Hit the Road with Jac: Traveling back in time

Hit the Road with Jac: Traveling back in time

JACKSON, MS (WDAM) - On this Hit the Road Trip with Jac, we take the scenic route to a garden in Jackson, Miss., a garden rooted in camaraderie and literature.

Started in 1925 by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Eudora Welty and her mother Chestina. During this time period, women were able to garden and participate in leisurely activities for the first time outside of the home. Chestina Welty had many friends that liked to garden. Her friends would come over to take in the beautiful views and exchange plants. For Eudora, the garden stemmed as a source of inspiration.

"It not only influenced the way she described the backgrounds of her stories, but she also used the flowers to personify characters," said chief gardener Susan Haltom.

In "Delta Wedding," Lady Clare was named after a camellia that grew below her window. Camellias were Eudora's favorite flower. The Welty's garden grows the same flowers as it did in the 1920s.

"Eudora said to me, 'don't make the garden something it wasn't,'" Haltom said. "She wanted it to be authentic and that's what we tried to do here."

Haltom was asked to meet with Eudora in 1994 to help her restore the garden. "The garden was virtually nonexistent when I came," Haltom said.

Chestina Welty wrote a descriptive map of her garden. Haltom used the map and the images Welty painted in her works to return the garden to its original state. She said it took years of planning, researching and cross-pollinating to rehabilitate.

"It's important for us to tell the story of how our mothers, our grandmothers and people before them gardened," Haltom said. "We don't want to lose those beautiful and important plants."

Every Wednesday Haltom and her "Serious Weeders" volunteers come together to work on the garden. The women catch up while working, just like Chestina Welty and her friends did.

"Gardening the way these women, the Weltys, used to do is an important thing for us to keep in our culture," Haltom said.