Heirloom Gardening in the South: Yesterday’s Plants for Today’s Gardens
By William C. Welch & Greg Grant
A new edition of the classic work, The Southern Heirloom Garden adds 300 more pages of valuable information about heirloom plants belong in Southern gardens. Tough and adapted, tried and true, pretty and useful, these living antiques – passed through countless generations – represent the foundation of traditional gardens as we know them today.
Heirloom Gardening in the South is a comprehensive resource that also offers a captivating, personal encounter with two dedicated and passionate gardeners whose love of heritage gardening infuses the work from beginning to end. Anyone who wants to know how to find and grow time-honored and pass-along plants or wants to create and nurture a traditional garden is sure to find this a must-have addition to their home gardening library.
A book excerpt:
A Garden in the Wilderness, German Influence by Greg Grant
With the exception of Missouri, no Southern state received such a massive influx of German immigrants as did Texas. Ship after ship filled with Germans seeking their “new Germany” arrived into the ports of Galveston, Indianola, and New Orleans. In 1846, about eight thousand arrived in Galveston alone. Because the immigrants tended to settle together, the German influence was often far more pronounced, or even overwhelming, locally. According to German Seed in Texas Soil, the populations of Galveston, Houston, and San Antonio during the 1850s were roughly one-third German.
As new arrivals, the Germans gardened to feed themselves. In addition to what they could grow, the immigrants harvested a great many foods from the wild, including wild grapes, plums, blackberries, and anything else deemed edible. As one German settler put it, “We ate what we liked and we ate what we didn’t like.”
Like most early settlers, the Germans grew such edible crops as sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, corn and cabbage. It doesn’t appear that the Germans were responsible for introducing any new types of vegetables into Texas, but they can be credited with new uses for existing crops. It was the German influence that led to an increased consumption of white, or “German” potatoes, and the use of cabbage for kraut, tobacco for cigars, and wheat for “light bread” and flour tortillas.
At least in their own estimation, the German immigrants were generally better gardeners than their Anglo neighbors. In 1845, Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, the first commissioner-general of the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas, pointed out, “All of the garden vegetables grow abundantly if one takes the pains to plant them. The American is usually too lazy to prepare a garden. Rather than go to such trouble, he prefers to live on salted meat, bacon, corn, and coffee and to deny himself any greenery either for nourishment or for beautifying the home. However, the German settlements are distinguished by their beautiful gardens, vegetables, and flowers.”
Apparently, Germans were among the first settlers in Texas to adorn their surroundings with flowers and ornamental plantings. Traveling across Texas in 1854, Frederick Law Olmstead described his accommodations for a night he spent in the German community of New Braunfels: “A little room it proved, with blue walls again, and oak furniture … two large windows with curtains, and evergreen roses trained over them on the outside – not a pane of glass missing or broken – the first sleeping room we have had in Texas where this was the case.”
What’s Inside the book:
Essays on naturalizing daffodils, slips and starts, and growing fruit;
An heirloom plant encyclopedia;
Extensive plant lists (bulbs, cemetery plants, etc.)
The latest on the creation of two of the authors’ personal gardens
Building on the popularity of the original edition, this lively, entertaining, and informative new book from two proven experts will be enthusiastically welcomed by gardeners and horticulturists throughout Texas and the South.
Patty Leander, Travis County Master Garden and Texas Gardener contributing writer says about Heirloom Gardening in the South, “Combining world history, abundant horticultural wisdom and two lifetimes of experience, Bill and Greg bring tribute, reverence, and authentic meaning to the term ‘heirloom’. When I read the section on German influences I couldn’t help but think of my own grandfather of German heritage, a farmer who loved coaxing beauty and bounty from his land in Alamance County, North Carolina. In today’s hyper-paced world, we need such gentle reminders of the customs, cultures, and plants that have shaped and contributed to our rich Southern heritage. Thank heaven for Bill Welch and Greg Grant, and for their dedication to Texas and the South.”
William C. Welch is professor and AgriLife Extension landscape horticulturist in the Texas A&M System. He has many years of experience with garden clubs and nursery organizations and is a regular contributor to Southern Living Magazine. On the board of directors of the Southern Garden History Society, he is also an honorary member of the Garden Club of America, which awarded him its distinguished service medal in 2008.
Greg Grant is the Stephen F. Austin Gardens outreach research associate at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. A former AgriLife Extension agent and lecturer in horticulture at SFA, Grant has traveled extensively to gardens in the U.S. and Europe and is a popular speaker on garden topics throughout the South. He is a regular contributor to Neil Sperry’s Gardens and writes the column, “In Greg’s Garden,” for Texas Gardener.
Heirloom Gardening in the South
By William C. Welch & Greg Grant
Texas A&M University Press
Flexbound, 535 pages, $29.95 USD