yellow, purple and white flowers

Women in the Garden

Shamrocks, (Oxalis) 

March is unpredictable. One day it’s windy, the next day calm. Sprouts of green spring up from mud and buds begin to swell on bare branches of trees. Around the middle of the month, people cheer about their ancestry, start dancing a jig and profess a belief in leprechauns and fairies. Then when an entire hour suddenly disappears, everyone gets very emotional about it. We celebrate Women’s History during all of these disruptions, and it seems a perfect time as women often navigate these tempestuous events behind the scenes.  

stone bench
“We live only to discover beauty all else is a form of waiting”

During my garden travel, I have learned so much about women’s history and their contributions to gardens. None of these stories are likely to appear in a high school history book, be it American or World focused. Yet, these stories are rich in helping us understand how we have the world we do today. Napoleon (nearly always in a history book) won and lost battles. When he won, he had his soldiers dig up the trees and carry them home as part of his conquests’ loot. I realize there is a need to edit but someone decided history would focus on battles and government. Perhaps this is why women’s stories are less well known.

a tree against a blue sky
A tree is a gift to the planet and all who live

The world is a more beautiful place because of gardens and women have played a significant role in making this true. Landscape designers designated where to plant trees, shrubs, flowers and improved the space around a home. Gardeners planted, trimmed, water, weeded, and created beauty, food, and a place for respite. The stories are inspiring and easily overlooked, but I want to celebrate them this month. I have written many stories about these contributions; here are just a few for you to enjoy.

A Garden legacy, The Ruth Bancroft Garden, the woman who inspired the North American Garden Conservancy.

firex aloe in bloom
Like flames of fire, one of Ruth Bancroft’s Aloes

Vall Kill Cottage and Eleanor Roosevelt’s favorite flowers.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s favorite flower

Virginia Robinson, an inventive gardener and grand hostess of 1930’s Hollywood, was still gardening and busy planning her 100th birthday party when she died.

lawn with palms in Hollywood
Looking toward the back of Virginia Robinson’s home

Lilla Leach, a 1908 Botany graduate of the University of Oregon, discovered new plant varieties in the Northwest.

Stone Cottage
Stone Cottage of Sleepy Hollow where Lilla & John Leach lived each summer

It is, after all a woman, Beatrice Potter, who first takes many of us into the garden with Peter Rabbit’s adventures.

Peter Rabbit went into the garden

These are just a few of the history-making women who have shaped our landscape. There is so much to learn about this world, and gardens are exceptional classroomsallium blooms, flowers

14 thoughts on “Women in the Garden”

  1. How lovely that you are honoring these women! Don’t forget our own Gertrude Webster who put her considerable fortune into creating the Desert Botanical Garden! There is a brief bio of her in a recent DBG member email.

  2. It is good to educate what women have been doing through out history to improve life. It could be called her story.

  3. In connection with your excellent post, there is a very interesting book by Jennifer Jewell called The Earth in Her Hands: 75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants that also speaks to this topic currently!

  4. A delight insight – thank you and from the U.K. to name only two
    Gertrude Jekyll and Beth Chatto were inspiring gardeners,
    Jan Heasman

    1. Oh yes, Gertrude is in a class of her own, my regret during our visit to England in 2018 is we didn’t make it to Beth Chatto’s garden.

  5. Beautiful, Linda. A lovely tribute. And let us always remember the first three letters in the word hero are HER!

  6. Thank you, Linda. Inspiration in words, pictures and actions! This comes as a timely and we hope emerging and blossoming time comes for us all.

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