Monday, May 8, 2017

Early South Carolina - Gardener & Plant Dealer John Watson

One of the most important working gardeners & seed dealers of the last half of the 18C in South Carolina was John Watson. He came to the province seeking work as a gardener from London in 1755. By December 10, 1763 he advertised in the South Carolina Gazette that he had imported from London, “a proper assortment of garden seed, flower roots, me, which he will sell reasonably.”

In 1764, when John Laurens built his "large, elegant brick house of sixty feet by thirty-eight," with piazzas on the south & east sides overlooking the marshes & Cooper River. He & Martha Laurens created a 600' by 450' brick-walled botanical garden, containing such exotics as orange, olive, lime, capers, ginger and guinea grass, with the aid of John Watson.

By September of 1765, Watson advertised an expanded line of garden wares advertised in the South Carolina Gazette. Beside garden seeds and flower roots, he offered “…a great collection of fruit trees, Of all kinds, which have been grafted and budded from the best fonts in the province, with a great variety of English grape vines.”

On February 4, 1778, Watson added clover seeds to his offerings. By the November issue of the South Carolina Gazette for the same year, he noted for sale “a great variety of Tulips, hyacinths, lilies, anemanies, ranuculuses, double jonquils” as well as asparagus roots.

His wares became more exotic by his November 28, 1776, notice in the South Carolina Gazette, Watson offered for sale “Sweet Almonds, Filberts, English Quinces, Olives, China double flowering Peaches, Almonds and Pomegranates.”

On January 1, 1778 his ad in the South Carolina and American General Gazette offered “Hazel Nuts Nutmeg, Myrtle flowering Trees….Magnolia or Laurels fit for Avenues, etc. any height from three to twenty, Artichoke.”

John Watson’s last notice appeared in February of 1789, when he offered “seedling cassenas for hedges, tallow trees for exportation.” In March 1789, John Watson died. His sons James Mark and John ran the nursery, until young John left South Carolina in 1802, finally selling “Watson’s Gardens.”

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