As the cold weather continues, it’s time to look at another gardening book in the Special Collections Library. Mary C. Rion’s Ladies’ Southern Florist was published in 1860. It was the first garden book published by a woman in the South.
In the introduction, Rion writes she was filling a void after “desiring a book on Flower Gardening which might be adapted to the South, and, at the same time, written in such a manner as to be intelligible to one not a professional Florist, was unable to find any work answering either of these requisites.”
Her volume was specifically for women, noting “Every lady who has a flower garden should be sufficiently well acquainted with botanical terms, to express herself intelligibly about the different plants and flowers she cultivates.”
Mary C. Rion also was the wife of James Henry Rion. James Rion was a classmate of John C. Calhoun’s sons at the Pendleton Male Academy and became a close friend to the Calhoun family, including Anna Calhoun Clemson and her husband Thomas Clemson. He later served as Thomas Clemson’s financial advisor and attorney, helping him write early drafts of his will. Several of Mary and James Rion’s children were named for members of the Calhoun and Clemson families.
After the deaths of both her husband and Thomas Clemson, Mary C. Rion wrote to Clemson’s new attorney recalling a visit with Clemson when “he took me out on the Hill top of the farm in front of Fort Hill and said Mrs. Rion I want the building which I wish erected for education purposes located right here. . .”