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In Memoriam: Jane Campbell Symmes, GCA Honorary Member


August 26, 2021

Dedicated Environmentalist, Passionate Student, and Leader in Civic Engagement

Jane Campbell Symmes (1926-2021), a GCA honorary member, passed away on August 20, 2021, at the age of 94. Throughout her long and active life, Jane worked tirelessly to enrich cultural lives and beautify the landscapes around us. She was a dedicated environmentalist, a passionate student of history, and a leader in civic engagement.

Jane and her husband John Symmes co-founded, owned, and operated a commercial landscape contracting firm, Symmes Nursery in Atlanta. In 1966, they set off on a mission to grow their own distinctive trees and shrubs and established a wholesale nursery, Cedar Lane Farm, on an old farmstead in Madison, GA. They reclaimed the land and painstakingly restored a pure example of an 1830's "Plantation Plain-Style" house and gardens, which was featured in numerous publications, and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

After her husband's death, Jane continued the nursery for more than twenty five years. She was an early champion of native plants, and her catalog was one of the first to identify them and advocate for their ecological benefits and aesthetic qualities. She also developed a unique catalog of historical plants that included cultivars that she selected and introduced to the nursery trade. These distinctive plants can be found in landscapes nationwide as well as numerous civic projects within her community.

Jane was one of a group of visionary Madisonians who transformed the Madison Graded School, a stately 1895 Romanesque Revival building on main street, into the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center, a widely acclaimed regional visual and performing arts center. With Lisa Hammett, she co-authored Madison, Georgia: An Architectural Guide. She was a founding board member of the Madison-Morgan Conservancy, working to preserve open space and the rural character of Morgan County.

She was involved in the restoration and creation of gardens at the Tullie Smith House at the Atlanta History Center. The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation honored her for her years of restoration work. Named a "Gardening Great" by the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University, she also received the Robert Balentine Horticulture Award from the Southeastern Flower Show, and the Award for Commercial Horticulture from the American Horticultural Society. 

Symmes was also a founding board member of the Southern Garden History Society and the Decorative Arts Advisory Committee of The Georgia Museum of Art. She was the first recipient and namesake of the Jane Symmes Spirit Award, honoring dedication to the decorative arts.

In keeping with its purpose, The Garden Club of America annually recognizes extraordinary efforts in such fields as gardening, botany, conservation, education, and design through the extension of honorary memberships


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