I wrote about Buckner Hollingsworth back in 2014 but decided to post about her again today because she deserves a place amongst the Lost Ladies of Garden Writing.
Buckner, or Buckie to her friends and family, was born on December 20, 1892 in Baltimore, Marland.
She served in the Red Cross in World War I, attended Bryn Mawr College, and later married the artist Will Hollingsworth with whom she had one one son, Kirk.
Eventually Will and Buckner bought a house on Main Street in Windsor, Vermont, where they lived and she gardened and wrote about gardening.
A side note for those interested in the British monarchy, Buckie’s younger sister, Mary, was a friend of Mrs. Wallis Simpson. Yes, that Wallis Simpson. Mary later married Ernest Simpson, after he divorced Wallis. Buckie’s youngest sister, Anne Kirk Cooke, wrote a book about their sister Mary, The Other Mrs. Simpson by Elizabeth Cooke and Anne Kirk. (Good luck finding a good used copy of that book for a reasonable price!)
Buckner passed away in 1979 and many of her letters and correspondence related to her books and her sister Mary are now housed in a library at Harvard University.
Buckner wrote three books on gardening that I know of. The first one, which I found by chance in an antique store, was Gardening on Main Street (Rutgers University Press, 1968).
After I finished reading Gardening on Main Street, I found good used copies of the two other books written by Buckner, including Her Garden was Her Delight (The MacMillan Company, 1962) a lovely book of essays Buckner wrote about women gardeners from the 17th, 18th, 19th, and very early 20th centuries. It’s a gold mine of information all on its own and was reviewed by Katharine S. White, though not with great enthusiasm.
In a letter sent by Katharine S. White to Elizabeth Lawrence dated June 5, 1962, White writes she couldn’t give Buckner’s book an enthusiastic review. She “detected many small errors in fact…” She felt bad about the short review she did include in The New Yorker, because Buckner was an old friend and according to White, almost totally blind. (Buckner and Katharine were classmates at Bryn Mawr College.)
Buckner also wrote Flower Chronicles (Rutgers University Press, 1958) in which she tells the history of several different flowers.
As noted in the front flap of that book, “Every gardener knows that his craft is immemorially old, and that the flowers of this year’s blossoming are the latest delights in a sequence rooted in centuries and millennia. This is a book to affirm the gardener’s sense of the past, to reaffirm the ancient sense of connection between this year’s blossoms and the story of flowers and men as it has happened in many times, many places and among many peoples.”
Back in 2014, I wrote, “I think what I enjoyed most about Gardening on Main Street is that reading it was like sitting in Buckie’s garden or in her kitchen, listening to her tell the story of her garden. I can imagine arriving early and following her around the garden, stopping here and there as she tells me how she solved the problem of what to plant along the narrow front garden, how beautiful the morning glory vine is that grows by her front door, and how she and Will rigged up a garden hose to keep the water moving in her little fish pond.”
I think this winter would be a good time for me to re-visit Buckner, another lost lady of garden writing, and check out her books.
(If you want to find any of Buckner’s books, you can find used copies on Amazon or go to my secret search site for old books to find other sellers. Or do what I did. Wander around in an old antique store and see if one shows up on a bookshelf.)