Choirs singing in Christmas spirit at Magnolia Gardens
Four choirs will sing Saturday, Dec. 21, during a Yuletide Gospel and Choral Jubilee at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.
This presentation of Christmas favorites will feature a variety of singing styles, beginning at 2 p.m. on the patio at The Conservatory, an indoor garden. The performances will end at 4 p.m.
The choirs for this inaugural event are the St. John's Parish Church choir, the Choraliers Music Club of Charleston, the Mount Zion Spiritual Singers at Mount Zion AME Church and the Olive Branch Baptist Church choir.
The performances are free with garden admission.
Christmas Village opens Dec. 7
Magnolia opens an expanded Christmas Village on Dec. 7, a place to sit and read to children in a big red rocking chair while a photographer snaps young faces grinning from ear to ear.
In seasons past, children have enjoyed running, hiding and playing through a candy factory, Santa's workshop, gingerbread house, Santa's post office and a chapel.
But this season, the tiny village has three more buildings for discovery; a general store, an elf's bunk house and a school called the "elfementary."
Santa's helper, photographer Christine Smith, will take family and individual portraits this season. She will be in the village from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7. For information about Christine Smith Photography, go to: http://www.easysite.com/christinesmithphotography.
The picture fee is separate from the $15 general garden admission for adults and a $8 general garden admission for children 6 to 12. Children under 6 are free. For more information, call 843-571-1266.
"Garden of Dreams"
Wadmalaw Island artist Mark Beale received the top prize Thursday in the "Garden of Dreams" art competition sponsored by the Charleston Artist Guild and Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.
Beale received a $3,000 purchase award for his painting, "Creekside Dusk." The other top awards went to Daniel Island artist Alana Knuff, second place and a $1,000 prize, for "The Pasture – Magnolia Plantation," and Charleston artist Russell Buskirk received third place and a $500 prize for "The White Bridge." Buskirk is also the Guild's director of exhibitions.
The Pasture – Magnolia Plantation
The White Bridge
The competition was inspired by John Drayton Hastie Jr., who sits on the seven-member board that owns Magnolia. Hastie wanted to encourage artists to paint scenes of Magnolia's gardens in the style of Charleston Renaissance artists. Elizabeth O'Neill Verner and William Halsey, who were among the Guild’s founding members six decades ago.
Five honorable mention prizes of $100 each went to the following artists and their paintings: Anna Cox, "Across the Way;" Nancy Davidson, "Sweet Spring at Magnolia;" Karen Silvestro, "Tree at Magnolia Gardens;" Norma Morris Ballentine, "Reflections;" and Mila Garro "Heron in a Morning Mist."
Ten other artists each received $25 prizes for paintings in the "of interest award." The artists and their paintings are: Anne Hightower Patterson, "Audubon Swamp Garden;" Karen Silvestro, "Statue at Magnolia Gardens;" Pam Dittloff "Magnolia Reflections;" Chuck Morris, "A Path in History;" Barbara Yongue, "Magnolia Bridge;" Russell Buskirk, "Live Oak Lane;" Carla Johannesmeyer, "Spring Lake Reflections;" Page Burgess, "Mother's Day;" Katherine DuTremble, "Magnolia's Wooden Bridge;" and Amelia Rose Smith, "Rice Fields in Spring."
The Guild received 178 pieces of art from 108 artists in eleven states during the contest period that ended in September. A three-juror panel of experts selected the accepted pieces from digital images. Paintings with a vote from any of the jurors were accepted into the exhibition. The paintings, which come from artists in eight states, represent a variety of styles and mediums.
BUY ONE GET ONE ADMISSION
WITH FOOD DONATION
Magnolia collecting "a ton"
of food for local food bank
For the second consecutive year, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens will collect food during the holiday season to benefit the Lowcountry Food Bank.
In November and December, bring one or more non-perishable healthy food item to Magnolia to receive a special discount off the general garden admission. Buy one garden admission for $15 and get the second one free. This offer begins Nov. 1. It expires Dec. 31.
Tom Johnson, Magnolia's executive director, said, "The food drive is back by popular demand. This year, we want to collect more than a ton of food. Last year we collected a ton of food. We want to equal or surpass that amount this year."
Johnson has renewed a call that other companies, particularly those in the hospitality industry, also collect food for the food bank.
For the third year in a row, Conde Nast Traveler Reader's Choice Award has named Charleston the nation's top tourist destination. Johnson said, "We live in one of America's most picturesque and historic cities, therefore, no one should be without in a city voted the best tourist destination in the country."
Established in 1983, the Lowcountry Food Bank feeds the needy in ten coastal South Carolina counties by soliciting and distributing healthy food and grocery products to nonprofit agencies.
For this project, Magnolia is also working in association with the Venturing Crew 1676 of the Boy Scouts of America. Food collected at Magnolia will be turned over to the Crew for delivery to the food bank's headquarters on Azalea Avenue in North Charleston.
Food will be collected beginning Friday, Nov. 1 until Tuesday, Dec. 31. The buy-one-get-one-free offer applies to adult and children admission prices to the gardens. The discount does not apply to admission to guided and unguided tours. This discount cannot be combined with any other discount. Tickets must be purchased at the Magnolia ticket booth at the time the food is donated.
Guests are asked to donate useable food items that have not expired. The healthy foods that support the Food Bank's nutritional initiative are:
• Protein products such as peanut butter, canned chicken, salmon and tuna in water.
• Dried lentils and beans.
• Bread, flour and cereals should include whole wheat flour, 100 percent whole grain cereals and brown rice.
• Low or no salt, low and sugar free canned fruits and vegetables.
• Snacks such as dried fruit and reduce or sugar free cookies.
For details on the foods that best serve the Food Bank's mission, visit: http://www.lowcountryfoodbank.org/hope.
Magnolia offering two internships at French gardens
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is accepting applications for two horticulture internships at French gardens in the summer of 2014.
The program is open to college students who are American citizens enrolled in an accredited two- or four-year horticulture or landscape architecture program at a U.S. college or university. The students will intern at French gardens from mid June to late August.
Magnolia sponsors the internship with the New York-based French Heritage Society. The internship program also receives support from the City of North Charleston, the Michaux Garden Committee of the Charleston Horticultural Society and the Charleston chapter of the Alliance Francaise.
Tom Johnson, Magnolia's executive director, said, "Next year will be Magnolia's fourth year of providing a cultural exchange through horticulture. We believe a love of nature can be the bridge across languages and distance to make the world a smaller place."
January 15 is the deadline to apply. Interns will be selected in late February. Applicants must send a cover letter, a 500-word essay stating their reason for applying, three letters of recommendation and a resume to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, 3550 Ashley River Road, Charleston, S.C. 29414, to the attention of Herb Frazier. Some proficiency in French is a plus. Selection also will be based on interviews with members of the Magnolia staff and Alliance Francaise.
Former participants and their internship year are: Katherine Reeves, Trident Technical College, summer 2011; Caroline Broder, University of Georgia, summer 2012: and Dana Reynolds, North Carolina State University, summer 2013.
Boy Scout merit badge programs at
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens offers Boy Scouts
opportunities to earn merit badges with study
sessions and workshops. Classes are scheduled on Saturdays throughout
the year. CLICK HERE to see the upcoming schedule for November, December and January.
Former slave cabins as a niche market
| Lisa Randle
By Lisa B. Randle
Despite criticisms of Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained," set in 1858 Deep South antebellum Texas, interest in slavery is surging. Django has increased visitation to historic plantations and aroused interest in authentic plantation architecture.
Just this year, The New York Times featured two articles on slave cabin restoration. The owner of the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana is moving cabins to his property to "startled visitors with unexpected sights and sequences." Recently, the Smithsonian dismantled a cabin at the Point of Pines Plantation on Edisto Island for its new African-American history museum.
I commend these two institutions for recognizing the importance of slave cabins in African-American and American history. However, many historic sites in Charleston, as well as other cities, have extant cabins that visitors can experience in their original locations.
The slave cabin is replacing the plantation house as a focus of attention. This seems to be the next niche market for historic sites, whether the cabins are authentic or not.
However, slave cabins are not static but rather dynamic. People were born, lived, and died in them. They provide opportunities for reading the American landscape -the landscape of a particular people, in a particular place at a particular time.
For three years, Joe McGill's Slave Dwelling Project has been drawing attention to the need to preserve these structures. McGill, a history consultant at Magnolia, spends the night in extant cabins - restored and not restored - with descendants, both black and white, in order to raise awareness to the importance of these structures for American history.
Earlier this year, in anticipation of the Smithsonian's acquisition of the Edisto Island cabin, Tony Horwitz, a writer for the Smithsonian, spent the night with McGill in a cabin in Georgia and visited Magnolia's "From Slavery to Freedom" Cabin Project. By the way, the Smithsonian's exhibit is also called "Slavery and Freedom."
The day Tony and I met was a typical Charleston summer day. It was hot and humid. The mosquitoes buzzed our ears. Tony was on his way back to Washington to write about his stay with McGill. He was unprepared for what I had to show him. We have what the Smithsonian wants to recreate. It's right here!
Not only do we have a slave cabin, but we have four cabins, each representing a different period in occupation: 1850 - slavery, 1870 - Reconstruction, 1930 - Depression and 1960s - Civil Rights era.
Before restoration began, all five buildings were in danger of collapse due to rot, exposure and termite infestation. Each cabin was, therefore, carefully evaluated in order to determine an appropriate conservation strategy. Two years of research and archaeology preceded the actual construction work on the structures, which began in January 2008. Renovation work and landscaping was completed in February 2009.
We not only want to recognize and preserve the structures, but we also want to remember the people who lived in these structures.
The last African-American to live in the 1850 cabin was gardener Eddie Washington. He lived here, first with his wife, then later as widower, until he moved out in the late 1960s.
The last known inhabitant of the 1930-era cabin was African-American gardener John Frederick, who moved out sometime in the 1960s.
African-American groundskeeper and gardener Leroy Haynes was the last person to live in the 1870s Reconstruction-era cabin. This was his home when Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston in 1989, and he weathered the storm there at Magnolia. Mr. Haynes moved out in the early 1990s. The last person to live in this cabin was African-American groundskeeper Allen Haynes before the cabin was finally abandoned in 1999. I am currently working with the Haynes family to reconstruct their family history and incorporate them into the interpretation.
After the Leach family moved out of the 1960-era cabin in late 1969, Catherine and Daniel Smith moved in with their four children. Various members of the Smith family lived in the structure until the early 1990s, when the cabin was finally abandoned. Three generations of the Leach family still work at Magnolia.
I want to expand the African-American history at Magnolia beyond the confines of a structure. This project was borne from a desire to tell more fully the story of African Americans at Magnolia and to honor their lives through continued dedication to research and interpretation. I am interested in locating former African-American residents and workers to include in our documentation.
Lisa Randle is the director of education and research at Magnolia Plantation and Garden.
Antique "gasolier" lights installed in Magnolia's main house
Eight antique light fixtures have been installed in Magnolia Gardens' main house as part of a continuing effort to return the nine-room mansion to the style when the house was the scene of lavish parties before the Charleston Renaissance.
Seven of the fixtures are "gasoliers," which were used to illuminate a room with electric light bulbs or open gas flames, Magnolia's historian Lisa Randle said. "The fixtures were installed when the house was renovated in 1891 with the addition of four rooms."
"Sometimes visitors come to Magnolia to be entertained," Randle said. "The installation of the light fixtures is a way to combine education with entertainment by talking about technological changes and, in the process, we can be more historically accurate in our interpretation of the house."
Relic Antiques & Flea Market, a company in the Red Top community near Charleston, provided the fixtures from its inventory. Daniel (pictured right) and Victoria Doyle own and operate the company.
Randle said records do not indicate whether gas was used to light the rooms in Magnolia's main house.
However, during the installation of one light fixture in a second-floor bedroom, Daniel Doyle pointed to a small hole in the ceiling that might have been the opening for a gas line. Gasoliers were popular from the 1880s to the 1920s, Doyle said.
The glass shade for one of the gasoliers, Randle said, was made in 1911 by Steuben Glass of New York. The company went out of business in 2011. The maker of the other shades and fixtures is unknown.
Magnolia Gardens used as nighttime bat laboratory
With a high-tech detector atop a make-shift pole, Auburn University graduate student Lydia Moore spends quiet hours near water from sundown to sunrise listening for the call of the bats.
Moore wants to know if bats behave differently over the water than over land. Very little research has been done on activity of bats in the lower coastal plain of South Carolina, said Moore, a Charleston resident. "We really don't know how they are using these habitats."
As part of her master's thesis, Moore said she is observing "how bats use wetland habitat to determine if there is a difference in activity over fresh water, salt water and brackish water and within each of these habitats whether vegetation or lack of vegetation affects activity." At each site, she also traps insects periodically to measure their number and diversity.
"I think bats are going to be most abundant over fresh water because they need to drink, but there may be more foraging activity over brackish and salt water than was previously thought," she speculated based on early research that began in May.
"Most of the research on bats in South Carolina has been conducted in terrestrial habitats," said Moore, who earned bachelor of arts degrees in biology and environmental studies from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. "Most of this research has shown that bats selectively forage over water within terrestrial systems and prefer areas with a high diversity of roosts. The lower coastal plain of the state has the greatest level of structural diversity of the four ecoregions in the state, such as Spanish moss, swamps, bridges, trees with large diameters, and buildings. We also have barrier islands, which may act as resting points during the autumn migration."
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is one of five sites where Moore is collecting data. Her work will end in mid-August. She'll return next spring with hopes that she can conclude her research and master's thesis in the spring of 2015. Moore is also collecting data at James Island County Park, Caw Caw Interpretive Center, Bear's Bluff Fish Hatchery on Wadmalaw Island and Church Creek on Johns Island. Bats are natural predators to insects that harm crops grown for food.
Moore uses an electronic bat detector, which records bat calls, at six sites at Magnolia. The monitor is placed in a bucket and the bucket is mounted at the top of a pole. Detectors are positioned over old rice fields, along the Ashley River, and over ponds near the Audubon swamp garden. Her study has shown that bat activity from sunset to sunrise falls into two groups. "There are early fliers and then there is generally a lull around midnight followed by activity before sunrise," she said.
Bat calls differ depending on the species. So far, Moore has recorded the calls of six species. The detectors, she said, has picked up the calls of the Eastern Red Bat/Seminole Bat, Evening Bat, Tricolored Bat, Big Brown Bat, the third largest bat in this area, and the largest species in South Carolina, the Hoary Bat.
Although the detector has not picked up the call of the Rafinesque's Big-eared Bat, Moore said, she knows it is here. "I’ve seen it."
She has also used a mist net to catch some of the bats. She weighs and measures them and notes their reproductive conduction, sex, age and whether they are juveniles or adults.
Bats are mammals. Bird watcher Perry Nugent has not seen that many at Magnolia. Nugent, who has led Sunday morning bird walks at Magnolia since 1988, is interested in Moore's research. "I am happy someone knows how to find them because we don't know much about bats," he said. "I don't see bats that often."
Moore's research and other bat studies could have long-range implications on where to place wind turbines offshore to produce electricity. Research in other parts of the United States and Europe suggest that bats can fly miles offshore, making them vulnerable to being caught in the revolving blades of wind turbines.
"Of the fourteen species of bat in South Carolina, twelve inhabit the lower coastal plain," she said. "We have a fairly high diversity here. There are eleven species that have documented mortality due to wind turbines in the United States, and eight of these species are in the lower coastal plain of South Carolina. Three of these species account for seventy-five percent of known fatalities by wind turbines. All three of which have been documented in the lower coastal plain."
There is a proposal for a 1,000-megawatt offshore wind farm in South Carolina, Moore said. "While it is admirable that South Carolina has a green energy initiative, the decision to build a wind farm should be an informed one. My study is looking at how bats are using wetlands in the ecoregion closest to the coast. It is these bats, along with migrating bats, that could be hit hardest by turbines. The first step is to learn how bats are using wetland habitats in the lower coastal plain"
Leach Family Connected
to Vermont Civil War Soldier
By Lisa Randle
As the director of research and education at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, I never know when I will be presented with a tidbit that opens a door to the past that I thought was locked forever. Francis Guber of Pennsylvania had a key that recently opened a door.
While on vacation with his family in April, Guber shared an image of Ephraim Smith Leach with Jenn Haupt, an interpreter with the "Slavery to Freedom" program at Magnolia.
The question that Jenn and I asked: Could Ephraim Smith Leach be related to the Leach family at Magnolia? Four generations of the Leach family have worked at Magnolia since the 1930s.
As a researcher, I needed to verify this new information. A quick Internet search unearthed a post by one of Ephraim Smith Leach's self-identified descendants who lives in Denver, N.C. She states that Leach is her "great, great, great, great grandpa." Furthermore, she states that he lived in South Carolina and married a free black woman after the Civil War. Could this be the same Ephraim Smith Leach?
Then I started looking at Leach's Civil War record and the U.S. census.
Ephraim Smith Leach
Very little is known about Ephraim Smith Leach, also known as Smith Leach. He was born in 1836 in Connecticut to Ephraim and Sarah E. (Smith) Leach. Ephraim Smith Leach was a member of Co. C, 5th Vermont Infantry. After serving in the Civil War, he settled in South Carolina and operated a store in the lower section of Colleton County near White Hall. In the 1890s, he received a Civil War medical pension due to hepatitis and malarial poisoning contracted during camp life. Before his death in 1896, Leach also served as the postmaster of White Hall.
In the 1880 census for Blake Township in Colleton County, Smith Leach was listed as a white male farmer living with Rebecca White, a black female housekeeper, and their mulatto children - Smith White, J.H. White, Sarah White and Rebecca White. Initially, the children are listed by their mother's last name. Beginning with the 1900 Federal Census, all are listed by the last name Leach.
The eldest son, Ephraim Smith Leach Jr., was a constable in Walterboro and then a farmer in Blake. When he married Isabella Simmons, he fathered Willie J. Leach, who moved to Charleston in the 1930s where he started working in the gardens at Magnolia, according to documents from Francis Guber. His information also matched documents that I reviewed after we first met. Willie Leach later became the first paid superintendent at Magnolia. At the nursery's peak, Willie Leach supervised 18 employees, raising camellia and azalea plants and selling them to customers throughout the South.
Indeed, Ephraim Smith Leach is connected to the Leaches at Magnolia. He is the great-great-grandfather of 90-year-old Johnnie Leach, the son of Willie J. Leach. Johnnie Leach was a combat engineer in the Philippines during World War II before he joined the garden staff at Magnolia in 1946. He lived in one of the cabins at Magnolia where he raised his family.
Johnnie Leach still works at Magnolia along with two of his sons, Isaac and Theodore Leach, and two of Isaac's sons, Jackson and Brandon.
Isaac Leach shared the photograph of Ephraim Smith Leach with his sister, Johnnie Mae Leach. The Leach family was aware of their ancestor, but they didn't have a picture of him. Johnnie Mae Leach wept when she saw the photograph of her great-great-great-grandfather.
In the past, African Americans have experienced difficulty in locating their ancestors. With the proliferation of information available through the Internet, connections like this one are becoming possible. One seemingly insignificant piece can be the missing piece of the puzzle. This story reveals how connected we really are to one another.
As a researcher at Magnolia, I am actively seeking information about the African-American families who lived, worked and died at Magnolia. If you have any information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Magnolia Gardens names new maintenance chief
Rick Ogletree has been named facilities manager at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.
He is responsible for maintaining the buildings and grounds and supervising a staff of 20 employees at the 500-acre tourist destination.
Tom Johnson, Magnolia's executive director, said, "I am excited that Rick is here. He will play a key role as we move to the next level of Magnolia's restoration."
This isn't the first time Johnson and Ogletree have worked together. When Johnson was national horticulturalist for the American Camellia Society, Ogletree helped with maintenance projects at the Massee Lane Gardens in Fort Valley, Ga.
In his last position, Ogletree was a receiver with Tractor Supply Co. in Byron, Ga. For more than 30 years, Olgetree and his family operated a lumber and hardware store in Fort Valley.
Winners chosen in Magnolia Photo Contest
The top three winners in the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens 2013 Photography Contest captured images of egrets strutting their breeding plumage.
David Archer of Summerville took first place and a $275 prize with "Snowy Egret."
Jim Miller of Mount Pleasant with "Radiant Beauty" took second place and a $225 prize.
Third-place along with a $175 prize went to Leah Sparks of Charleston for "Show Off."
Nineteen contestants received 22 honorable mentions and $25 prizes. Three contestants each received two honorable mentions; Kenny McKeithan of Goose Creek, Margaret Proctor of Indian Trial, N.C., and Serena Gerfy of Ladson.
Magnolia and the Lowcountry Photographic Club organized the contest, which was launched two years ago. This year, 118 photographers entered the contest, Doug DeLong, the club's president, said.
The photographers who finished in the honorable mention category are:
· Christine Jones, Goose Creek, "Lighting the Past"
· Christopher Mathes, Ladson, "Through the Glass"
· Cynthia Laeder, Fort Gratiot, Mich., "Bridge of Tranquility"
· David Dodge, Hendersonville, N.C., "Morning Light"
· Harold Hamilton, Wadmalaw Island, "Watchful Eye"
· Jamie Trusty, Goose Creek, "Untitled"
· Jo Beth Paul, Hopkins, S.C., "In Living Color"
· Kathy Allen, Charleston, "Fishing"
· Kenneth Malcom, Summerville, "Footbridge in Black and White"
· Kenny McKeithan, Goose Creek, "Through the Oaks" and "Southern Morning"
· L. Michell Messing, Moncks Corner, "Shine"
· Margaret Proctor, Indian Trail, N.C., "Sitting Pretty" & "Snack Time in the Swamp"
· Mike Brint, Nazareth, Penn., "Fight in Flight"
· Paul Allen, Charleston, "Between Earth and Sky"
· Paul Wightman, Goose Creek, "Baby Alligator in Duckweed"
· Serena Gerfy, Ladson, "Peek-a-Boo" and "Afternoon Stroll"
· Theresa Saunders, Charleston, "So, What's for Dinner?"
· Thomas Moorer, Goose Creek, "Alligator Dreams"
· Tricia Booker, Paris, Va., "In Bloom"
British garden writer Marion Cran
praises Magnolia after 1930 visit
British garden writer Marion Cran, the first gardening correspondent for the BBC, visited Magnolia in 1930. Here's an excerpt of her impression of Magnolia. The excerpt appears in "Tales of the Rose Tree," by Jane Brown.
Magnolia Garden (no one would call their home Rhododendron!) was seen by the garden-traveller, Marion Cran, in 1930, despite her better judgment. She did not particularly like rhododendrons and azaleas, but felt thoroughly browbeaten by everyone – from New York to California – saying that she must see them, so she made her way back to Charleston. 'Azaleas had filled the town, but she had pre-booked so there was no escape; she felt garden indigestion coming on, maybe she would be disappointed. Her host Mr. Schuyler Parsons mused:
'Some people like Middleton best; but I advise you to see Magnolia first.'
'Yes, - it is called Magnolia garden, but it is famous for its azaleas'...
I grided up my loins and went.
I could hardly have approached one of the great emotional experiences of my life in a more ungracious mood ...
All that there is of rebel in me – all that tugs against the everlasting laid-out gardens, against the coerced corseted beauty of formal terraces...found kinship here...I stood at last in a garden of form purely informal – in that which I had longed for always and never found perfectly expressed... imagination of a delicacy and of a strength, in perfect sympathy with the spirit of its surroundings...
One has to imagine green lawns and winding paths, banks of camellia Japonica thirty feet high, towering trees hung with long trails of the green moss with golden Banksian roses, mauve and white wisterias, yellow jasmine and Cherokee roses sprawl-ing and scrambling...blood red camellias, snow drifts of dogwood, tender foliage of tulip tress, slender crepe myrtle and garlands of bridal wreath spirea, are there out-dazzled by the blazing banks of azaleas – and all reflected back from the clear, black water of the cypress ponds
John Drayton's garden was made from the inspiration of a tour of England and Europe and the works of Repton and le jardin anglias, but the warm South contrived an un-English potency. Marion Cran was shown around in the evening light by Drayton's grandson, a host 'who knew when to turn away and leave me alone'. She was, she said, 'not expecting furnaces of red twenty feet high'. Nor perhaps the 'wild tranquillity', the 'passionate peace'. Magnolia was 'made by a poet out of the stuff of dreams...the Mecca of all my garden wanderings: it is the place to which unknowing but obstinate I have striven all my days; among the great green oaks and seven veils of floating Spanish moss shines the Holy Grail. The heart of a man burns steadily there, on a furnace of colour in a garden shade.'
Marion Free Cran
Marion Free Cran had a garden called Coggers in Surrey, England, from 1910 until her death in 1942. She wrote popular books about gardening, including Gardens in America (1932). At the request of the Canadian government she visited Canada twice to report on their horticulture. Mrs. Cran founded the Garden Club in England.
She was the first gardening broadcaster for BBC. Cran referred constantly to her gardens at Steep Hill Cottage, near Farnham in Surrey, and at Coggers in the village of Benenden in Kent. She pontificated on the place of the British garden in national life, while offering few practical tips for gardeners. What was offered inevitably referred to soil and weather conditions in the south. With the opening of more regional output, from stations across the country, listeners began to demand more. She wrote prolifically on gardening though, often strongly linked with her personal life. The Story of My Ruin (1924) told the story of her garden at Benenden at the time of the break-up of her second marriage.
A tall bearded iris is named for Mrs. Marion Cran (AM RHS 1929).
"...if I wanted to have a happy garden, I must ally myself with my soil; study and help it to the utmost, untiringly...Always, the soil must come first." (If I Where Beginning Again)
"It is always exciting to open the door and go out into the garden for the first time on any day."
"If I had found a garden made of another dreamer's labour it would never have been so truly mine as that beggar-maid, that ragged waif of the hills which went royally decked in the jewels I toiled for and won for her out of the treasure chest of the Old Mother."
Books by Cran:
The Garden Beyond
Gardens in America
I Know a Garden
The Gardens of Good Hope
The Squabbling Garden
The Garden of Ignorance: The Experiences of a Woman in a Garden
The Garden of Experience
A Woman in Canada
Bedside Marion Cran: from the Writings of Marion Cran
Garden Wisdom: From the Writings of Marion Cran
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