Readers of Eudora Welty's fiction know that she was an avid and knowledgeable gardener: the names of flowers and plants - wild and domestic - abound in her fiction. The garden was also an important and deeply personal source of inspiration and contemplation, as demonstrated in countless letters she wrote to her closest friends and confidants.
The Welty garden was designed and created by Chestina Welty, Eudora’s mother, and rigorously tended by both women for several decades. Mrs. Welty designed it according to the style of the day which called for outdoor “rooms” and flower borders. Incorporating both native and cultivated plants, Chestina planned the garden for a succession of continuous bloom throughout the year. She and Eudora considered horticulture and garden making to be a learning experience, and they shared with friends plants as well as information from the latest gardening literature. Books by Elizabeth Lawrence, Rodale, and Vita Sackville-West were among many volumes on gardening in the Welty library.
The garden was in the peak of its glory between 1925 and 1945 when both women often tended it together. It was carefully reestablished by garden restoration consultant Susan Haltom and a committed core of volunteers. They named themselves The Cereus Weeders in honor of Welty’s use of the flower in her fiction and its role in small-town evening social life. Primary garden research and restoration work occurred between 1994 and 2004. Haltom utilized her interviews with Eudora, her photos, her mother’s garden journals, and their collective correspondence to return the garden to its former splendor. The Welty garden opened to the general public in 2004.
Eudora and Chestina Welty in the Garden
The garden rooms feature an impressive collection of over 30 varieties of camellias, an extensive mixed border and rose garden, reconstructed arbors, trellises and latticework, a woodland garden and a “get-away” clubhouse. It is an approved display garden of the American Daffodil Society as well as a stop on the American Camellia Society’s Gulf Coast Camellia Trail.