Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 1: No 1) >> Simms the Gardener: Reconstructing the Gardens at Woodlands >> Page 19

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Page 19

Secondary Scholarship | 1993
Transcription with the Good Farmer, and lovely beyond compare is the sweet
progeny which spring from their co-operation." (p. 157)

In "The Good Farmer" essay, Simms has a fond eye for the native flora and sylva
of his own land, which he "will cultivate with care." But "from the hands of
Commerce," he will require "the gifts, the fruits, the flowers of other countries.
He then makes the wise and rather startling statement. In choosing exotics, the
good gardener is, however, "first supposed to inquire what the genius of the place
in which he lives demands." He will plant nothing besides.
Simms spent much time and money enhancing the native scene at
Woodlands, and took great delight in the project. In a letter to James Lawson (3
March 1861), he describes his recent handiwork: "We have set in front of the
house some fine shrub trees--the English laurel, the Italian & other cedars & a
variety besides. We have also set out numerous roses & flowers. I had a present
of about 100 dollars of fruit & shrub trees, and have set out 1000 grapes Catawba
& Warren, and shall set out (D.V.) another 1000 in a week" (Letters, IV, 340-
341). The Letters editors note that it was James Henry Hammond who sent Simms
the grapes, as proved by his correspondence with Simms from January to March
1861. Hammond, and his friend, the great horticulturist-scientist Henry William
Ravenel of nearby Aiken, were ardent vineculturists; and Hammond was
apparently getting Simms involved as well. Hammond's and Ravenel's object was
to encourage a good local wine industry using the native grapes like the Warren
and Catawba; and both men were having great success at this time. Simms, with
his minimum of 2,000 grape vines, must have been following suit.6
But what of the ornamentals so named in his letter to Lawson? The English
laurel (Prunus lauro cerasus) is an evergreen shrub with shiny green foliage.
Simms'"variety" of plants can also now be enumerated because both his English
laurel plants and his "variety besides" appear in the purchase records kept at
Pomaria Nurseries, Newberry County, South Carolina, one of the finest nurseries
in America during the 1850s.7 The proprietor; William Summer, was a
horticultural genius and an acquaintance of Simms, how close we are unable to
say. Simms knew his brothers, Adam and Henry Summer, and stayed at his
plantation (See Letters, II, 143). He autographed his Areytos (1860) for two
Summer family members, one on 22 February 1862 and the other in March
1862. Interestingly, Summer quotes Simms' nature poetry in his own excellent
nature essays while editor of two agricultural periodicals from 1853 to 1862.
It is the Pomaria ledger entry for Simms' purchases for 15 January 1861
that lists the plants of Simms' recent project described in his letter to Lawson.
Simms purchased "24 Peaches ($6); 12 Plums ($6); 24 Roses ($10); 12
Crysanthemums ($2.50); 4 Cupressus ($4); 2 [English] Laurels ($2); 2 Deodar
Cedars ($5); 2 Budlea Lyndliann ($1); 4 Chinese Privets ($2)." His bill came to
$39 and was "settled in full," as Summer noted. The four Cupressus of the order
may have been any of the five evergreen cypress offered by William Summer in
his Catalogue of 1861: Cupressus funebris; pyramidalis; horizontalis; torulosa;