Writing a Garden or Gardening a Story?

Flowers sprout all through the stories of Mississippi writers Eudora Welty and William Faulkner. Eudora Welty didn’t stop with sowing flower seeds into her settings. She often used their names for her characters. My sister and her fellow garden club members in New Albany, MS tend a garden devoted to flowers mentioned in Faulkner’s works at the Union County Heritage Museum. Both the museum and garden are worth a visit if you happen to be up that way.

Having observed the writing-gardening connection, it seemed to me that I could lose my “black thumb” reputation with my children when we moved back to Mississippi almost eleven years ago. The previous owners of our house left me with a good start but a different gardening philosophy. They were laid-out-formal-garden people and shaped-up-shrub-trimmers. My plan includes minimal pruning while maintaining natural shapes and allowing any plant that pops up to stay if I like it. The shaped up shrubs are long gone. My hodge-podge cottage garden suits me fine. I invite you for a short tour.

Whoever named these plants “purple” coneflowers had to be colorblind. A more accurate description would be hot pink. Also know as Echinacea they are touted as a remedy for colds. I can’t vouch for that, but I like them because they reseed and bloom beautifully with no effort on my part.


This rose came from a cutting I rooted from my mother-in-law’s bush. This heavy cluster, one of many covering the bush, took a strong stem almost to the ground, forcing me to take the picture with the camera underneath the blooms. It’s heady fragrance fills the yard.


Queen Anne’s Lace, often considered a weed, brings back memories and blooms wherever it wants with my permission. My mother and sister-in-law gathered it from pastures and road ditches for filler for Mama’s flower arrangements in tall white wicker baskets for my wedding.


Black-eyed Susans – I know these are wildflowers, but who could pull up anything this cheerful?





Occasionally, I actually buy a really truly bulb such as this in a garden store. It blooms quite happily alongside the passalongs and wildflowers.



This common milk-and-wine lily or crinum was always known to my sisters and me and then to my children as “Papaw’s Lilies” because they lined the side of his house. In true Mississippi writer fashion, these lilies became a crucial part of my story “Rags and Riches” in the September 2011 issue of Cricket Magazine.

My gardening plan has worked to the extent that my children now look for other items to ridicule besides my gardening skills. Something beautiful is always about to happen in the yard even through the winter with its abundance of red-berried hollies and nandinas.

As for the writing, I find that words that were blocked in my head come unstuck along with the weeds I pull.