An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

January 9, 2009

Southern Garden History Society

About a year ago I stumbled upon a great on-line resource for people who are interested in garden history, particularly southern garden history. The Southern Garden History Society publishes the periodical Magnolia and past issues are available in .pdf format for you to spend cold winter evenings looking at. There is also a search feature that will let you look up whatever topics may be of interest to you. Don't expect a lot of breezy articles with beautiful photos. However, what you will find are scholarly, detailed articles covering a wide range of topics from stories about individual gardeners, historic trends, plant lore to garden preservation and more. Each issue contains several detailed book reviews, and there is also a link on the site to historic plant lists.

From my perusals I learned about Frederick Law Olmstead's travels through the south prior to the civil war, in which he referred to Norfolk as "a miserable, sorry little seaport town". I found a story about Peggy Martin and the Peggy Martin Rose which was the only survivor, other than a Crinum, from a garden that was under salt water for two weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Wesley Greene of Colonial Williamsburg wrote a very detailed article titled The Evolution of the Lawn. You can also read about the "myth of the colonial herb garden". I also enjoyed an article about Anne Spencer and her garden in Lynchburg, Va. She was an African American poet and gardener, a demographic one would erroneously think does not garden based on the dearth of published information.

If you are interested the link of the past issues of Magnolia is here.
The search feature can be found here.
Plant lists are here.
Finally, information about the society in general is here.


  1. I've bookmarked the websites Les. Thanks for the super good information. I can see how one would totally get lost in this information. Just clicking on one page took me to orchards in Augusta. Very neat.

  2. Les,
    Thanks for this wonderful find. I, like Tina, have bookmarked this resource. Really look forward to learning a lot.

  3. Hey Les, That was a great link! Thank you so much. I'm already on my way to it. Thanks again :)

  4. Thanks for the links. I'm not in the South but the plant list will surely come in handy.

  5. Just found your blog today and want to tell you that I have enjoyed your posts and your pictures. I am also a Camellia fan and intend to dig up my Lady Laura and take it with me when we move back to Chesapeake. I wonder if Big Mama is the tree my friend Pat Gammon showed me? Regardless, I'm sorry to hear of her passing.

  6. Les, I’m jealous. 60? We are due for single digit weather and the wind doesn’t help. Thanks for the tour of the Chysler Museum, I’ve never been. I love Edward Hopper too.

  7. Tina,
    Yes it is easy to get lost on this site.

    I hope you enjoy the site as well.


    I hope you can use the lists.

    Thanks for stopping by and please come back again. Big Mama is in a swamp called Cypress Bridge or maybe Cedar Bridge. If you Google it there is more information and Flikr has some good photos.

    It is not 60 now!


  8. Thank you Les as this is fantastic for us. I'll head over there. Olmstead

  9. Anna,
    I hope you enjoy your reading, there are lots of Winston Salem links.

  10. Thanks for promoting the Southern Garden History Society on your blog. I am a long-time member and have served as editor of Magnolia since 1990. It's a great organization and I encourage everyone to join. Each year's annual meeting features an indepth visit to very different parts of the South, and often offers access to amazing private gardens and historic sites. Regards, Peggy Cornett

  11. Peggy,
    You are quite welcome. I love reading Magnolia. I believe you and I may have met as judges for the Maymont Flower and Garden show several years ago (back when it actually had flowers and gardens).


  12. Hey Les! I just found out about the Southern Garden History Society from a link on someone's CV, and thought I should check it out - figured it must be good if your post about it was the second hit on Google!

    Also... check your spelling on OlmstEd... I mention it only because it was painfully pointed out to me back in grad school...

    Thanks again for all your great posts, af

  13. G.,
    Thanks for the comment and the correction. Next time I envoke his name I will double check the spelling.