Do these early, sunny days have you thinking about gardening? At my house last week, it was so warm that I threw open the windows and turned off the heat. The cottontail rabbit that wintered in last year’s brush hopped happily about, and eager daffodils pushed their way out of the ground to have a look.
When the sun warms, it’s time to make garden plans, and Ellen in Ontario has an inspiration: “I am in to do an ‘Emilie Garden’ this year! It would be fun to make plaques with some of her sayings to place among the flowers.”
Garden Plans and Window Boxes
If you have a spare piece of ground, Emilie Loring’s garden descriptions are as good as shopping lists. (Page numbers are for the paperback books.)
There were columns of larkspur in every conceivable shade of blue, clouds of baby’s breath, clusters of Madonna lilies, coreopsis like golden stars, Rose of Heaven petunias with a discreet sprinkling of Purple Prince. A Certain Crossroad, p. 3
I found seeds for heirloom varieties like “Rose of Heaven” petunias and “Purple Prince” zinnias at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and I have a longtime fondness for White Flower Farm, the mail order nursery. But you can also look at the photos here and see what your garden center has that is close.
Here is the Meadow Farm garden in A Certain Crossroad:
Her green frock with its over-lay of crystal beads seemed a part of the background of delphinium, spirea, London pride, hollyhocks and honeysuckle. A Certain Crossroad, p. 30
Some of Emilie’s gardens are simply fantastic, the sort you visit on a tour of homes. In fact, they were for her, too. They were the gardens of friends and neighbors, like the “Arcady” garden in Blue Hill that she used for Natalie Andrews’ garden in I Hear Adventure Calling. It takes several seasons to get the full effect of these perennials, but look how pretty they are together. If you happen to have a broad, terraced lawn with statuary, a fountain, and goldfish, so much the better!
Aunt Rebecca’s garden had been something to write home about, but it couldn’t touch this for charm and color and fragrance, Fran thought, as she stood on the top step of the broad terrace. Pink peonies, gigantic spikes of heavenly blue anchusa, foxgloves and Canterbury bells, stately Madonna lilies and Shasta daisies for a white touch, day lilies for yellow, tall, late purple tulips, against a background of dark rhododendrons. Paths in a velvety green lawn led to the central point, an old-fashioned pool in the center of which a bronze boy blew a horn from which liquid diamonds rose high in the air to tinkle back with the sound of broken glass into water where goldfish flashed like living flames. I Hear Adventure Calling, p. 65
Other Emilie Loring gardens are easy to plant and enjoy in an afternoon.
Her brother’s house was… low and rambling, each ruffle-curtained window had its flower box, rosy with geraniums and spilling over with green vines. When Hearts Are Light Again, p. 8
“Scorn not the flower-grower’s best friend. Blooms may come and blooms may go but the geranium keeps on…” Gay Courage, p. 8
…boxes spilling over with yellow and white and purple blooms adorned windows without, snowy muslins were visible within. Gay Courage, p. 8
My sundial garden is oh, so much the worse for having been neglected some seasons. Maybe I can dress it up like the one outside the country restaurant where Linda Bourne and Greg Merton dine in There Is Always Love.
Outside the window an old-fashioned box hedge enclosed a garden with a sundial in the center. Its borders were a gay patchwork of yellow, russet and rose chrysanthemums, invincible purple petunias, valiant orange-king calendulas, towering white and orchid asters and feathery pink cosmos. There Is Always Love, p. 23
Dr. Trevor’s garden (When Hearts Are Light Again) kindles memories of my grandmother’s garden in Wisconsin. Maybe that’s why these particular flowers always make me happy:
She slid off her bicycle and opened the gate of the white picket fence in front of a garden border, brilliant with zinnias, pink phlox, cosmos, tall asters and blue spikes of late delphiniums. When Hearts Are Light Again, p. 8
A Garden Color Scheme
You may want to copy one of Emilie Loring’s color schemes without worrying about the specific plants. This Victorian garden in Nova Scotia has shades in common with the Sargent Gallery garden in I Hear Adventure Calling:
Zinnias in pastel shades of yellow, salmon and mauve towered; giant asters were bursting into bloom; gladiolus in heavenly shades held proud heads high; regal lilies nodded pearly petals above the patchwork of gold, yellow, purple, white, light blue, dark blue, violet, reds of all shades and the green foliage of annuals. I Hear Adventure Calling, p. 132
Easier still, simply plant yellow chrysanthemums to display in a copper bowl on your autumn dining table. I’ve lost count of how many times Emilie used them in her stories.
She had tried to have the dinner as much like those they had had in their own home as possible, even to the mass of yellow and bronze chrysanthemums in the centre of the table. With Banners, p. 38
There was a tall crystal vase of huge golden-yellow chrysanthemums standing on the floor beside the fireplace and a ruddy copper bowl filled with smaller mums of the same color on a table. When Hearts Are Light Again, p. 75
If you’re a longtime Emilie Loring reader, you’re probably wondering, “What about violets?” Admirers are always bringing bouquets of violets to the women in her books, who tuck them into the waists of their frocks or skating costumes. I don’t know how they keep the flowers from squishing or wilting, and I’ve never seen bouquets of violets available at the florist, but you couldn’t go wrong planting a little patch of them in an Emilie Loring garden and trying it out.
Now that I think of it, though, violets are usually given by the fellow who loses out–Jerry Slade (As Long As I Live), Sebastian Brent (When Hearts Are Light Again), Jim Seaverns (Today Is Yours). The leading man says it with roses–American Beauty, Talisman, Templar… The Talisman and Templar were developed by a Massachusetts man, Alexander Montgomery, in the 1920s, but they have become obscure. If you find a source, let me know!
Emilie Loring Quotes
I love Ellen’s idea to put plaques in the garden–or flower pot!–with Emilie Loring’s sayings on them. What would you choose? I have so many favorites, mine may have to be a scroll written on a garden path.
“Leg over leg, the dog went to Dover.”
“You never can tell at sunup what you’ll bump into before sundown”
“Why not be a master craftsman in the art of living?”
“Why, dearie, I never worried. I just did first one thing and then the next.”
“One touch of lipstick makes all women kin.”
“How far would we get if we waited for certainties?”
“Things have a marvelous, unbelievable way of coming right.”
Alas, our warm weather was brief. It’s back to hot cocoa and fires in the fireplace, but now we go back with a mission.
“Thank heaven for my imagination. I’ll wager I get as much thrill from visualizing what this border will look like as that physician got from isolating the pain nerve. Giant larkspurs, columbine, lilies in succession, holly-hocks, phlox, with mists and drifts of white gypsophila…” Hilltops Clear, p. 45
There are more gardens in Emilie Loring’s books and more ideas in my earlier post, “Emilie Loring’s Gardens.” I’m having fun with my new copy of Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer, which promises “Inspired ideas and practical advice to unleash your garden personality.” Find your inspiration, and say with Ellen, “Dollars to Donuts that I will accomplish it!”