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Family's History Ties to Massachusetts Horticultural Society's Legacy
Gold metal returns home after 83 years, revealing continuing horticultural legacy
Barbara Taylor Renza holding gold medal (left) and Anessa Haney (right). Photo Credit: FossMedia
On New Year's Day, Barbara Taylor Renza received a phone call from a complete stranger bearing surprising news. "I informed her that I had her grandmother's award," explained Anessa Haney, the voice on the other end of the line. The culmination of a stroke of luck, some archival research, and a little investigative work, the call provided Barbara with an unexpected opportunity to start a new year by looking back and remembering the legacy of a grandmother whose passion for gardening lives on in her achievements.
Recently, a young girl had been given a brilliant 14-carat gold coin found by a pond near her home in Connecticut. It was the beginning of its journey home. When her mother Anessa Haney examined the token closely, she noticed an inscription. It was a Massachusetts Horticultural Society gold medal, bearing the words: "Mrs. Moses Taylor, Collection of Vegetables, October 30,1931."
Anessa called Massachusetts Horticultural Society president Kathy Macdonald, who suspected it was either an Honorary Horticultural Medal or an award from one of Mass Hort's exhibitions. A quick scan through 114 years of Honorary Medals annual records revealed that it was an exhibition award. Edith Taylor was awarded the gold medal for excellence at the October 1931 exhibition.
Maureen Horn, Massachusetts Horticultural Society librarian and archivist, found the following information on Edith Taylor in the Massachusetts Horticultural Society Transactions from the early 1930s:
· In 1930, Taylor won the distinguished President's Cup "For a collection of vegetables and fruit", as well as an Exhibition Gold Medal "For a collection of vegetables", and a Silver Medal "For Verbena Mayflower Plants".
· In 1931, Taylor won a Large Gold Medal "For a collection of Vegetables". She was also given a Vote of Thanks "For a plate of asparagus". The Report of the Committee on Prizes for 1931 says, "Vegetables, too, at this time were very well set up in attractive shapes."
·The 1934 Transactions includes a photograph with the caption, "Sweet peas exhibited from the estate of Mrs. Moses Taylor of Newport, R. I., at the June show". For which she was awarded a Gold Medal.
When she won the Gold Medal in 1931, Edith Taylor had been widowed by the well-known Moses Taylor. Mr. and Mrs. Taylor, a prominent Newport, RI couple, built and lived at what is now called Glen Manor House. Their grand estate is now owned by the town of Portsmouth, RI.
Medal Finds its Way Home
With a little online research, Anessa was able to locate the heir of the Gold Medal. She tracked down Edith Taylor's granddaughter, Barbara Taylor Renza, and gave her the New Year's call. "I was very happy to have found Barbara," said Anessa. "I accomplished my goal of finding the right owner, and I couldn't be happier for her." Anessa traveled to Rhode Island on January 4th to present Barbara with the medal in person.
Kathy connected with Barbara soon after to share Massachusetts Horticultural Society's research on her grandmother, including a book from Mass Hort's collection called "Gardens of Newport", which describes and illustrates Edith Taylor's spectacular gardens at her Glen Manor estate. Barbara expressed her gratitude in an e-mail: "Kathy it was so nice to know you found the book with grandma's gardens. I was 9 years old when she died but I do remember going there to see her. She had beautiful gardens! I remember grass steps with statuary! All of Glen Farm was immaculately kept during her time."
On Friday, January 10th Barbara came to Massachusetts Horticultural Society to share memories, photos, and look through the archives. The rich history of the Taylor family and their connections to horticulture and our institution, speaks to a love of horticultural, plants, design, and gardens that has spanned generations. It's a spirit that has remained almost unchanged over the course of the century. With the fortunate discovery of her lost medal, Edith Taylor's passion for horticulture came back to life through the records of her excellence in Massachusetts Horticultural Society competitions.
Mass Hort at the Flower Show Today
Many modern-day Edith Taylors inspire us with their creativity and dedication as they compete for the love of the science and art of horticulture every spring at Mass Hort at Flower Show's amateur competitions at the Boston Flower & Garden Show. For more than a century, Mass Hort has showcased the best amateur talent in horticulture. This March, Mass Hort's amateur competitions at the Boston Flower and Garden Show will highlight the finest in New England horticulture, and foster a love of plants, design,and gardening in people of all ages, just as they have from the beginning.