Legends in the Garden

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2002-09-15
  • Publisher: Timber Pr

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If you've ever wondered about the people and places immortalized in plant names, this enlightening and entertaining book will provide some answers. Legends in the Garden introduces 46 people and places some familiar, others unknown associated with popular garden plants. Rosa 'Burbank' honors Luther Burbank, the "plant wizard" of Santa Rosa. John Champneys and Philippe Noisette, key figures in the development of the rose, gave their names to R. 'Champneys' Pink Cluster' and R. 'Blush Noisette'. But who were Nellie Stevens (Ilex 'Nellie Stevens') and Frances Williams (Hosta sieboldiana 'Frances Williams')? This delightful book combines accounts of the lives of these intriguing characters with descriptions of the plants that bear their names and the stories of their chance discoveries or deliberate breeding.


It was a close call. According to Mrs. Van Lennep, the 'Nellie R. Stevens' holly almost had her "head chopped off" before she was ever known. Having become holly collectors, Vida Stockwell Van Lennep and her husband, Gustav (Gus), were avid gardeners and had planted their own holly orchard in St. Michael's, a picturesque town on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The Van Lenneps were well-known for their holly interest and in 1952, Vida made a report about their holly orchard at a plant meeting of the Talbot County (Maryland) Garden Club. Eunice Parsons Highley, a friend from the neighboring town of Oxford, was also at the meeting, and when she heard about the Van Lennep's interest, she immediately asked them to visit her at her home, Maplehurst, to look at three unidentified hollies she was preparing to remove to make way for adjacent magnolias. Vida and Gus accepted the invitation and drove to Oxford.In the world of holly enthusiasts, the Van Lenneps were still neophytes, but they compared each of Highley's hollies with the hollies they knew and realized each was different and unlike the other. They took cuttings of the plants, one female and two males to show at the Holly Society of America's annual meeting. The holly experts at the gathering were also mystified by the cuttings. Full of new hope for the previously doomed hollies, the Van Lenneps returned to St. Michael's and propagated the cuttings. After evaluating the plants, Gus Van Lennep was most impressed with the female clone and named it 'Nellie R. Stevens' to honor the lady who originally planted the seeds of the now-famous holly in her garden at Maplehurst. He introduced it to the commercial trade in 1954.

Excerpted from Legends in the Garden: Who in the World is Nellie Stevens? by Linda L. Copeland, Allan M. Armitage
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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