Lamboll contributed to the establishment and advancement of scientific gardening in colonial South Carolina.
Botanist. Lamboll was born around 1725, probably in Charleston. Historians believe that she was the daughter of Richard Pitts, a local silversmith. She married Thomas Lamboll in November 1743. He was thirty years her senior, and she was his third wife. The couple had one daughter.
Lamboll contributed to the establishment and advancement of scientific gardening in colonial South Carolina. As a skilled amateur gardener, she created one of Charleston’s earliest gardens, composed primarily of indigenous flowers, vegetables, shrubs, and trees. Lamboll lived in a house located on the northwest corner of King and Lamboll Streets near the Ashley River. Her garden was landscaped directly south of the residence.
Actively sharing seeds and roots with local gardening enthusiasts, Lamboll may have taught the nursery owner Martha Daniel Logan her gardening techniques. Lamboll showed people useful applications of berries and roots obtained from plants growing in their gardens. Lamboll’s friendship with the Philadelphia naturalist John Bartram helped him become the premier botanist in the American colonies. She alerted him to previously unknown plant species, which he described and documented for botanical publications.
While Lamboll enthusiastically pursued gardening, her husband corresponded with Bartram, telling him about the plants she was gathering to ship to him and explaining her cultivation methods. In a letter dated February 16, 1761, Thomas Lamboll revealed how his wife diligently managed her gardens. He outlined the steps she followed to prepare plant beds with mold and to raise or flatten ground as needed to assure adequate moisture for vegetation. Elizabeth Lamboll carefully saved rainwater for her plants and exposed it to sunlight so that cold water would not shock plants. She covered her garden beds with leaves in winter. While planting, Lamboll cleaned roots, removed insects, and used her fingers to dig holes to place roots and seeds.
In 1760 Bartram reported that Lamboll had sent him “two noble cargoes” that initiated a regular exchange of plants such as the magnolia tripetala, or umbrella tree, indigenous to South Carolina. On April 30, 1761, Thomas Lamboll sent Bartram a list of “Flowers & Herbs” that his wife “is fond of procuring,” including tulips, aniseed, and peonies. A year later Thomas Lamboll inventoried the contents of his wife’s shipments to Bartram, which consisted of oaks, roses, lilies, honeysuckle, asters, and holly.
Accompanied by his son William, Bartram visited the Lambolls’ garden in August 1765 when he was named His Majesty’s botanist and en route to Florida. When William Bartram remained in Florida to grow indigo, Lamboll gathered and sent him supplies. During their friendship, Lamboll filled barrels full of oranges as gifts for John Bartram. She extended her courteous treatment to Bartram’s wife, as indicated by Thomas Lamboll in a letter about harvesting pomegranates in which he stated, “Mrs. Lamboll chose to send Mrs. Bartram a Bisket Cagg full (say 51) of the best she could Pick.”
Lamboll died in Charleston in October 1770. Her daughter, Mary Lamboll Thomas, continued to ship plants to William Bartram as her mother had sent specimens to his father.
Cothran, James R. Gardens of Historic Charleston. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.
Pinckney, Elise. Thomas and Elizabeth Lamboll: Early Charleston Gardeners. Charleston, S.C.: Charleston Museum, 1969.