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Soon after Jefferson Davis acquired Beauvoir in 1879, the Davis' set about expanding
the already beautifully developed grounds of the estate. Varina Howell Davis (Mrs.
Jefferson Davis) was obviously very pleased with Beauvoir, but was particularly proud
of the new garden she created. In a February 29, 1880 letter written to her daughter
Winnie, who was in school in Europe, Varina stated, "...I work very hard in my garden as
it is new, and quite large. I think about 2 acres...."

In this and subsequent letters she wrote over the next few months, Mrs. Davis
described in both words and sketches the lay-out of the garden and the great variety of
flowers, fruits and vegetables she planted. Her kitchen garden produced items for her
table such as strawberries, artichokes, radishes, peppers, eggplants, Irish potatoes, and
asparagus. There were both common and exotic fruit-bearing trees, including oranges,
citrons, figs, peaches, apples, pears, quince, pomegranate, and jujube. Flowers and
fragrant flowering shrubs abounded-- gardenias, jasmine, anemones, gladiolus, Japan
lilies, St. Joseph lilies, fire lilies, and mignonette. Roses, however, were the star
attraction of her circular flower garden, and Varina collected and cultivated cuttings of
many different varieties.



When Mrs. Davis left Beauvoir following her husband's death in 1889, her lovely
gardens slowly fell into neglect. The remnants of them were largely eradicated by
Hurricane Katrina. Although over the years various efforts have been made to restore
the gardens, until now no comprehensive restoration has been attempted. The present
project to restore Varina's renowned gardens at Beauvoir is the result of several years
of exhaustive research and study and is funded by grants from the Mississippi Dept. of
Archives and History and the National Park Service. Reconstruction of visitor walkways
and fences destroyed by Katrina are being funded by FEMA.



As the Beauvoir estate is a National Historic Landmark, designated by the Secretary of
the Interior, it is very important to preserve both the main house and its historic
landscape setting. Restoration of Varina's garden will not only reestablish a significant
historic feature of Beauvoir's landscape, it will also provide an important attraction for
the Gulf Coast's heritage tourism industry. Just as the gardens brought much joy to the
Davis' and their guests in the late-19th-century, the restored garden will, no doubt,
continue to bring beauty and enjoyment to future generations of Mississippi families
and visitors to our state.
--
Kenneth H. P'Pool
Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer
Mississippi Department of Archives and History

 
© 2012 Beauvoir 2244 Beach Boulevard,, Biloxi, MS 39531 228) 388-4400 (228) 388-7800 FAX