April is National Gardening Month, so this week we are going to delve into the life and times of Bessie Raymond Buxton – Peabody’s own plant expert!
Bessie Raymond was born in Danvers on January 22, 1877. Her mother died when she was a child, so she and her sister were sent to live their aunt Sarah Wilson, at 171 Lowell Street in Peabody.
Bessie married Henry Herbert Buxton on July 17, 1895 at the South Congregational Church. At first, they lived at 7 Andover Street, but then, moved to 114 Central Street.
In 1925, Bessie founded the Peabody Garden Club, an organization that still exists today. Gardening had always been her refuge. She also saw it as a way to preserve green space in her increasingly industrial city.
Bessie Buxton authored three books, The Window Garden (1936), Begonias and How to Grow Them (1946), and a Glossary of Begonias (1952). Bessie put together what would be later known as the Buxton Checklist of Begonias, a record of the 10,000 total varieties of the begonia. It is still referenced today when registering any new hybrid begonia plants.
In 1955, when Bessie was interviewed for The Boston Sunday Globe Home and Garden Section, she said her love of plants came from an early age. She remembered fondly the house plants her mother and grandmother grew. She pointed out that upon marrying her husband, she considered their home fully furnished only after it was filled with plants. At one time, Bessie had a total of 750 potted plants in her home on Central Street.
One of the great honors she received was having a plant named after her. In 1940, Thomas Everett of the New York Botanical Gardens named a pond lily begonia as the Bessie Buxton, in recognition of her contributions to horticulture.
Bessie was a member of the Peabody Historical Society and served as president of the Peabody Women’s Club from 1921 to 1922. During World War II, Bessie and her husband donated land to establish Peabody’s Victory Garden. Bessie Buxton died in November of 1955.
Her family has donated a number of items to the Society, including her wedding dress. In 1991, the Society devoted an entire exhibition to her life and accomplishments.
Wishing you all a happy spring and good planting!
George Taloumis, “A Coleus Started Mrs. Buxton on Her Hobby of Growing Begonias,” The Boston Sunday Globe Home and Garden Section, October 30, 1955.
Rosa Tierney Drysdale, “Bessie Raymond Buxton of Peabody,” February 1991.
American Begonias Society – https://www.begonias.org/bessie-buxton/