Friday, March 02, 2007

'Two Gardeners'
A Friendship In Letters
by Katharine S. White and
Elizabeth Lawrence

February Garden Bloggers Book Club Meeting

This book of letters written between 1958 - 1977 gives so much insight into the lives of Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence. What started out as a feeler to expand Elizabeth's networking with admired professional gardeners and garden writers blossoms into an enduring friendship. It is very interesting indeed. They shared information and encouraged one another in their efforts to continue writing. In a time before computers with internet connections and E-mail this must have been part of the accepted way to gather information and stay in the loop in the field of horticulture. Of course the telephone was available but it does not look like either woman took advantage of the quicker means of communicating. I found myself wondering why.
Maybe for the same reason that they only met once. Maybe they preferred a friendship that was separate from the rest of their lives, that only included who they were when they were writing. The letters could be read or written in ones own time, even in the middle of the night while sitting in bed recovering from yet another illness or taking care of an ailing parent, to be put aside if need arises then returned to at a more appropriate time.

I found myself jotting down names of people, plants and places to look up later. Like Cecil Houdyshels Little brochures and the market bulletins about which Elizabeth talks of writing a book. I can see where these letters and the books and other documents these women collect over the years would be of use to historians and students at university. I can also understand keeping letters to read again and again. My childrens father spent time in Vietnam and our only communication was through letters for over a year. It is a surprisingly intimate way to speak to one another.

Emily Herring Wilson did well to allow the letters to speak for themselves injecting only enough comment to set the order of the letters.

4 Comments:

Blogger Carol said...

Gloria, thank you for participating. I had never thought about did they just prefer to write each other? I also think "back then" making a long-distance phone call was a big deal, unlike today with cell phones and 'free' minutes.

I'll update the post to include a link to your post.

2/3/07 6:31 PM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

Hi Gloria - you do give us something to think about! Maybe the choice of letters as communication was a little bit of both things? Letters would be better than the telephones of that time for giving plant names and spellings. But it was rare to have long distance calls. I was shocked to discover that my grandmother heard about her sister's death by mail. In the late 1950's it was too expensive for the Oregon relatives to call to Chicago.

The letters do make me wish I could grow plants they mention!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

3/3/07 9:38 AM  
Blogger Gloria said...

Thank you Carol!

Annie,some of the catalogs and the market bullets in particular sounded worth looking into. I must read Elizabeth Lawrence's book about those notices and her experience with those farming people.

Have you ever seen...
DUTCH BULBS AND GARDENS

DESCRIBED BY
UNA SILBERRAD AND SOPHIE LYALL
1909
http://kellscraft.com/dutchbulbscontent.html

The artwork is wonderful and it is so unique in it's narrative and content.

I like looking into such.

3/3/07 10:34 PM  
Anonymous robert swayze said...

Hi Gloria...somehow I love this antiquated system of writing letters to each other...u can keep the memories all etched in some sheets of paper which u can take a reading anytime..even today we share the same scenario of virtual friendship..the only differebce is we do it by mails which takes few seconds to reach whereas in those times...it use to take few days or weeks to reach the recipient...and also thanks a lot for such a beautiful post :)

3/4/07 7:45 AM  

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