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The Daily Tar Heel

Writer speaks about inspiration for her work at NC Botanical Gardens

Sarah Dendy of Durham has her copy of "Seeing Seeds" signed by Teri Dunn Chace.
Sarah Dendy of Durham has her copy of "Seeing Seeds" signed by Teri Dunn Chace.

Seeds are often overlooked, but on Sunday at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, they were the star of the show.

Each fall since 1999, the garden has chosen an acclaimed gardener or horticulturist to host the Jenny Elder Fitch Memorial Lecture.

UNC graduates Fitch and her husband built Fearrington Village - a bustling residential community just south of Chapel Hill. She also served on the boards of the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Ackland Art Museum and the N.C. Botanical Garden before passing away in 1995 from breast cancer.

This year’s lecturer was writer Teri Dunn Chace, whose talk was entitled “Seeing Seeds: A Journey Into the World of Seedheads, Pods and Fruit.”

Chace credited her interest in nature to her grandmother who gardened, but said her focus on seeds, specifically, began in the kitchen.

“A lot of herbs and spices are seeds, so that’s what really got me interested,” Chace said. “I love gardening and cooking, so it all just came together.”

Throughout the lecture, she presented many highly-detailed pictures of seeds by photographer Robert Llewellyn. These photos, along with Chace’s commentary and analysis, are the components of their book of the same name as the lecture.

“I’ve written different kinds of books. Sometimes you write a book and you don’t even know what the photographs are going to be like,” she said. “But, this was different. The photographs came first.”

Following the lecture, there was a book-signing where attendees gathered and shared their thoughts on the work.

“The photography methods and some of her anecdotes were incredible,” said attendee and community member Valerie Carr. “There are many things that I haven’t really thought about until this book. I’m coming away with a lot.”

Another attendee was Chapel Hill Town Council Member, Ed Harrison,  who said he found out about the event from an email list. 

“This book, with its astounding photographs, made it hard to not want to come,” Harrison said. “It was a nice way to take a break.”

Chace made a point of sharing with the audience the dedication which is written on the inside cover.

“My husband and I went to see Savion Glover, a world famous tap dancer. While I was watching him, I had this epiphany about what he was doing and what seeds do,” Chace said. “So, the dedication of this book says ‘Dedicated to Savion Glover, who dances at the intersection of discipline and joy - it occurs to me that seeds do the same thing in their own way.'''

“Seeing Seeds” was one of five recipients of the 2016 American Horticultural Society Book Awards.

“It’s like a jury of your peers. I was freaked out, I was so honored,” Chace said.

She explained that, upon receiving the award, after seeing others give long-winded and boring speeches, she decided to take a different approach and focus on the idea she most wanted to convey.

“I got up there and said, ‘This book is dedicated to a tap dancer and I want to tell you why.'”

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