The Garden as a Laboratory

The Elizabeth Lawrence House and Garden, constructed in 1948-1949, is the single surviving property in North Carolina that holds strong associations with the distinguished career of the celebrated garden writer and plantswoman.  The Garden is also an important regional example of a designed garden from the post-WWII period. It serves as a center for the identification, study and sharing of the best of American garden and nature writing.


  • A modest lot, 70’ x 225’ (0.362 acres)

  • 1.5-story cape-style, woodframe house whose footprint is 2,098 square feet and which faces south

  • The footprint, exterior treatment, height and relationship to the Garden, as well as the first floor study are protected under the terms of the conservation easement held by the Garden Conservancy

Despite the wealth of plant materials, mature trees and hedges, the house and garden are on a personal scale —one that relates to the individual who is experiencing it.

Aesthetic and practical, rich in complexity

  • Sasanqua hedge separates the Lawrence world from the streetscape

  • The courtyard, a point of transition, transports the visitor into this world with its small trees, vines and underplantings

  • Lawrence designed the placement of window and desk in her study to afford her an ever-present view directly into the garden along the axis defined by the row of cherry laurels

  • Formal structure is defined by five axial paths that allow for easy movement, different spaces and easily accessible beds for trialing plants

  • The view of the garden changes at the head of each of five axial paths. This ‘trick’ of perspective and scale defies the small dimensions of the garden, and is a critical experience in the garden that is based on its structural elements      

  • Built structures:  rear wall, pool, stone steps and the cedar arches. Steps incorporate slight changes in grade on the property

  • Cedar arches and surrounding fence provide structure for climbing vines while defining perimeter, edges and transitions within the garden

  • The rear wall—with alcoves housing the Madonna plaque and swing—and the stone bench and bird bath punctuate the end points of the center cross axis and provide destinations within the garden.

  • Local stone used for steps and edging of raised beds informs the local character and uniquely ‘Southern’ quality of the garden, as does the finely crushed stone path surface and brick surrounding the pool.

A working landscape

Lawrence’s house and garden were a working landscape in which she planted, trialed and studied the performance of plants in the context of her Southern garden.

  • Woody plants provided structure, screening, shade, and depth

  • Herbaceous plants and bulbs that she loved were dynamic and changing.

  • Plants identified as having particular design and/or associational significance in the garden.

    1. Camellia ‘White Empress’

    2. Stewartia pseudocamellia, the largest in Mecklenburg County

    3. Camellia sasanqua hedge defining the front entry/parking courtyard

    4. Prunus carolina pruned allée

    5. Phyllostachys aurea, the golden bamboo curtain

The House and Garden are being rehabilitated as the personal, intimate expression of Elizabeth Lawrence, with focus placed on the integrated design of her house and garden. The purpose is to inspire future generations of gardeners and writers through the preservation and interpretation of her legacy and to create a place for the appreciation and study of horticulture.