Winter Smiles

"Sweeter yet than dream or song of Summer or Spring are Winter's sometimes smiles."*

Winter sometimes smiles around here with...

... the simple blooms of Oxalis, growing in my sunroom.

... a sunny day,

... the emergence of the slender leaves of crocus and snow drops,

... the still green leaves of the hellebores,

... a new gardening book.

The mailman recently brought me Gardens in Winter by Elizabeth Lawrence. With this delivery, I now have all the books Elizabeth wrote, except for one, plus the all the published compilations of her newspaper columns.

The one book I don't have is Lob's Wood. I have it on order, and hope to have it soon. Before last week, I never found a copy of it for less than $95, but now it appears that a secondary seller on has it for $20. But, they haven't sent it yet, so I won't count it as mine until it is safely on my doorstep.

Even though Eliz. Lawrence wrote about gardening from the perspective of her North Carolina climate and I garden two zones away in Indiana, I still enjoy her books. I like her style of writing and how she connected with gardeners across the country, keeping up coorespondence with many of them through letters and occasional visits.

She wrote in Gardens in Winter,

"I am often asked who these gardeners are whose letters I quote so frequently. They are just people who write to me because they are interested in the things I am interested in, and who send me notes of flowers and seasons. Some of them are well known, and some are plain dirt gardeners like me. What matters is not who they are but where they garden; for to be of any use, information about plants must be regional."

Many garden bloggers, upon reading her books or columns, comment that had she been living today, Elizabeth Lawrence would most definitely have a garden blog and be in the "thick of it all" in the garden blogosphere.

We will never really know, but can be happy that she left us with several books and hundreds of newspaper columns full of her opinions, thoughts, questions, and observations about plants and gardening.

In the intro to Gardens in Winter, Elizabeth wrote,

"I never did care for fair-weather gardeners. Standing behind glass doors, they look out at the cold ground and leafless branches, and exclaim, "How beautiful this must be in spring!"

How beautiful it is now, I want to cry --as if a lavender wash was laid on the boles of the pine trees, and the pale trunks of the Oriental magnolias, on the purple bricks around the pool, the red earth, the amber gravel, and fawn-colored stone, drawing them all together in a series of related tones.

How beautiful it is when the pattern of the garden becomes clear again, when no leaves blur the long straight line or gentle curve, or the restful circle laid on the square, where levels are sharply defined, and intervals between steps have the rhythm of falling water, when hidden nests are revealed, distant tree tops unveiled and lost vistas regained."

This month, you'll find me mostly inside reading this book and browsing through seed catalogs. But I'll venture outside often to look for these "winter's sometimes smiles". I don't want to be mistaken for a "fair weather gardener", I want to strive to be a "plain dirt gardener"!

And I want to appreciate the winter for what it brings, and not let it pass by as simply a long yearning for spring.

Visit Sweet Home and Garden Chicago for other posts with poetry or quotes today for Garden Bloggers Muse Day!

*Coventry Patmore, Selected Poems, edited by Derek Patmore (London, The Grey Walls Press, 1948)


  1. I had never read her, but I recently sampled a few paragraphs based on your recommendation, and I liked them. So I've just ordered my first E. Lawrence book.

  2. What beautiful writing! I feel the need to check out this author.

  3. I have her winter garden book, too — actually half a dozen winter garden books. Vital when you live where there is serious winter. I can see the tops of some small shrubs but that's all of the green that's showing for me. Still, my garden was designed with winter in mind and there is always plenty to see. One year we even had a winter garden tour!

  4. Happy New Year Carol,

    I love her...and have each one of her books...even searching when one or two were out of print. I do get to garden in zone 7 and can go out most days to look for smiles. I hope you see many of them this winter! gail

  5. That sounds like a great read! Every season has it's beauty, and without Winter, Spring would not be as sweet.

  6. A great first post of the year Carol. Happy Muse Day.

  7. Wonderful post, Carol. If I lived in the beautiful state of North Carolina I'm sure I could find some positive things to say about winter there.

    I try to enjoy winter's "sometimes smiles " like early December when it was almost 60 degrees and the ice melted.

    Enjoy your new gardening books and thanks for contributing to muse day.

  8. Elizabeth Lawrence was my favorite. Have you been to her garden in Charlotte? First under the Garden Conservancy, and still supported by the GC, but now also aided by Wing Haven. It is a lovely garden. My winter reading is Beverely Nichols. What fun! He was a witty writter.

  9. Elizabeth Lawrence (along with Henry Mitchell) wrote about gardening in a way that few garden bloggers have yet approached but that I wish more would aspire to.

    I've heard people talk about the death of print garden books and publications because or the blogosphere--after all why pay for words when you can read them for free? But I will never tie of leafing through her books. Her writing leaves me amazed.

  10. I have not yet read Elizabeth Lawrence but your post inspires me to do so. I have many garden books to read this winter along with the seed catalogs. We will be in pursuit of the same endeavors during these winter months. Happy New Year to you Carol!

  11. I had a few of Elizabeth Lawrence' books, but it was you and your book club, Carol, that led me to buy the delightful book of letters between Elizabeth Lawrence and Katherine White.
    Enjoy the Garden in Winter! That may be one EL book that I don't need to read ;-]

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  12. Hi Carol, this was wonderful. I have A Southern Garden, but haven't read it yet, now I will make time to do so. Thanks. I agree with MSS, Henry Mitchell, and also Beverley Nichols wrote about gardening in winter that was inspiring to me. Nothing can replace the feel of flipping the pages of a good book, either, no amount of clicking can compare.

  13. I also enjoyed Elizabeth Lawrence's books very much. I have often thought that she and Katharine White would be bloggers in this day and time. I am glad that you are able to collect her books for your garden library. I depend on the local public library system (a good system) for hers, K. White's, and Henry Mitchell's. Delightful reading each and everyone! I enjoyed your post very much.

  14. Carol, 'winter smiles' is a lovely phrase. It brings to mind the nicer things about winter. Flowers can be one or some unexpected green in the garden. But also,gessewo how about the red of a Cardinal against the white of a new snow? The smiles are there we just have to look for them. Thanks for reminding me!

  15. I have to say, Carol, I really appreciate my garden in the winter. It means I don't have to feel guilty about not being out there weeding! That brings one of those winter "sometime smiles" to my face.

  16. Just writing about this same topic, and including Elizabeth lawrence and Coventry Patmore quotes. Isn't she wonderful? gets me thru the negative weather with positive thoughts and a wonderful perspective.


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