“The Little Garden” by Louisa Yeomans King

July 22, 2010

Mrs. King, Courtesy of Clarke Historical Library

Mrs. King, Courtesy of Clarke Historical Library

“Give this house, oh traveler, Pray
A blessing as you pass this way
And if you’ve time, I beg your pardon
While you’re at it, bless this garden”

Inscription over the entrance
to Mrs. King’s Alma garden

Between World War I and World War II, Louisa Yeomans King was one of the nation’s most prominent authors of gardening books. “Mrs. King,” as she was known to the many readers of her publications, dedicated most of her life to gardening. House and Garden magazine declared her the “fairy godmother of gardening.” She was also called “the best-beloved and best-known American woman gardener” of her era.   Courtesy of the Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan


The preface to her book, “The Little Garden” (Fourth printing in March, 1926 by Boston, Little Brown and Company) quotes an artist in his letter to his landscape architect pupil (which Mrs. King likens to Abraham Lincoln’s shout from the watchtower of history.  The artist’s shout is from the watchtower of gardening…

“Surely there is much that can be done in garden designing, especially when, as you say, there are people who have gardens and think that color has no important place in the development of beautiful flower gardening.  I doubt if I should care to see the flower garden of one who does not consider color that first essential.  And for those who do value color there is always room for advancement.  We live in an age that is gray through want of color.  The negation of color indicates cold and unspiritual existence.  There is now coming to life a reawakening as regards color; and, as this new spirit grows, humanity becomes warmer, kindlier and emotion plays its part in our constructions.  The combination of emotions and science, expressing through color and form, will give great results.  The day will come when people seeing beautiful flowers, grown in abundance and in order, not only something to please, but a medium for the expression of the best in them and an inspiration to a truer and fuller life.  Whoever works to inspire the growth and the love of flowers – not in private enclosures only, but broadcast, everywhere – will do a great and valuable work for humanity.

I am deeply interested in the growth everywhere of plants, however common, that are beautiful, and in the organization of the various plants so that the orchestration of colors will be to the best advantage of the whole and each part.  I like flowers, all kinds, whether the most common or the most rare, because of their color and their form, and I want to see them anywhere, in my garden, in yours, in the rich man’s, the poor man’s, on the road, anywhere – all the world my garden, everybody my gardener, and everybody to enjoy them as I.  A world full of flowers, rich and kind and forgiving in their colors; valiant and strong; full of promise.  Make me a garden like that and cover all the world with it.  It will kill crime and it will kill poverty, for it will kill selfishness and it will prove that Mother Nature is right.  If you can warm up the hearts of your clients to a real love of flowers so that they will find in them their significance, you will do a great work.”  Mr. Robert Henri, the Bulletin of the Woman’s National Farm and Garden Association.

The Clarke Historical Library was founded in 1954 through a gift from Dr. Norman E. Clarke, Sr. to his alma mater. Dr. Clarke was a book collector of unusual insight and breadth. His collection was created, in his own words, to “portray the lives, the thoughts, and the culture of the pioneer people to whom we owe so much.”
The institution bearing Dr. Clarke’s name has become one of Michigan’s leading research libraries. The material found in the library honors the spirit of Dr. Clarke’s initial charge, his subsequent interests, and the ongoing needs of the CMU community.


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