Friday, August 6, 2010

The Scenery and Greenery of Gone with the Wind (1)

"Along the roadside the blackberry brambles were concealing with softest green the savage red gulches cut by the winter's rains, and the bare granite boulders pushing up through the red earth were being draped with sprangles of Cherokee roses and compassed about by wild violets of palest purple hue.  Upon the wooded hills above the river, the dogwood blossoms lay glistening and white, as if snow still lingered among the greenery.  The flowering crab trees were bursting their buds and rioting from delicate white to deepest pink and, beneath the trees where the sunshine dappled the pine straw, the wild honeysuckle made a varicolored carpet of scarlet and orange and rose."
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter V

When I first read Gone with the Wind, one of the very first things that impressed me was Margaret Mitchell's vivid and beautiful descriptions of the scenery surrounding Tara and Clayton County. Now,  I'm admittedly a softie for nice description, but I do think there's just something so striking about how MM chose to depict the land of north Georgia. You can really tell what a deep affinity she had for her native region. And as a narrative feature, it is of course put to brilliant use, showing Scarlett's own deep connection with the land she grew up on and serving as a stark counterpoint to the complete devastation the war would have on the County and elsewhere.

But while I'm a big fan of passages like the one highlighted above, I have to admit that I've never been able to get a complete mental picture of the (literally) flowery scenes MM describes. Perhaps that's the result of me not being a native of the South or just simply due to my underdeveloped knowledge of all things botanical. (My mother, the avid gardener, shakes her head in shame.) Either way, my poor imagination has resulted in yet another feature here at How We Do Run On--Scenery and Greenery of Gone with the Wind, where from time to time we'll offer you a glimpse into the flora and foliage mentioned in passages in GWTW.

This week we start off with (you guessed it) the passage quoted above, which charmingly illustrates the scenery on the road to Twelve Oaks the morning of the fateful barbeque. Below you'll find photos of the plants mentioned in the passage, along with each plant's "vital stats" and a corresponding description. And because, as I'm sure you've guessed by now, our blog's motto basically is "Why use a new book when a dusty old one will do just as well?" the info and description comes from a vintage book with an absurdly long name: Southern wild flowers and trees, together with shrubs, vines and various forms of growth found through the mountains, the middle district and the low country of the South (1901).

One last comment before I leave you with pretty pictures to look at? In researching these plants and their blooming times, I was slightly dismayed for a moment to see that many of them don't start blooming until May in the South. Then I remembered MM has an answer for everything and it's best not to try to outsmart her. She's one step ahead again, for right in the opening pages it's mentioned that "Spring had come early that year." Indeed it had. And, my rambling now complete, enjoy a glimpse into some lovely Southern foliage! 


Family: Rose         Color: White         Blooms: May-June, with fruit in August

"[H]igh bush blackberry, stands uprightly, and is abundantly found along waysides and through clearings. Its broadly oval fruit...and its rather large white flowers growing on bristly pedicels in a spreading raceme, proclaim the species." 

Cherokee Rose

Family: Rose          Color: White          Blooms: May 

"Who of the south does not know the Cherokee rose and regard it with fond admiration as it climbs, retwines and doubles itself over hedges, or up the sides of cabins and transforms them into flowery bowers almost unrivalled in beauty. And yet, although so widely distributed through the southern Atlantic and gulf states, the rose is not known to occur there in a wild state and just how it came to be so abundant in the former country of the Cherokee Indians is a question only partly solved. As truly wrapped in mystery is the history of its occupancy of the soil as that of the people whose name it bears."

Wild Violet

Family: Violet          Color: Purple, Blue          Blooms: April-May

"The violets are very temperate. They like neither much heat nor great cold but seek to grow usually in retired places, well shaded and moist. About them there is a look that makes a violet always a violet… These apetalous little blossoms are most interesting to watch during a season. They seem mostly to be produced when the days become too warm for the showy flowers to bloom…"


Family: Dogwood          Color: Cream-White          Blooms: May-June

"When the time is at hand for the earth to show forth its life and every bough is bathed in warm sunny air, and buds burst and leaves unfold, there is much presented through our woods by the dogwood trees and shrubs. It is, however, only the so-called flowering one which, with its fine, broad involucre, throws out a splendid shower of white at this season.

Southern Crabapple

Family: Apple          Color: Pink or White          Blooms: March-May 

"When the leaves of this small tree are very young, having, in fact, just timidly unfolded, its exquisite rosy and fragrant blossoms come into full bloom. It is then still so early in the season that the purplish grey colouring of its twigs forms for them a misty background, and only such other wide-awake shrubs as the thorn, the shad-bush and the spice-bush are laden with flowers. But everything is stirring: the march is onward."

Family: Honeysuckle          Color: Scarlet, Yellow          Blooms: April-June

"[T]rumpet, or coral, honeysuckle, woodbine, shows its gay spirit and energy in its exquisite scarlet, or yellow, flowers which hang gracefully from near the ends of the stalk. Their large tube is narrow and the limb almost regularly lobed. The upper leaves unite about the stem and are very thick and evergreen through its southern range. The plant is charming also when crowned with its round, scarlet berries."


  1. Not only does this do a great job in helping me picture the imagery in the book...but thank you for identifying the wild cherokee rose that started growing in my yard, I knew it was a rose but didn't know its variety.

  2. Oh Jamie- that's so awesome! I'm jealous now. If you ever want to take pictures of your very own Cherokee rose, we'd be happy to feature it on the blog. :)

  3. Iso, you and Bugsie have such keen eyes for these details! The description in that passage is glorious. Sometimes nature can outdo the most dedicated gardener with her spontaneous displays. I agree with Jamie, it does make that passage come alive, to see the pictures of the flowers.

    The other thing that strikes me about the passage is the description of the land and topography, suggestive of the Appalachian Piedmont. My favorite place in the southeastern U.S., Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, falls in that swath of land that extends from northern Alabama to northern New Jersey. MM really does a great job of painting the picture of its beauty.

  4. @Iris- Oh glorious is the perfect word to describe the passage, along with MM's nature descriptions in general. It's one of my very favorite parts of the book, for her writing is just so lovely in these parts.

    I haven't traveled that much around the Southeast (does Northern Virginia count? :D) although I do intend to one day. But in the interim, MM's description does really help the area come alive.

    Her final description of Tara at the end of the novel is perhaps my favorite--there's some so calming and reassuring about it to me. It helps me believe that surely, one way or another, Rhett coming back or not, things will be okay for Scarlett, as she has this beautiful homestead to return to and nurse her wounds.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...