Eudora Welty’s parents built a house in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1925, when she was a girl, and until her death in 2001 she wrote there, sitting at a bedroom window with a view of life on Pinehurst Street. Now open for tours, the house and garden–where flowers planted by both her and her mother still grow–are reminders that ”a sheltered life can be a daring life as well,” as she once said, ”for all serious daring starts from within.”
It was never a grand garden, but a gracious one, with a design typical of the early part of the 1900s–my grandparents’ backyard had a nearly identical layout, in fact, with a rose arbor and perennial beds bisecting the property to create separate “rooms.” Welty’s property extends, in the distance, to a gray shed.
Camellias figured prominently in The Optimist’s Daughter, as “Laurel’s eye travelled among the urns that marked the graves of the McKelvas and saw the favorite camellia of her father’s, the old-fashioned Chandlerii Elegans, that he had planted on her mother’s grave–big now as a pony, saddled with unplucked bloom living and dead, standing on a fading carpet of its own flowers.”
For more writers’ gardens, see “The Poet and His Garden: Ian Hamilton Finlay in Scotland” and “A Gothic Garden Visit, Courtesy of the Mitfords.”