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Remembering Genevieve Trimble

Genevieve Trimble died on September 8, 2023 at the age of 102. ‘Miss Gen,’ as many of us called her, was a grand Southern lady and a remarkably accomplished gardener and garden creator. She may be best known for her creation of Afton Villa Gardens in St. Francisville, Louisiana. In 1972 she and her husband Morrell purchased the ruins of Afton Villa, a gothic plantation home that burned to the ground in 1963. In its ruins and across its thirty acres Miss Gen developed a garden that has become famous. She told me that an LSU landscape architecture student, Steve Coenen, did a study and garden concept in the 70s that greatly influenced her decision to leave the ruins and make the garden directly inside the remains of the house.

Photo of the gardens: Photo courtesy of Afton Villa Gardens

She also transformed a neglected rose garden in City Park into the New Orleans Botanical Garden working with garden director Paul Soniat and horticulturist Jerome Lebo and others in the 1980s. But when I think of Miss Gen’s great talents, I always remember her incredible ability to speak to a group. No matter how large her audience, Genevieve Trimble would come forward, always in a daffodil yellow jacket, with no notes, and speak in complete sentences – never an “um” or a pause to find her thought – and speak on her subject from beginning to end, never departing from the point of her message. She was quite simply the finest public speaker I ever heard. She was one of my favorite lady friends, and I will miss her dearly, along with her hundreds of other devoted friends.

Please see the link to Miss Gen’s obituary here.

Read about Afton Villa Gardens and Genevieve in past issues of Magnolia using the links below:

Magnolia, Vol. VII, No. IV

Magnolia, Vol. XXIV, No., III

Miss Gen is the author of Afton Villa, The Birth and Rebirth of a Nineteenth-Century Louisiana Garden.

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Randy Harelson, President (Louisiana) Randy Harelson was born in Macon, GA to parents whose families both came from East Baton Rouge Parish, LA, for many generations. The family moved back to Louisiana when Randy was seven, but always called him their “Georgia peach.” Educated at LSU Lab School and Louisiana State University, Randy moved to Massachusetts in 1974 to teach art in an innovative “integrated arts in education” program in Attleboro Public Schools. A gardener since childhood, he worked at Hill-Roberts Elementary School to develop an “outdoor classroom” of trees, shrubs, and flowers while a full-time art teacher. He later served as a professional designer and assistant horticulturist at Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum in Bristol, Rhode Island. Randy’s broad career has included writing and illustrating nine published books, and running a retail nursery in Seagrove Beach, Florida that won the S. J. Blakely Award in 2003. Back home in New Roads, Randy has planted a small arboretum of trees and shrubs both native and imported, documented in Louisiana by 1860. Randy first attended a SGHS annual meeting at Mount Vernon in 2010. The next year his home was included in the Sunday tours at the Baton Rouge meeting. Randy and his husband Richard Gibbs, an architect and gardener, have been members ever since, and Randy joined the board of directors in 2015. At home they care for two acres of gardens, a 500-year-old live oak, the 200-year-old LeJeune House, and a Siamese cat named Miss Priss.
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