Mrs. King's Alma garden had been designed by a leading expert in the
field and over time she developed regular contacts with many of the
leading British and American gardeners of the early twentieth century.
They recognized in her a woman of considerable talent both in the garden
and with a pen and encouraged her to publish information drawn from her
garden. In 1910 Mrs. King first article was published in The Garden.
It discussed the beauty of continual successions of blooms and how
plants can enhance each other to better the garden. Other articles
followed, catching the imagination and attention of American gardeners.
Her first full length book, The Well-Considered Garden,
was published in 1915, and was dedicated to her mother-in-law. King
wrote nine gardening books between 1915 and 1931 as well as innumerable
articles for such magazines as House and Garden, House Beautiful, Saturday Evening Post, Shelter and the Spur.
Her most productive period was during the 1920s. Particularly
interesting are several books she wrote during this period, such as such
as The Little Garden, Variety in the Little Garden, and, The Beginners Garden. that gave advice to those with small pieces of property. In all she wrote or edited nine volumes in the Little Garden
series and her persuasive powers encouraged other professional
gardeners and well known horticulturists, such as Charles Sprague
Sargent, Ellen Shipman and Gertrude Jekyll to contribute to this series.
The "Little Garden" series was aimed at a new and much broader
audience than Mrs. King had written for in her earlier work.
Mrs.King's, as well as many other authors, had largely written gardening
advice for women of substantial means who were interested in creating a
garden to enhance the appearance of their very large homes. To help
this affluent audience, in her first book Mrs. King included a
discussion regarding the problems of managing hired help and offered the
opinion that a satisfactory full-time gardener should be employable for
about $100 month.
In the 1920's, however, King discovered a new audience in
the burgeoning post-war suburbs. Gardens were the rage in these newly
settled areas and Mrs. King's "little" garden books were targeted at the
wives who by their own work would convert the small lots on which so
many of these homes rested into tiny islands of nature. The Little
Garden Series proved the vehicle for both her and her friends efforts to
broaden gardening beyond those who could hire it done.
Part of King's success in twisting others arms to write foir
the series was her generous praise of other authors. King and Gertrude
Jekyll, for example, both loved color in the garden. Although King was
the American master of garden color she was generous in her praise of
the British Jekyll, The English author, who may have been one of the few
in the era whose skill with color surpassed King's own, benefitted
mightily from these kind words since her more difficult writings would
not likely have been as influential had King not both popularized
Jekyll's beliefs and regularly pointed American readers to her books.
In talking about gardens, Mrs. King discussed design, color,
planning, and function with an emphasis on the garden as an entire unit
of space. She had little to say about pests or diseases. Her interest
lay in the garden as work of art. Design, not pest control, was her
crusading interest. "It is the lack of plan that is responsible for
most that is ugly in America."