Protecting Legacy: Miss Sims’ Garden embarks on capital improvement plan

Now under the control of a new non-profit organization, Miss Sims’ Garden will receive multiple upgrades as part of the Capital Improvement Plan.

Amy Weiss, the garden’s custodian, said the non-profit organization will preserve the legacy of the garden’s founder, Catherine Anvil Sims, and allow the garden to be used as a botanical park for public enjoyment and education. He said it was established last year in order to do so.

When Weis took over in July 2018, it didn’t take long to realize that more had to be done in the garden. In October 2018, she began working on a capital improvement plan. The need to have a master plan for her was one of the reasons Weis was hired as her manager full-time at the first garden, she previously told Homewood her star.

“It didn’t work very well before. Pulling weeds, cutting grass, eating weeds, blowing, you can only accomplish so much. You really have to plan. Otherwise maintenance alone is not enough,” says Weis. “It was always limited to what caregivers could do in their spare time, nights and weekends.”

Much of the work focuses on landscaping and trails. Existing pathways will be streamlined, easier to navigate, and more accessible to ADA, Weis said. Additional bathrooms, a replacement garden shed, a new greenhouse and additional parking are also part of the plan, which Weiss said also includes a “massive” stormwater improvement.

The stormwater improvement “hopes to be an example of best practice in stormwater management in the city,” she said.

“In addition to the conspicuous new main walkway through the garden and the general greening of the garden, you will notice the dry stream bed, rain garden, rain reservoir and bioswale. We need to keep the internal outflow as much as possible,” says Weis.

City Engineer Kale Smith said he hopes Miss Sims Garden will be a role model for the rest of the city. This is a timely improvement as the City of Homewood awaits the results of stormwater studies that will help outline future improvement plans.

There’s no reason these improvements shouldn’t look good, says Weis.

“People will see… functional beautification features,” she said.

Homewood doesn’t have many shady parks. The garden improvements will help create at least one, Weiss said, eventually renovating the house to make it more of an event space for her, she said. By making the house available for events, Weis will have a backup in case of bad weather, she said. Weiss plans to eventually move out and get a paycheck from the nonprofit’s board, she said.

In addition to these changes, Weis said she plans to restore the plants in her garden using a 1996 inventory showing plants that were then present that were “the peak of her garden.” .

“The list includes not only what, but where and possibly who gave her the plant,” Weiss said. We have the boxwoods of Mount Vernon, the pink roses of Witta Frissey, and we will use them to restore the garden to its former glory from Catherine’s time.”

David Lorberbaum, who serves on the garden’s board of trustees and works as a landscape architect, said that under Weis’ leadership, consistency with the plan, adherence to Sims’ vision, and what the previous caretaker lacked. Told.

Sims was a “very generous woman” and knew her home would be a positive space for the community to come and enjoy, said former neighbor Lynn Luchianou. The Sims, as they are affectionately known, held an annual plant sale. And if you visit her house, she will make sure that you brought back the plants and seeds.

The garden is a way to honor her legacy, Weiss said.The board is currently working on a fundraising plan. The garden costs about $30,000 a year to operate, most of which can be raised through fundraising, but Homewood City Council has been providing her with operating expenses since 2018, so the garden doesn’t have to spend on fundraising. said Weis.

Five years ago, Weis said the estimated cost of landscaping was about $425,000. The city donated his $91,000 to the garden to support this project. But the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain problems and inflation have pushed costs up.

“Looking at what the city has been through with the stormwater works tender, we are not overly optimistic that the tender process will do any better,” Weiss said.

She submitted her bid in July 2022, but it took until the end of 2022 for the two companies to agree to submit their bids, details of which were not known by press time. These bids were for Phase 1, not the entire plan. Phase 1 will focus on parking, roadway improvements, rainwater improvements, and the reworking of the increasingly popular garden event space. Since Weis took office in 2018, visitor numbers have increased by more than 1,000% of hers, she said.

Improving the event space will make it easier to host different functions, Weis said. Recently, she was asked to host a wedding reception in her garden, but she said it was too small. Phase 1 changes will alleviate some of those issues, Weis said.

As of December 2022, the park has raised about $200,000 for the project, Weis said.

But even if the full amount isn’t raised immediately, the plan will allow the garden to pursue improvements when funding comes in, she said.

“Even if you can’t have a seamless project, you can start with Phase 1 and at least make significant improvements,” she said.

Weis has also spent time in the garden fundraising and writing grant applications. She also promoted events during her holiday season, such as the Pumpkin and Mom Sale and a photo shoot with Santa Claus.

“Most of our visitors are families, and most of the events we host are centered around children, families, youth and school groups,” Weiss said. Think homeschooling groups: last year we hosted an entire Hall Kent kindergarten class for a pumpkin patch excursion, we also had beekeeping demonstrations, several flower arranging classes, jazz and coffee in the garden. , cocktails in the garden, garden clubs, etc. have catered to many adult interests.”

Weiss previously told Homewood Star that he wanted his garden to look like a magazine cover, like the destinations seen in Southern Living and Better Homes and Gardens.

“I still do, but it has to be as functional as it is pretty,” she said. There is, of course, a need to fully realize the wishes of the city — but also a need to rehabilitate rainwater from the uphill development that is booming and is now being realized.”

To donate, visit or search for sims-garden in your Venmo charity account. There is also the opportunity to become a sponsor, and potential sponsors can email

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