Friday, May 12, 2017

Early South Carolina - Botanist, Nusreryman, Gardener, & Writer Robert Squibb

Respected gardener and seedsman Robert Squibb arrived in Charleston from England in 1780 and, by 1785, he had opened one of the city’s first nursery’s on a large plot on upper Meeting Street (near present day Romney Street.) Later advertisements refer to his nursery at the “foot of Tradd Street. 

The botanist, nurseryman, gardener, and writer, soon published his 1787 book, The gardener's calendar, for South-Carolina, Georgia, and North-Carolina: Containing an account of work necessary to be done in the kitchen and fruit gardens every month in the year, with instructions for performing the same. Also particular directions relative to soil and situation, adapted to the different kinds of plants and trees most proper for cultivation in these states. He called himself a nursery and seedsman of Charleston, South-Carolina. The book was printed by Samuel Wright and Co. for R. Squibb.

A Gardener's Calendar for South Carolina, Georgia and North ... Detail from Squibb describing greenhouse care and construction. Special Collections at the College of Charleston.

Squibb had announced his upcoming book with no undue modesty in the Charleston Evening Gazette of July 4, 1786. He declared that his patrons needed a gardening book to fit their particular coastal climate, and English books only mislead them with their instructions.   The Gardener’s Calendar followed a format commonly found in 18C British and French gardening texts and was written to be read chronologically by month serving as a planting guide for gardeners in the South.

Squibb offered seeds for sale in the newspaper on August 19, 1795 in an issue of the City Gazette and Daily Advertiser“THE Subscriber, after many years practice in this state, is fully convinced that garden seeds saved here are much better than those imported and does hereby forewarn his friends and customers against depending on foreign seeds, in particular such as onion, leek, carrot, parsnips, parsley, celery, lettuce, endive and spinage. 

In 1801 Squibb advertised using much the same technique in the Augusta Chronicle and Gazette of the State of Georgia on March 14:
 “GARDEN SEEDS. THE Subscriber having taken up his residence in Augusta, as Market Gardener, and the saving of Seeds being a branch of his profession, intends from time to time, both to import and save seeds of the very best kinds. 
He considers it a duty he owes to himself and fellow citizens, to remind them of the numberless impositions that for some years past have taken place in this city, by sale of garden seeds, which from their age of the inexperience of the collectors, have either not vegetated or else produced a degenerated offspring, by which the public have been much discouraged in the cultivation of gardens. To remedy this evil he offers for sale a small assortment of SEEDS collected from his own plants." 

However, in 1802, Squibb was back in Charleston at his old garden. Squibb called his garden and nursery, “The Botanic Garden.” In the June 8 1802, issue of the Charleston Times, he advertised, “that he has imported from London, a small assortment of GARDEN SEEDS, in excellent order. Also a few kinds of Seeds on his own saving, equal to any ever saved in this state. Market Gardeners may be supplied with London Salmon Redish Seed, at one dollar per pound.”

Robert Squibb died on April 22, 1806 at Silk Hope Plantation near Savannah, Georgia, and was buried there. However, an ad for the “Botanic Garden” appeared in the Charleston Courier on November 2, 1812, “At the Botanic Garden. A variety of Elegant PLANTS, Such as Liqusiriniums, Geraniums, Cleroaedrems, Rosa Multifloras, double and white Oleanders, Flowering Heaths, Laurustkius.”

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