Just as it had in the Mid-Atlantic & Upper South, the method of selling seeds & plants changed dramatically in South Carolina at the end of the 18C. However, in South Carolina, the change began well before the American Revolution. The growth of urban economies gave rise to new commercial gardening ventures, nurseries & seed stores, operated by professional gardeners who initially imported & then grew their own seed & plant stock.
Newspaper advertisements, broadsides, & estate inventories give a fairly accurate reflection of the seeds & plants early South Carolina gardeners purchased in the marketplace before 1820. The South Carolina Gazette was Charleston’s first newspaper commencing publication in January 1732. Most early seed dealers used this newspaper as a vehicle for marketing their wares.
A gardener who came from England to South Carolina seeking work was William Bennet. In his initial ad for public work in the South Carolina and American General Gazette on May 13, 1771, he also noted “Seed to be sold,” which he had apparently brought with him from England. In the October 1, 1778, issue of the same publication he was still offering unspecified garden seeds for sale.
In in 1786 & 1787, someone claiming to represent Peter Crouwells, a well-known Philadelphia florist, who had immigrated from Holland, advertised in the South Carolina Gazette on December 11, 1786, “for sale, an extensive variety of the most rare and curious Bulbous Flowers, Roots & Seeds, which have never appeared in this country before they are just imported from Amsterdam…the most choice sorts of Hyacinths, double Jonquillea, Polyanthos, Narcissusses, Tarcetts, Tulips, double Tuberoses, Pasetouts, Carnations, with a great variety of double Ranunculas and Anemonies, a sort of Rose Bushes, etc.” Ladies and Gentlemen could get a catalogue giving the names and colors of all the Bulbous Flowers.
In February of 1790, “John Chalvin & Co. Florists and Gardeners, from France” announced that they had brought “from France a great variety of Seed and Plants or flowering trees, lilly roots, jacinths, and crow feet of the scarcest and prettiest qualities; rose bushes of different colours; es also a great variety of pot and herbs seeds” which they had for sale at a very moderate price at No. 8 Elliott-street.
Charles Gross was a gardener on King Street in the 1790 Charleston City Directory, who bought a lot for his garden in Hampstead in 1792. From there he continued to work as a gardener and sold seeds until his death in 1802.
Edward Otter was another gardener & seedsman from England who brought garden seeds, peach trees, and Lombardy poplars with him when he came to Charleston In 1803.
John Foy’s Seed Store at 184 Meeting Street was especially active in 1810. In the November 14, 1810 issue of the Charleston Times he placed this notice: "A General Assortment of Choice Garden Flower, and Bird SEEDS FLOWER POTS, and some excellent APPLE TREES: ASPARAGIS-Gravesend; BEANS-Long Pod, Mangan, Windsor; BEET-Green, Blood Pled; BROCOLO-Purple, White; BURNET; CABBAGE-Early York, Heart Shaped, Sugar Loaf, early and later Battersea, Drum Head, Red Dutch, Green Glazed, Bergin, Green Savoy; CARROT-Early Mom, Orange, Yellow; CAULIFLOWER-Early and Late; CELERY-Solid, Italian, Chardoon, Chervil: CUCUMBER-Early Frame, Shod Prickly, Long Green roman: ENDIVE-Green Curled, White Curled, Broad Leaf or Bataivian; BEANS-Bush, China, Liver, Yellow, Refugee, RUNNERS-Scarlet, White; LEIUCE-Impoerial, Grand Admirable, Tennis Ball; ONIONS-Silver Skin, Large White. Red; LEEKS; PARSLEY-Double and single; PARSNIPS:PEASE- Early Frame, Golden Hospur, Early Charlton, Dwarf Marrowfat, Pearl and Prusian; Radish-Early Frame Salmon; White and Red do., White and Red Turnip, Saisafy, Sanzonara, Sorrel; SPINACH-assorted; TURNIP-assorted; BIRD SEEDS-Canary, Hopp, Maw, Rape; HERB SEEDS-assorted; FLOWER SEEDS-assorted; a few TULIPS and HYACINTHS; Assortment of most approved PEAR and APPLE TREES. JOHN FOY expects some PEACH and PEAR TREES, and also some APPLE TREES from the Botanic Garden, New-York." By his December 24, 1810 ad in the same paper Foy added, “A HANDSOME assortment of FRUIT TREES."
William Dobbs operated a Seed & Plant Store at 315 King street. He advertised in the December 2, 1811 edition of the Charleston Times: "For sale at wholesale and retail, an extensive assortment of Choice Garden Flowers and Bird seeds, the growth of 1811. Also, a great variety of Double Flowering Hyacinths; double, single, parrot and sweet scented Tulips; Renunculus’s: Ixia Crocata; Persian Iris, white and yellow Narcissus; Gladiolius, Garden Tools, Flower Pors, Hyacinth Glasses. Upwards of 4000 Inoculated Fruit Trees, among which are all the most approved kinds of Apple; Pear, cherry, Plum, Peach, Apricot, Nectarine, Hughe’s Crab, Chinese, and Syberian Apple, soft shelled Almond. Quince, Goosebery, red white and black Currant, Filbert Nut, Antwerp Rapsberry. Ornamental Trees and Shrubs - doable flowering Peach, Cherry, and Almond, spired Fruitrix, Mountain Ash, English yellow Jessamine, dwarf variegated Althed, Venetian Shumach, Guilder Rose, Burgundy and Moss do. Balm of Gilead Fir."Unfortunately, Dobbs died in the fall of 1812. His inventory of December 3, 1812, gives a glimpse of the property owned by the seeds: “Rose Apple Trees, Rosemary, Squills, Double Tube Roses, Amaryths, Peach Trees, 40 Canary Birds, Seeds, Bird Seed, shovels, spades, bird cages, pees, 2 green Houses and glasses, garden tools, Glasses for Roots, Shelves of Jars with Seeds in them Double Seeds Box”In October 1812, Dobbs property was put up at auction through ads in the October 13 and 22 editions of the Charleston Courier All the Personal Estate and Stock in Trade of WM. DOBBS, late of Charleston, Seedsman, deceased; consisting of a variety of elegant and choice Plants and Shrubs, in boxes and pots, various kinds of Seeds and Roots; Gardening Utensils; a variety of empty Flower Pots; an assorting of Crockery Ware: together with his elegant collection of Singing Birds; consisting of Canary and Mocking Birds; a Glass Case, containing stuffed Birds; empty Bird Cages; a few Botanical Books; Also, his two Green Houses with sashes. ALSO Several hundred choice Fruit Trees, now in the ground.”