History of the Elizabeth Lawrence House & Garden

History

Elizabeth Lawrence (1904-1985) was already a recognized garden designer and writer when, in 1948, she moved from Raleigh to Charlotte, NC, and began building the house and making a garden  just footsteps away from Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary. 


The Garden in Charlotte

A graceful refuge that doubled as a living laboratory for her study and appreciation of plants and design, Lawrence’s Charlotte garden was a frequent reference and inspiration for her writing for thirty-five years.


With only a small lot (just 70’ x 225’), she treated the entire property as a garden and laid out a series of axial paths centered on a pool.  Beyond the pool, the central path narrows—creating a sense of distance between the pool and back wall on which she hung a plaque of the Madonna and Child.  The series of paths created the beds that would serve as her laboratory for testing plants.  A small woodland garden is at the back of the property.


Lawrence sells house and garden

In 1984, Lawrence, in declining health, moved to Maryland.  Two years later, the property was purchased by Mary Lindeman "Lindie" Wilson.  Recognizing the significance of the property and being an accomplished gardener herself, Wilson sensitively maintained the integrity of Lawrence’s garden.  Wilson sought the help of the Garden Conservancy to assist in identifying the best way to preserve the Lawrence Garden. Both the house and garden were entered in the National Register of Historic Places in September of 2006, and, in 2008, the Wing Haven Foundation purchased the property.

 

Today

Wing Haven took possession of the Lawrence property in the fall of 2008 and immediately began to address many of the structural repairs and improvements to the house and garden that were necessary in order to open the property as a public facility. The iconic entry gate has been refurbished; the pool, stone walls and columns have been restored; pathways and steps have been stabilized; drainage issues addressed; and new interpretive signs have been added to the garden.

Working closely with the Garden Conservancy to develop a plan for the management of the garden, Wing Haven will maintain the property as a horticultural learning center containing many unique specimens of woody plants, perennials and bulbs. The key structural elements—the walls, pool, important woody plants—will form the background for the garden that will function as a dynamic site rather than a museum.

Plant restoration is actively underway. Using Lawrence’s writings as a starting point, we have selected many of her favorites for re-introduction to the garden.

 

»  LEARN MORE about Elizabeth Lawrence in the News section.