The Original Botanical Spark

#OTD It’s April 15th - the death day of Alexander Garden, of Charleston, South Carolina, who was a steady and delightful writer of letters to other eminent botanists of his day.

The Gardenia flower is named for him.

His letters provide a glimpse into his life; one of which is to John Bartram, the botanist:

"Think that I am here, confined to the sandy streets of Charleston, where the ox, where the ass, and where man, as stupid as either, fill up the vacant space, while you range the green fields of Florida.”

Here’s a letter he wrote to John Ellis :

"I know that every letter which I receive not only revives the little botanic spark in my breast, but even increases its quantity and flaming force."

When the Revolutionary War began, Garden sided with the British, even though he sympathized with the colonists.

When the war was over, his property was confiscated and he had to leave South Carolina. After losing everything, he and his family went to live in London where he became vice-president of the Royal Society.

He died of tuberculosis, at age 61, on this day in April 15, 1791.

There’s a sad little aside to the Alexander Garden biography:

"He had a little granddaughter, named appropriately ‘Gardenia.' Her father, Alexander, Garden's only son, joined Lee's legion against the British (so going against his father) and was never forgiven ; nor was the little girl, his granddaughter with the flower name, ever received into her Grandfather’s house."


This post was featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

helping gardeners find their roots,
one story at a time
Alexander Garden by John Dabour
Alexander Garden by John Dabour
White Gardenia
White Gardenia