“Gardening is not intellectual, you must get out and do it, ” she reflected later in life. “The absolute contact between the hand and the earth, the intimacy of it, that is the instinct of a gardener.” page 153, One Writer’s Garden: Eudora Welty’s Home Place
Every so often, a book stares down from a bookcase at me. It looks right into my soul and bids me to spend some time languishing upon its pages as it wraps me between its covers like a shawl. One Writer’s Garden did just that from the moment I first saw it sitting on prominent shelf in a local public library.
The book grew out of Susan Haltom’s efforts to restore the home gardens of Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Eudora Welty. Haltom, along with Jane Roy Brown, collaborated on the book. Told in chapters that span more than forty decades, we come to understand how the many plants and garden influenced Ms. Welty’s writing and we also learn how home gardening grew through much of the twentieth century.
Eudora Welty’s remarkable body of work has to do with her strong sense of place. It is easy to understand how this garden played a part in this and I am eager to read more of Welty’s books and stories, especially The Optimist’s Daughter, which just followed me home from the library.
The Welty garden was originally planted and maintained by Eudora Welty’s mother, Chestina. It helped her through the grief of her husband’s death as it helped them both as they saw loved ones going off to World War II.
I’ve been reading One Writer’s Garden just as my garden club is busy getting ready for our annual Garden Walk and Faire on July 8. I read the book in between visiting featured gardens on a preview walk for the homeowners and attending to details for the Faire that I am responsible for, as well as handling reservations for a Garden Clubs of Illinois luncheon later in July. Both organizations are under the umbrella of the National Garden Clubs. I write this not to draw attention to my endeavors, but to just say how enlightening it was for me to read this book right now and learn more about the founding of the National Garden Clubs, the history of women in gardens, and how vital gardens were in the early decades of the 20th century. Among other things, they yielded nosegays to be given when visiting, as well as floral arrangements to be taken to homes where deceased were waked. Our garden club members still bring a floral arrangement to members who have lost a close family member. It was heart warming to learn of how this custom came about.
I could go on about how the Garden Conservancy was called upon for advice on the historical significance of Eudora Welty’s garden, or even how often the Silver Moon rose is mentioned in One Writer’s Garden. I could point out how many wonderful personal pictures and quotes are in the book, or how relevant Chestina’s gardening journals were in the garden’s restoration, but I think, instead, that I will just urge you to read One Writer’s Garden and discover the many treasures growing there on your own.
Doesn’t this photo, found in the book, evoke a sense of place?