[Mississippi History Newsletter Online.]

A MDAH Publication  |  Volume 46 No. 3  |  March 2004

Welty House Garden Opens to Public

A restored southern garden
For over sixty years Eudora Welty wrote stories and novels and tended her garden at 1119 Pinehurst Street in Jackson. At her death she left her home to the state of Mississippi. On April 3-5, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History will open to the public the Welty House garden-restored to its former and highest glory, the period of 1925-1945, when the garden was cared for by both Eudora and her mother, Chestina Welty.

In the opening celebration, "A Garden Reborn," guests are invited to tour the restored garden and to attend special programs at the Old Capitol Museum, the Old Capitol Inn, and the William F. Winter Archives and History Building.

The Eudora Welty House is projected to open as a literary house museum in 2005, after the house has been brought up to museum standards.

The garden is born
Chestina Welty, Eudora's mother, planned the Pinehurst Street garden when the family built their new home in 1925 in Jackson's Belhaven neighborhood (now a historic district). That year Eudora graduated from Central High and left for college. At the death of her father, Christian Welty, in 1931, Eudora returned to Jackson from New York. As she began work at two new jobs in Jackson, she also began to write her first stories. Through these years, Eudora and her mother developed the three-quarter-acre lot into an extensive garden, one typical of southern gardens of that time.

I was my mother's yard boy.
Eudora Welty

At its height, the Welty garden featured, in addition to the front yard, a rose garden with a trellis, two arbors, an extensive perennial border, cutting garden, a woodland garden, and a large camellia collection.

After her mother's death in 1966, Eudora tended the garden herself, but she always referred to it as "Mother's garden." Her readers know that Eudora Welty loved the garden and was a knowledgeable gardener: the names of flowers and plants—wild and domestic—of Mississippi abound in her fiction.

I like the work in the yard, never get tired, and can think out there— or maybe it's dreaming.
Eudora Welty

The restoration
The garden is being restored to the period of 1925-45, when the garden best manifested the vision the two women shared for it. Most gardens of that era were created using locally available plants, but the Weltys mail-ordered plants and ordered seeds from gardening catalogs or from farmers and gardeners who advertised in the "Mississippi Market Bulletin."

MDAH's garden consultant Susan Haltom conducted extensive interviews with Eudora Welty about the garden's history. The accuracy of the restoration project has been made possible in large part by Welty's extensive documentation and by her mother's garden journals, which noted the layout of beds and bloom schedules. As a young photographer, Eudora would climb out the window of the second-floor sleeping room and take photographs from the roof; these photographs also provide documentation of the garden for the project.

Beds—no.
Borders—yes.
Notation, Chestina Welty's garden journal

The Welty garden features more than thirty varieties of camellias, some of them grafted by Eudora herself. Eudora and Chestina Welty shared these wintertime flowers with friends in the snowy North, sending them cushioned blooms on the overnight train.

Eudora Welty loved bulbs, and the upper garden is filled with them. She collected zephranthes, or rain lilies, surprise lilies, milk-and-wine lilies, spider lilies, and her favorite, hyacinthus-French Roman hyacinths. Chestina created garden borders that included day lilies, phlox, stokesia, Easter lilies, chrysanthemums, and jonquils.

Roses were Chestina's favorite flower, but they figure largely in Eudora's fiction, as well. In the sunny lower garden are climbers such as Silver Moon, Lady Banks, cl. Cecile Brunner, cl. American Beauty, Dr. W. Van Fleet, as well as a number of early twentieth-century hybrid tea roses.

The lower garden and cutting garden furnished blooms and greenery for indoors. In the cutting garden the Weltys planted annuals, both in fall for springtime blooms and in spring for summer-hollyhocks, snapdragons, larkspur, ragged robins, zinnias, cosmos, and many others.

Stretching from the edge of the lower garden to the back of the property is the woodland garden, with mature pines and hardwoods towering over more camellias, spider lilies, and oxblood lilies. The back border of the Welty garden is a thick canebrake planted by Chestina Welty.

"A Garden Reborn" Events

Saturday, April 3

10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Garden tours, Eudora Welty House
Each visitor during the garden opening will receive a garden guide, a commemorative bookmark, and a packet of heirloom flower seeds.

10 to 11:30 a.m
Presentations, House Chamber, Old Capitol Museum

The Art of Gardening: Chestina and Eudora Welty, 1925-1945 Suzanne Marrs, Eudora Welty Foundation scholar-in-residence, Millsaps College
The Room with a View: Preserving Eudora Welty's Very Special Place Robert Parker Adams, preservation architect
Curtains of Green: Restoring the Welty Garden Susan Haltom, garden restoration consultant

Sunday, April 4

1- 4 p.m.
Garden tours, Eudora Welty House

Jean Chisholm Lindsey Lecture in Landscape Design
By James R. Cothran, landscape architect/garden historian 3 p.m., House Chamber, Old Capitol Lecture is free of charge; to purchase a ticket that includes a buffet luncheon and a reserved seat ($60), call the Crosby Arboretum, 601/799-2311. Space is limited.

The Oxford Conference for the Book, sponsored by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, University of Mississippi, and Square Books of Oxford, moves to Jackson for two additional days: April 4 and 5 programs, cosponsored by the Center and by MDAH, are open to the public without charge. (To register, go to the Oxford Conference for the Book registration form on the Center's site. Programs are free; the dinner is $50 per person.)

6 p.m. Cocktails and dinner, Old Capitol Inn, 226 North State St.

8 p.m. Lecture, Old Capitol Inn

Eudora Welty: Life and Achievements Peggy Prenshaw, 2003-2004 Eudora Welty Chair, Millsaps College
Reading from Welty's story "The Petrified Man" John Maxwell, Jackson actor and playwright

Monday, April 5

10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Garden tours, Eudora Welty House

Oxford Conference for the Book programs

9 a.m., Orientation Room, William F. Winter Building, 200 North St.

Welty Archives: Tour of Reading Room and Discussion of Welty Collection, H. T. Holmes, MDAH Archives and Library director;Suzanne Marrs, Eudora Welty Foundation scholar-in-residence, Millsaps College; Forrest Galey, MDAH special projects officer

10:30 a.m., Orientation Room

Public Programming at the Eudora Welty House, Patti Carr Black, former director, Old Capitol Museum, author of Art in Mississippi, 1720-1980, and curator of numerous exhibits on Eudora Welty

3 p.m. High school art students in the Jackson Public Schools Academic and Performing Arts Complex, will visit the Welty garden and sketch plants as part of a larger study on Welty.

For more information on all events, call 601/ 576-6998.

 

 


Eudora Welty working in rock garden, c. 1940. All photographs courtesy Eudora Welty, LLC.


Parking Available

The 1100 block of Pinehurst Street will be closed for the three-day garden opening celebration. Belhaven College is graciously allowing Welty House visitors to park in the college parking lots on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, parking will be available on Riverside Drive; a shuttle will run from there to the Welty House.


Invitation to Belhaven Neighbors

On Wednesday, March 31, all Belhaven residents are invited to preview the Eudora Welty House garden from 2 to 4 p.m., free of charge. Reservations are required. For more information, call the Greater Belhaven Foundation, 601/ 352-8850.


Garden Supporters

The National Endowment for the Arts awarded a $10,000 grant to the Department of Archives and History to be used for the three-day celebration of the opening of the Eudora Welty House garden.

Organizations that have provided support to MDAH for the Eudora Welty House garden include

  • Belhaven College
  • Belhaven Garden Club
  • Belhaven Home and Garden Club
  • the Garden Conservancy
  • Garden Club of Jackson
  • Greater Belhaven Foundation
  • Historic Iris Preservation Society
  • Jackson Council of Garden Clubs
  • Junior League of Jackson
  • Woodland Hills Garden Club

William Jay Smith to Visit Garden

Poet William Jay Smith, a longtime friend of Eudora Welty, will attend the opening of the Welty House garden and will give a public reading at the Leggett Center, Millsaps College, at 7:30 p.m. on April 6.

MDAH Thanks 2003 Donors to the Eudora Welty Foundation

Acree, Patricia
Albert, Evelene
Aldridge, John E.
Alta Raymond Garden Club
AmSouth Foundation
Anklam, Fred and Cissy
Aydelott, Libby
Blue Cross & Blue Shield
Collier, John and Barbara
Concordia Club
Cotten, Dean
Craig, David Cobb
Dixon, Louisa
Dye, Donna
Fayette Garden Club
Friend, Virginia
Gertrude C. Ford Foundation
Green, Mary Sydney
Greenville Garden Club
Grunwald, Michael
Hilliard, Elbert
Hodnett, David
Hunter, Jo Ann
Hutchens, Eleanor
Jackson Council of Garden Clubs
James, Randy and Paula
Jefcoat, Michael and Evelyn
Johndroe, Pamela
Klipple, Catherine
Land, Guy
Marden, Mary Carrol
Marrs, Suzanne
McCarthy, Mary Delle
McCraw, Cynthia
McMullan, Jim and Madeleine
McNames, Mike and Judy
Moore, Jim and Betty
O'Neill, John and Anne
Quinson, Bruno
Rhoden, Tom and Sharon
Sanderson Farms
Schaffer, Gorman and Beverly
Sherwood Garden Club
Sumner, Jim and Ward
Taylor, Jan and Zach
Taylor, Rowan
The Chisholm Foundation
Trustmark National Bank
Wagner, Holly
Wall, Carey
White, Mary Alice and Donny

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Published by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History • Elbert R. Hilliard, director • Chrissy Wilson, editor
Please send correspondence to: MHN, P.O. Box 571, Jackson, MS 39205 or email to pubinfo@mdah.state.ms.us