Elizabeth Lawrence House & Garden

“This is the gate of my garden. I invite you to enter in; not only into my garden, but into the world of gardens — a world as old as the history of man, and as new as the latest contribution of science; a world of mystery, adventure and romance; a world of poetry and philosophy; a world of beauty; and a world of work.”

- Elizabeth Lawrence; August 11, 1957, the Charlotte Observer

History

Elizabeth Lawrence (1904-1985) is an internationally known garden writer.  She is regarded as one of three preeminent figures in the horticultural history of the Southeast, sharing this short list with Thomas Jefferson and J.C. Raulston.  She is also listed among the top twenty-five gardeners of all time.  The work she did while designing, writing and gardening at her home in Charlotte, North Carolina, contributed greatly to that status.

After graduating from Barnard College in New York City, Elizabeth Lawrence went back to school and became the first female graduate of the very first Landscape Architecture program ever taught in the South - at State College (now North Carolina State University).

Already an award-winning author and practicing landscape architect, Elizabeth Lawrence moved from Raleigh to Charlotte in 1948.  Even before the house was built, she started her new garden – a well-designed, dynamic “living laboratory” – where she grew an enormous variety of plants to find out what grows well in the Middle South.  Her research provided a constant source of inspiration for her writings for the next 35 years.  Elizabeth Lawrence wrote six manuscripts, numerous articles for various regional and national publications, and over 700 columns for the Charlotte Observer.  Five of her books remain in print to this day.  Those titles, as well as compilations of her writings, correspondence, and her biography, are available for purchase on-site and in our online shop.

Today

In 2008, the property was purchased by the Wing Haven Foundation from Mary Lindemann “Lindie” Wilson, who owned and lovingly rehabilitated the garden for nearly 23 years.  Thanks to Lindie’s incredible stewardship, the design, layout, and much of the plant material in the garden remains original to Elizabeth Lawrence.  

This small city lot (barely over one-third of an acre) still features an amazing array of plants with something in bloom every day of the year, staying true to its creator's intent.  Wing Haven works closely with the Garden Conservancy (a national organization dedicated to preserving and sharing America's significant gardens and holder of the property's conservation easement) to manage the site as Elizabeth Lawrence did - a horticultural learning center containing heirloom, unique and rare woody plants, perennials, and bulbs.

The Elizabeth Lawrence House & Garden is a recognized local historic landmark by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, is part of the Smithsonian Institute’s Archives of American Gardens, and is listed in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.  The property is also a Preservation Partner of the Garden Conservancy.

The Elizabeth Lawrence House & Garden is open to the public as a horticultural and historic resource, and is managed in Elizabeth Lawrence’s spirit – as a vibrant, dynamic, and undeniably inspiring “living laboratory.”

 

  • 1904
    Elizabeth Lewis Lawrence is born on May 27 in Marietta, Georgia, the first daughter of Elizabeth Bradenbaugh Lawrence and Samuel Lawrence.
  • 1908
    Ann Lawrence, Elizabeth’s sister, is born on March 31 in Marietta, Georgia
  • 1912
    Lawrence Family moves to Garysburg, NC
  • 1916
    Lawrence Family moves to Raleigh, NC
  • 1918-1922
    Lawrence attends St. Mary’s School (Junior College) in Raleigh, NC 
  • 1926
    Lawrence graduates with a B.A. from Barnard College in New York City, NY; returns home to Raleigh, NC.
  • 1933
    Lawrence is first female to graduate with a B.S. in Landscape Architecture from North Carolina State College.
    Lawrence begins work as a published author – her article, A Good Flower Show Exhibit, appears in Garden Gossip.
  • 1934
    Lawrence writes two poetry manuscripts (both unpublished): Piper, Pipe A Song and Love Itself Shall Slumber On
  • 1936
    House & Garden publishes Lawrence’s article 21 Plant Facts for Gardeners in the Middle South, which becomes basis for her first non-poetry manuscript.
    Samuel Lawrence passes.
  • 1942
    A Southern Garden, A Handbook for the Middle South is published by the University of North Carolina Press.  The book, the first of its kind, is immediately lauded.
  • 1943
    Lawrence is the first female awarded the Herbert Medal, the highest honor given by the Amaryllis Society (now the International Bulb Society).
    1943 issue of Herbertia is dedicated to Lawrence, includes a short autobiography and a review by the editor, Dr. Hamilton Traub, of A Southern Garden.
  • 1945
    Lawrence receives Award for Horticultural Achievement from the National Council of State Garden Clubs for A Southern Garden
  • 1948
    Lawrence and Bessie move to Charlotte, NC, to be closer to Ann.  Lawrence designs and begins building her home on a modest lot on Ridgewood Avenue in Charlotte, NC.
    Lawrence begins designing and installing her new garden.
  • 1957
    Lawrence begins writing a weekly column “Through the Garden Gate” for The Charlotte Observer.  She continues writing for the newspaper for 14 years.
    Lawrence’s second manuscript, The Little Bulbs, is published by Criterion Books.
  • 1961
    Lawrence’s third manuscript, Gardens in Winter, is published by Harper.
    October 27, 1961: Lawrence receives a citation from the American Horticultural Society for her “important contributions to horticulture”
  • 1963
    Lawrence is the keynote speaker at the 8th annual convention of the American Daffodil Society
  • 1964
    Bessie Lawrence passes.
  • 1965
    Lawrence is named Honorary Life Member in the Louisiana Society for Horticultural Research.
  • 1971
    Lawrence donates her fourth manuscript, Lob’s Wood, to the Cincinnati Nature Center.
  • 1972
    Lawrence receives Award of Merit from The American Rock Garden Society
  • 1983
    Lawrence survives a heart attack in January.  In poor health, Lawrence moves to Annapolis, MD, to be close to her niece.
    Lawrence property is purchased by James Sommers.
  • 1985
    On June 11, Lawrence passes in Annapolis, MD.
  • 1986
    Mary Lindemann (“Lindie”) Wilson purchases property from James Sommers, begins addition to house and renovation of garden.
  • 1987
    Lawrence’s fifth manuscript,Gardening for Love: the Market Bulletins, is edited by Allen Lacy and published by Duke University Press.
  • 1990
    Lawrence’s sixth manuscript, A Rock Garden in the South, is edited by Nancy Goodwin and Allen Lacy, and is published by Duke University Press.
  • 2003
    Lindie Wilson convenes group to explore various preservation strategies to promote legacy of Elizabeth Lawrence through the preservation of her Charlotte house and garden; group establishes as “The Friends of Elizabeth Lawrence”.
  • 2005
    The Elizabeth Lawrence House and Garden is entered into the Archives of American Gardens with the Smithsonian Institute.
  • 2006
    January 2006: the Elizabeth Lawrence House and Garden is designated a Local Historic Landmark by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.
    September 2006: The Elizabeth Lawrence House and Garden is entered in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.
  • 2008
    Endowment is donated by Lindie Wilson for a conservation easement on the property.  The easement, held by the Garden Conservancy, is granted to protect the house and the garden.
    Wilson sells property to the Wing Haven Foundation to promote Lawrence’s educational, environmental, cultural, historical and literary legacy.