Horticulture at Belmont Mansion

Adelicia Acklen’s Belmont estate was known for its grounds and gardens. In addition to the stunning landscaping, guests were amazed at the two-hundred-foot long greenhouse and conservatory. Adelicia’s third husband, Dr. William Archer Cheatham, was very interested in horticulture and took great interest in the Belmont gardens. The 1860s and 1870s saw great interest in horticulture, which included elaborate public exhibitions and detailed reports of arrangements featured in local newspapers. As a result, gardeners were held to the status of modern day rock stars during this period of plant mania.

Below is a list of plants that were exhibited from Belmont. While the Latin names may not be the ones used today, they are copied from period newspapers. Some spellings have been changed to conform to 21st century usage. When the same plant was exhibited the second time it is not included in this list. Comments featured in parentheses feature possible names for each plant.

Plants Exhibited at Horticultural Fairs and other Expositions

(From primary sources)

May 11, 1867 Nashville Union and Dispatch - Gardener, Henry Gray

In one of the hot beds:

Variegated corn, green leaves striped with white

April 5, 1868 Republican Banner - Gardener, Henry Gray

Cineraria, twenty varieties

Nematanthus grandiflora (‘Goldfish’ plant a trailing or climbing sub-shrub, succulent)

Begonia Prestoniensis

Azalias [sic]

Azalia, double

Calla Aetheopica (white Calla Lily)

Pelargoncums, varieties (Geranium)

Deutzia gracilis (A shrub native of Japan and China. Related to the Philadelphus or mock orange)

Pethosporums, variegated (Pittosporum, ‘Mock orange’)

Verbenas, varieties

Saxifrage, varieties newest (Saxifragaceae, saxifrage)

Geranium, new Gonzale

Geranium, double scarlet

Ardisia Cunulata (Possibly Ardisia paniculata)

Magnum Bonum Lettuce

Paris Cos. (possibly Pieris)

May 21, 1868 Republican Banner - Gardener, Henry Gray

Petunias, 12 varieties

June 17, 1868 - Gardener, Henry Gray

Palm Tree

Carnation pinks, 24 varieties

Pelergoniums

Banana Tree fourteen or fifteen feet high

Caladiums, one having a broad green leaf, spotted with red and white

Fuscias, 18 embracing nearly all varieties

farrugium ligulatum

Begonia maculate

Geraniums apple scented

Heliotrope, four varieties on wire

Queen begonia with leaves like silver brocade

Adamia, flowering

Rhyncosparnum Jesminoides

Asogudestra, variegaia

Maranta Zebrina

Ferns, several varieties

Mosses

September 23, 1868 Republican Banner - Gardener Henry Gray

Coryhia

Umbraculifera

Coesianarborium

Barmeria argentes

Maranta (a genus of houseplants)

Gesmeria

Zebriana (most likely Tradescantia zebrine)

Alocasia

Melaltica (possibility Begonia metallica)

Coleus

revini humalis (flowering polk weed family, common name Pigeonberry)

Rhamnus (this is a genus of about 150 species of shrubs or small trees commonly known as buckthorns)

Alaternus, variegate

Centravina rosea

Farfugium (Current genus that includes the plant commonly called leopard plant.)

Plumbago (could be leadwort)

May 20, 1869 Nashville Union and American - Gardener Owen Sharkey

Fuschias fifty varieties

Pallargonierus eighteen varieties

Hoya Variega’s

Begonias twelve varieties

Ferns golden and silver

Osmanthus Aquifolius Variegatus

Lycopodeum Arborea

Pittosporum Tobira variegate

Nematanthus Genuensis

Aspidiatria lurida variegate

October 19, 1869 Republican Banner

Banana Tree

Hibiscus

India Rubber Tree

October 7, 1871 Nashville Union and American - Gardener, Owen Sharkey

Lantanas

Geraniums

Colcus or Colaus

May 3, 1872 Republican Banner

Oriental palms

Orange trees

October 15, 1872 Nashville Union and American - Gardener, Owen Sharkey

Petumas

Colens

Rupillia Ironcia

October 10, 1873 Nashville Union and American - Gardener, Leon Geny

Cycas Revoluta

Ticas Elastica

Musa Cavendishil

Alamand Neifolla

Philodendron Pertuasum

Clerodendron Baiflourii

Foliage plants:

Cissus Discolor

Cladimus

Lantanas 12 varieties

Other Plants listed in Period Publications:

The Tennessee Flora; with Special Reference to the Flora of Nashville Phograms and Vascular Cryptogams

By Dr. August Gattinger

Member of the American Association for Advancement of Science

Published by the Author

Nashville, Tennessee

1887

Allium sativnm Lilaiavceve. Introduced in the grounds of Mrs. Cheatham, (Belmont) and at an old cemetery in Nashville. June. (Allium is in the onion family)

The Gardener’s Monthly

January 1868 Vol. X

“Horticulture in Tennessee”

By Fred J. French, Esq.

Read before the Penn. Hort. Society, March, 3 1868

“Few places in the South can boast of more attractions in this way than Bellemont, the elegant residence of Dr. and Mrs. Cheatham, formerly Mrs. Acklin. The conservatory, built of iron, is truly a Crystal Palace, with its high dome and spacious wings. Each department is filled with costly exotics, rare and beautiful. One Norfolk Island Pine, standing over thirty feet high. The collection of Camellias is very fine. Many of them are large plants, more than fifteen years old, and are covered with flowers. Near this is the stove, where some of the largest palms in the State are shown. The variety of tropical plants displayed in this house is large, and reflect great credit upon the skillful gardener, Mr. Gray. A house for forcing grapes adjoins this. The beautiful lawn is studded with arbors, elegantly designed in iron; while statues and ornaments mark the refined taste displayed in every part of the grounds, and give a charm to the place.”

Plants Exhibited at Horticultural Fairs and other Expositions

(From secondary sources)

Various secondary sources reveal descriptions and memories of plants that were located at Belmont and their relative location on the property.

Front Entrance of Home:

- Along the sides of the flagged stone walk leading to the front steps of the house were rows of candytuft, scarlet and white geraniums, and boxwood.

- The urns at the end of the walk contained agave plants

- Urns on the front porch contain vines of Russelia

Fountain Area:

- Four marble statues of the four continents

- In the pool of the fountain was Victoria Regia water lily [This would have been impossible since this plant requires a much large body of water.]

Greenhouse:

- Center house: tropical plants (fruit and Flowers) and a large water lily pool with fountain

- West house: Camellia Japonica

- East house: jasmine, [white and a Grand Duke] lilies, night blooming

- Cereus and a cacti collection

- Also, winter grapes were raised in the Greenhouse as well as wax plant that cover many feet of the wall

General Grounds:

The cast iron gazebos were covered with moss roses, microphella, star jasmine, eglantine (rose) and achacia.

There were also beds of lemon trefolio, heliotrope and verbenas along with the rose garden and tulips

The Drive from Hillsboro Pike was line with red cedars and magnolias.

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GPS ADDRESS

Belmont Blvd & Acklen Avenue 

Nashville, TN 37212

MAILING ADDRESS

1900 Belmont Blvd

Nashville, TN 37212

615-460-5459

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Photos by Ed Houk