In my stack of Christmas-y gardening books is a slim book, The Christmas Rose, written and published in 1948 by Arthur E. and Mildred V. Luedy.
‘Tis the season for Mildred to be my latest lost lady of garden writing.
In the foreward, Mildred and Arthur wrote, “The authors have set down herein some of their experiences in growing The Christmas Rose, Helleborus niger altifolius, over the past quarter century, in the hope that some who may not have known this most enchanting flower heretofore may come to know and grow and prize it.”
Mildred appears to have been born in 1898 and died in 1973. She married Arthur in 1927. They had no children that I can find.
According to a clipping from a Des Moines newspaper published in 1958, Mildred was listed as “a former president of the Downtown Garden Club of Cleveland, a former executive board member of the Garden Clubs of Ohio and is an accredited flower show judge and instructor for the National Council of State Garden Clubs. Mrs. Luedy is president of the Cuyahoga County Nurseryman’s Assocation.”
In other words, Mildred was the real deal. She and Arthur had a nursery on “scenic, winding Valley View Rd., south of Cleveland.”
I found a few other newspaper clippings that lead me to believe that at some point Mildred and Arthur retired to Tucson, Arizona, where he died in 1969 and she passed away in 1973. I also found a newspaper clipping about Mildred belonging to a group known as Maverick Artists who displayed their artwork around various locations in Tucson in 1970. Of course I searched online for images of Mildred’s artwork, but I came up empty-handed.
I also came up with only pictures of Arthur when I looked for pictures of Mildred. It seems when there was a newspaper clipping about them speaking together somewhere, if there was any picture at all, it was of Arthur.
As for the book, The Christmas Rose, we don’t know which parts Mildred wrote and which parts Arthur contributed, but together they’ve covered just about everything anyone might want to know about growing this plant.
They also included poem, which I’m going to attribute to Mildred with no evidence to the contrary!
The wind has blown the garden gate ajar
And all about the ground is brown, the air
Is biting cold, the trees are gaunt and bare.
Thus Winter has descended. Left its scar
On every tender flower, further mark
On leaf and tiny blade. And everywhere
It seems the Earth has died and in despair
The sky, the wind, are mourning from afar.
But by the wall, beneath the apple tree,
Defiant of the cold and chilly blast,
Pure white and waving for the eye to see
Like little stars each dancing on a mast,
Each happy, joining in the Season’s glee…
Fair roses bloom, as legends have forecast!
I’ll wrap this up with one other verse I found in this book, which is just 44 pages.
If you a rose would grow,
Superb in every part,
‘Tis said you first must sow
The seed within your heart!
If you are fortunate enough to have a Christmas Rose blooming in your garden, now you can think of Mildred Luedy, another lost lady of garden writing, who helped to write a book about this winter flower.