Wilder, Louise Beebe

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

WILDER, Louise Beebe

Born 30 January 1878, Baltimore, Maryland; died 20 April 1938, New York, New York

Daughter of Charles S. and Mary Harrison Beebe; married Walter R. Wilder, 1902; children: two

Louise Beebe Wilder was educated in private schools. With her husband, an architect, and her two children, she lived for many years in Pomona, New York, and moved in 1922 to Bronxville, then a fairly rural area. Very active in gardening club circles, she founded the Working Gardeners Club of Bronxville in 1925 and served as vice president of the Federated Garden Clubs of New York and editor of New York Gardens, its journal. She was also a director and member of the advisory council of the New York Botanical Garden. In 1937 the Garden Club of America awarded her a Gold Medal for Horticultural Achievement, a rare honor.

Between 1916 and 1937, Wilder wrote nine gardening books and many articles for magazines and newspapers. In her writing, she often mentions her own gardens, especially a large garden surrounding an old farmhouse in Pomona and her "suburban" garden in Bronxville.

Her first book, My Garden (1916), covers many topics and gives general advice. In the foreword, she points out the suitability of gardening and the manual labor involved in it as a pastime for women. Colour in My Garden (1918) discusses the use of color in garden design but again is fairly nonspecialized in its approach. These and other works by Wilder are distinguished from the usual general gardening books because she presents a good deal of original material.

Rock gardening was one of her special interests, dealt with not only in her general books but in Pleasures and Problems of a Rock Garden (1927). Wilder steers a course between the high cultists for whom rock gardening is an exotic and demanding pursuit and the average enthusiasts who plant their treasures in the backyard amidst clinkers and brick bits and are often criticized for a lack of skill in garden design. She points out that the enjoyment gardeners get from their gardens is what is most important.

The Fragrant Path (1932) is a thorough and charming book about the scents of a garden. Of the many books on this subject, this is the most comprehensive. There are chapters on such things as fragrant mushrooms as well as those on the more common herbs and roses. Adventures with Hardy Bulbs (1936) is a classic work on its subject. It is illustrated with photographs and line drawings by Wilder's son. She explains in the foreword her frequent use of the word "adventures" in her titles: "Adventure is of the mind—a mental attitude toward everyday events wherever experienced. One does not have to sit through the long night of an antarctic winter with an Admiral Byrd to know this, or to explore uncharted airways. Adventure may be met with any day, any hour, on one's own doorstep, just around the corner; it may lurk in the subway, on a bus stop, in the garden."

Wilder's gardening books are written with humor and grace. Behind her words lie a lifetime of real gardening experience and a lifetime of reading and research. Such gardening books may be out of print, but they can hardly be out of date.

Other Works:

Adventures in My Garden and Rock Garden (1923). Adventures in a Suburban Garden (1931). What Happens in My Garden (1935). The Garden in Colour (1937).

Bibliography:

Andrews, L. L., The Story of the Working Gardeners of Bronxville (1976).

—BEVERLY SEATON