Sims Gardens is a botanical park in the Edgewood neighborhood of Homewood, Alabama. It is named in honor of Catherine Sims, affectionately remembered as the Plant Lady of Homewood, for her love of plants and her garden which was well-known to many in the community. News of her and her garden, spread through the state and perhaps pockets of the gardening world throughout the Southeast. She wrote a gardening column for the Birmingham news, gave interviews to Southern Living, hosted talks about particular species of plants in her garden and in held yearly plant sales.
Miss Sims was a true southern dame, civically engaged, passionate about the arts, gardening, education, and loved her community. She was named Homewood Citizen of the Year 2002-2003 in recognition for her many charitable engagements throughout the Greater Birmingham region. Catherine passed in 2006. With no heirs to inherit her legacy, she deeded her garden and home to the City of Homewood, with the stipulation that the property be maintained as a botanical park, and the home to be used as a musuem or event space. To those that knew her, there was no question that she wanted her garden to also remain a place for encouraging children and adults to learn about plants and gardening as she had spent so many hours of her life dedicated to that teaching. There is little doubt she envisioned plant sales and other events would continue to generate revenue for the estate, as she left no funds to do so. Decidedly, instead, she left the residue of her estate to establish an advised-fund in her name with the Community Foundation of Birmingham, for charitable giving. She has been quoted by a friend as saying, "the city would get the property and that was enough".
In 2012, the City of Homewood entered into an agreement with the Southern Enviromental Center at Birmingham Southern College, her alma mater. Since that time, some progress had been made to clean up the property and incorporate it into the Southern Environmental Center's Ecoscape program, a series of urban areas converted to xeric gardens (drought-tolerant) made up of primarily native plant assemblages and art installations. However, this program never quite captured the intent of Miss Sims' singular gift of a home and garden maintained as a botanical park. Miss Sims' garden consisted of both native and non-native plants, with an emphasis on heiroloom and pass-along varieties; she prized lawns, trees, edible plants and both perennial and annual gardening methods. It became clear that to acheive her legacy wish, of a botanical park, a Master Plan and new landscaping methods would be required. So in 2018, a full-time, dedicated manager and resident caretaker was hired to develop a new plan consistent with the intent of Miss Sims' legacy wish. I now present to you here, on behalf of the Southern Environmental Center and the City of Homewood, a new plan for Miss Sims Garden. This plan was influenced and designed based on historical accounts from those who knew her and her garden, old photos and lists of plants she grew; it also takes into account new guidelines regarding accessibility of municiple property, and requirements for improvements to such property i.e. accessibilty for all visitors. This Go Fund Me, is part of a multifacted fundraising approach to finally honor Miss Sims' gift to her community in a manner in which she would have approved.
The amount we are trying to raise, reflects the total estimated cost of the landscape plans ($450k), plus engineers and architechts fees (10%), plus one year's annual operating budget ($30k) as contingency. This does not cover any costs to restore the home to its historical design or to make the home itself handicap accessible, or to make it fit for purpose as an event space. Any funds raised in excess of the landscaping phase will go towards restoration & rennovation of the home.
Thank you for your contribution and show of support for a remarkable woman and her remarkable gift.