Kimberly Sharkins shared these remarks at the dedication of the Catherine Sims Garden in Edgewood on Friday, May 4:
A hat box, lady’s evening gloves, gardening books and dirt – what do these things have in common? They are all characteristic mementos of Catherine Sims, better known to many as “The Plant Lady” of Homewood, Alabama. A long-time resident of Homewood, Ms. Sims was born in Georgia and grew up in Norwood. As a child she would ride the trolley “over the mountain” to visit an aunt that lived on this side of Birmingham and spent many a summer night sleeping on the front porch and taking advantage of the breezes that were the draw to the area. When she and her mother moved here in the early 1960s, she brought her love of gardening to the area. When she was not working as a teacher or later at UAB’s Spies Clinic doing dental research, her time was spent with her children – her plants. A gentile southern lady with bright blue eyes and a warm smile, she didn’t meet a stranger. Everywhere she went she offered plants to the people she encountered – from the receptionist, nurse and doctor at the doctor’s office, to the check-out and bag boy people at the grocery store.
This garden was a dream of hers ever since she learned of Eddie and Kay Aldridge’s magnificent garden in Hoover. She and I spent many hours discussing plans and talking about dreams. Today we are here to officially open and dedicate the garden. I wish she could be here to see it. I think she would be very pleased and thankful to all of the people who worked so diligently to bring this to fruition. The list is quite long and I don’t have everyone’s name that planted a plant or pulled a weed, but I would like to thank some of the major stakeholders without which this would not be possible at all: The City of Homewood – Mayor McBrayer; The Homewood City Council – Allyn Holladay and David Hooks; from Birmingham-Southern’s Southern Environmental Center – Roald Hazelhoff and Laura Rodgers; Arnie Rutkis , who was the primary designer of the garden; and the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. Additionally, I would like to thank some good friends of mine, Shirley Hankins and Dixie McCormick, who were very supportive and instrumental from the very beginning when we questioned if this day would ever arrive.
I will close with an excerpt from the poem “Give them the Flowers Now” by Leigh Hodges.
Just a kind word or a greeting;
Just a warm grasp or a smile-
there are the flowers that will lighten,
the burdens for many a mile.
After the journey is over
what is the use of them;
how Can they carry them who must be carried?
Oh, give them the flowers now!
Blooms from the happy heart’s garden
Plucked in the spirit of love;
Blooms that are earthly reflections
Of flowers that blossom above.
Words cannot tell what a measure
Of blessing such gifts will allow
To dwell in the lives of many,
So give them the flowers now!
Over the years as I helped Ms. Sims garden, among words of wisdom and a bond that grew to become like family, she shared countless bouquets of hydrangeas, antique roses, azaleas, poppies, lilies and gardenias that I took home, used for weddings or functions at work. It is so wonderful to see her garden coming back to life. I am sure she is looking on and smiling.