Two Gardeners

Wilson, Emily Herring, ed. Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence: a Friendship in Letters. Boston: Beacon Press, 2002.

Reason read: to celebrate spring (and somewhere in the world April is National Gardening Month although we had snow showers today). However, three different coworkers mentioned they worked on their gardens over the weekend so it must be true. I’m jealous! I ran 13 miles instead.

Two Gardeners is a delightful book about a friendship that just clicked from the very beginning. Emily Herring Wilson has compiled & edited the letters of Katharine White and Elizabeth Lawrence’s nineteen year correspondence (1958 – 1977) which started with a simple fan letter to Katharine from Elizabeth. Katharine White (married to E.B. White) wrote reviews about gardening catalogs and Elizabeth just happened to respond to one such seed catalog review. Their correspondence grew from strictly talking about gardening to the more personal as time went on. They grew comfortable enough to share details of illnesses (their own and of family) and the trials of growing older. A real friendship starts to bloom despite only being pen pals and meeting once. Yes, I meant that pun! I have to admit it was sad to read about their growing illnesses, especially Katharine’s because hers were more debilitating.
My only “dislike” and a minor one at that: there was a lot of name-dropping between Katharine and Elizabeth and most names had a footnote explaining the significance of each person. I found it curious that “Donna” didn’t have her own footnote. Donna, as in Hurricane Donna, of 1960. Also, relating to the footnotes: Wilson felt it necessary to correct either Katharine or Elizabeth when they made an error in their letters.
I’m sure I would cherish Two Gardeners more if I were half as passionate about gardening as Katharine and Elizabeth. Not all was lost on me, though. I would say Katharine gardened most like me, “I just put things out and let them take their chances” (p 29).
I don’t know what to make of this, but Katharine, in the beginning of their friendship, was always asking Elizabeth not to answer her letters. “Do not answer this!” (p 70).

Quotes I loved, “I suppose she though she was bound to love a fellow gardener” (p 14), and “I am always in debt to Mr. Saier because he sends things at odd times, and I wake up in the night and remember that I have owed him a quarter for three years” (p 20).

Author Editor fact: Emily Herring Wilson just looks like a gardener from her dust jacket cover.

Book trivia: Two Gardeners includes some great photographs of Katharine and Elizabeth as well as their homes and loved ones. There is even one of Katherine with Andy.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Gear Up for Gardening” (p 95). Note: both Katharine and Elizabeth published books on the subject of gardening. Pearl preferred to only mention Katharine’s.



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