Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A new book on Elizabeth Lawrence, Charlotte's late, great garden writer

A few years ago, a friend gave me a Christmas present of Emily Herring Wilson's "Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White & Elizabeth Lawrence -- A Friendship in Letters."

White, wife of E.B. White, was a writer and editor for The New Yorker. Lawrence wrote gardening books and gardening columns for The Charlotte Observer. Their friendship lasted from the late '50s until White's death in 1977.

I found it a fascinating, wonderful book, and I wasn't alone. The New York Times called it "one of the finest gardening books published in years."

Now, Wilson, who lives in Winston-Salem, has published another book of Lawrence's letters, "Becoming Elizabeth Lawrence: Discovered Letters of a Southern Gardener" (John F. Blair Publisher, $$19.95). It's the correspondence between Lawrence and her friend and mentor Ann Preston Bridgers, founder of the Raleigh Little Theatre and coauthor of "Coquette," a Broadway hit that starred Helen Hayes.
Wilson will be in Charlotte to discuss her book 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 25, at the Wing Haven Garden & Bird Sanctuary, where Elizabeth Lawrence's gardens are located, at 248 Ridgewood Ave.

She discovered the letters, she told me, while working on "No One Gardens Alone," her biography of Lawrence. The collection reveals much about the two women's friendship, as well as life for Southern women in the 1930s and 1940s.

Lawrence died in 1985. In 2004, Horticulture magazine named her one of the world's 25 greatest gardeners.

“I really didn’t have the key to Elizabeth until I had these letters,” Wilson says. "This is as close as we'll have to her autobiography."