaries such as Katharine White and Eudora Welty. Her books, including A Southern Garden, The Little Bulbs, and Gardens in Winter, inspired several generations of gardeners in the South and beyond.

The columns in this volume cover specific plants, such as sweet peas, hellebores, peonies, and the bamboo growing outside her living-room window, as well as broader topics including the usefulness of vines, the importance of daily pruning, and organic gardening. Like all of Lawrence’s writing, these columns are peppered with references to conversations with neighbors and quotations from poetry, mythology, and correspondence. They brim with knowledge gained from a lifetime of experimenting in her gardens, from her visits to other gardens, and from her extensive reading.

Lawrence once wrote, “Dirty fingernails are not the only requirement for growing plants. One must be as willing to study as to dig, for a knowledge of plants is acquired as much from books as from experience.” As inspiring today as when they first appeared in the Charlotte Observer, the columns collected in Beautiful at All Seasons showcase not only Lawrence’s vast knowledge but also her intimate, conversational writing style and her lifelong celebration of gardens and gardening.


Beautiful at All Seasons is to be sipped, as wine; not gulped, as soda pop. One or two pieces an evening will do very well; reading wherever the book falls open yields pleasure. A word of caution: Dirty fingernails may result. Sharing Lawrence’s zest for gardening is sure to stir an urge to stick a spade, and fingers, in the soil." — Bryan Haislip, Winston-Salem Journal

“[I]nformative and often lyrical.” — Mae Woods Bell, Rocky Mount Telegram

“The columns constitute an invaluable resource for nature lovers and others who relish literary allusions. . . . As inspiring today as when they were first published, the columns collected in Beautiful at All Seasons showcase not only Lawrence’s vast knowledge but also her intimate, conversational writing style and her lifelong celebration of gardens and gardening.” — Susan Farrington, Sanford Herald

“[This] attractive book offers information and advice on a wide range of plants and a myriad of gardening topics. Armstrong and Wilson’s choice to arrange the essays in the book by subject matter provides the reader a valuable resource on plant material to which he/she may return over and over. The book’s exhaustive and helpful index augments its practical usability.” — Deborah Moore Clark, Carolina Landscape

“Fans of Elizabeth Lawrence will want to get their hands on Beautiful at All Seasons. . . . Those unfamiliar with Lawrence will find themselves enchanted with her thoughtful and conversational writing, akin to a modern day blog.” — American Gardener

“Fifty years after her columns for the Charlotte Observer were first published, Elizabeth Lawrence inspires a new generation of garden enthusiasts. Her vast knowledge of plants delights both novice and experienced gardeners.” — Southern Accents

“Gardeners will want it for the advice, but those who do not dig in the dirt will enjoy these short, informative and conversational essays.” — Cliff Bellamy, Durham Herald-Sun

“Here are revealed Lawrence’s wide gardening interests—plant culture, lore and literature, flowers of the church calendar, and correspondence with literary luminaries. . . . Elizabeth had a graceful writing style—warm, engaging, and conversation-like.” — Bobby J. Ward, Rock Garden

“It is the clearly personal tone which makes [Lawrence’s] columns worth reading, much as one might talk to a colleague. One can agree or disagree but the chat is never dull.” — Judith Taylor, Garden Gazette

“Lawrence displays the virtues of a dedicated plantswoman: she is generous, patient, watchful and above all curious as she delves into the histories of her favorite plants or consults her favorite experts . . . on the more arcane aspects of plant lore.” — Jennifer Potter, TLS

“Ms. Lawrence's voice is delightful—and not just for its contagious enthusiasm. Often her seemingly incidental asides become small quaint observations.” — William Scheick, Texas Gardener's Seeds

“Reading these essays is like picking through a box of fine chocolates, each one to be savored, carefully nibbled and melted in your mouth. . . . Reading Lawrence reminds us that gardening is a way to connect to our community, our history and traditions and ultimately to the world around us. This is one for the bedside table.” — David Bare, Winston-Salem Journal

“This book is filled with unusual facts. If you're not even a gardener, you will enjoy reading about these plants and herbs. . . . This book is a real treasure.” — Mary Rice Patterson, Salisbury Post

“This collection is possessed of many virtues. Though the columns were written decades ago, they are not dated, offering ideas, descriptions, and tips that are valid both now and in the future. One virtue is that the collection can be used as a reference book for plants that will easily snuggle into Southern gardens, from peonies and hellebores to hydrangeas and smilax. . . . But more—much more—recommends this book than its undoubted value as a reference volume. Lawrence's way with words enchants.” — Janet Lembke, News & Observer

“This slender volume, packed with grace, renders it all for you in a marvelous package.” — Blue Ridge Business Journal

"I knew Lawrence well enough from previous books that, rather than jumping about to read columns of particular interest first, I began at the beginning and went through to the end. It was stopping that was disappointing, for Lawrence's writing is so filled with wit, color, interesting stories of plants and gardeners and Lawrence's own likes and dislikes that I want more. I marked the book in a shameful way, underlining and writing notes in the margins. I want to be able to savor my first pleasure again and again in future readings." — Tony P. Wrenn, Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg VA)

"The book is extremely enjoyable and a must for every gardener on the planet as well as for those who simply wish to embark once again on a lovely journey with Elizabeth Lawrence." — Anita Stone, Pilot (Southern Pines NC)

“A new book of garden essays by the incomparable Elizabeth Lawrence is a cause for celebration. A page a day will keep the garden—and you—happy.” — Emily Herring Wilson, author of No One Gardens Alone: A Life of Elizabeth Lawrence

“All gardeners will welcome this splendidly edited collection of essays by Elizabeth Lawrence. They will delight in her elegant prose and subtle humor and will marvel at her breadth of knowledge of plants and literature. I could hardly put it down.” — Nancy Goodwin, author of Montrose: Life in a Garden

“Southern gardeners and beyond will welcome the availability of a new trove of Elizabeth Lawrence’s renowned Charlotte Observer columns. Her writing style is personal and conversational and literary in approach, engaging and warm.” — Bobby J. Ward, coeditor of A Garden of One’s Own: Writings of Elizabeth Lawrence


Availability: In stock
Price: $23.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Elizabeth Lawrence was the author of A Southern Garden, The Little Bulbs (also published by Duke University Press), Gardens in Winter, and Lob’s Wood, as well as many other writings for newspapers, magazines, and gardening bulletins, some of which were collected in posthumous books including Gardening for Love and A Rock Garden in the South, both also published by Duke University Press. A graduate of Barnard College, she was the first woman to receive a degree in landscape architecture from North Carolina State College (now North Carolina State University). Lawrence was awarded the Herbert Medal of the American Plant Life Society in 1943 and was honored by the American Horticultural Society and the National Council of State Garden Clubs for her writing.

Ann L. Armstrong is a garden lecturer and writer in Charlotte, North Carolina. She wrote the Wing Haven Garden Journal, a garden planning and maintenance calendar. Lindie Wilson owns Elizabeth Lawrence’s former home in Charlotte, where for twenty years she has maintained the garden that Lawrence began in 1948.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction xv

Note to the Reader xxi

One: Seasonal Flowers

Garden Resolutions 1

Flowers for Christmas Time 3

Flowers Greet the New Year 5

Winter Flowers 7

The Green Winter 8

A Hard Winter 9

Bamboo 11

Storm Damage 13

The Merry Month of May 14

Tender Perennials for Hot-Weather Gardens 16

Flowers in the Fall Border 18

Fragrance in the Garden 19

Fall Additions to the Border 21

Sow Hardy Annual Seeds During September 22

Planting Annuals in Autumn 24

Late-Blooming Flowers 25

The Gardening Year Is Just Beginning 27

Two: Perennials and Annuals

Planting in Relays 29

Badge of Gardening Includes Black Knees 31

Gardening Surprises 33

The Law of Supply and Demand 34

Variegated Foliage 36

Selections for the Rock Garden 38

Tropical Plants 39

Annuals 41

Sweet Peas 43

Peony 45

Tree Peonies and Others 46

Clematis also Flowers in Shade 48

Beautiful Lilies 49

Asteromoea mongolica-- Kalimeris pinnatifida 51

Hellebores 53

The Christmas Rose and Other Hellebores 54

Giridlian . . . A Master of Plants 56

Night-Blooming Cereus 58

The Dividends of Fall Planting 59

Savannah Lands of East Carolina 61

Petasites 62

Three: Bulbs, Corms, and Tubers

Planting Bulbs, Corms, and Tubers 65

Bulbs Through the Seasons 66

Some Early Spring Bulbs 68

Daffodils Need Early Start 70

Specialty Bulbs 72

Crown Imperials 73

Lycoris radiata 75

Amaryllis Family 77

The Surprise Lily 78

Lilies Grow Where None Were 79

Garden Casualties 81

Four: Trees and Shrubs

Planting for Ice Storms 83

Plants for Parking Strips 85

Flowering Trees for the City 86

Street Trees 88

Trees with Colored Bark 90

Witch Hazels 92

Flowering Cherries 93

Serviceberries and Sloes 95

Dogwoods 97

Buckeyes 98

Eucalyptus 100

Honey Locust 102

Osmanthus 103

Hollies 105

Conifers 106

Firs and Cedars 108

Flowering Shrubs 110

March-Flowering Shrubs 111

Viburnums and Other Flowering Shrubs 113

June-Flowering Shrubs 114

Viburnums 116

Pyracanthas 118

Nandinas 119

Hydrangeas 121

Sasanquas 122

Camellia saluenensis 124

E. A. Bowles's Lunatics 125

Five: Vegetables and Herbs, Climbers and Creepers

Fall Vegetables 129

Two Vegetable Gardens 130

Mrs. Hobbs and Her Herbs 132

Sweet Woodruff 134

Dandelions 136

Vines Are Useful Tools 137

Smilax 139

Clematis Hybrids 140

Akebia and Rosa banksiae 142

Ground Covers 144

Ground Covers Pose Problems 146

Tiny Creepers 148

Six: Gardeners and Gardens

Wing Haven 151

Importance of Garden Details 152

Steps in Your Garden 154

Walks and Paths 156

Terraces and Patios 158

Water in the Garden 159

Mr. Krippenndorf's Garden 161

Physic Garden at the Country Doctor Museum 162

Mr. Busbee's Garden 164

A Visit to Italy's Oldest Botanic Garden 166

Colette's Mother's Garden 167

The Splendor of Royal Gardens 169

Gotelli's Collection of Dwarf Conifers 171

The Scented Garden 172

The Gardens of a Soldier's Wife 174

Pioneer Seedsman 176

Young Belgian Guided Southern Horticulture 177

Meet Caroline Dormon 179

She Talks to the Birds 181

The Hunt Arboretum 182

Seven: Gods, Legends, and Rituals

The Gods of the Garden 185

The Ash, a Symbol in History 187

The Tale of the Magical Hawthorn Tree 189

The Holy Thorn Blooms for Royalty 190

The Christian Year Parallels the Garden Year 192

Holiday Wreaths 194

The Advent Wreath 196

Legend and Lore of the Christmas Tree 197

International Christmas Trees 199

The Flowers of the Trinity 201

The Flowers of Passiontide 203

The Story of the Passion Flower 205

Rituals of the Palms 206

Rogation Days-- The Blessing of the Crops 208

Eight: Bits and Pieces

Asafetida 211

Feeding the Birds 213

Honey 214

Organic Gardening 216

Pruning 218

Pruning Should Be Done Every Day 219

Historic Flower Arrangements 221

Bouquet Carried Messages 223

Pomanders 224

Creatures Add to a Garden 226

Index 229
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5776-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3887-1