Byrd Watching

Mrs. Adelaide Chapin: Sigman Byrd’s florist of choice

On October 1, 1947, Sigman Byrd told his readers that the only florist he’d purchase hydrangeas from would be that of Mrs. Adelaide Chapin. Hydrangeas weren’t Mrs. Chapin’s only specialty however, as she tenderly cultivated carmelias, azaleas, plumbago, and magnolia trees, the latter of which spurred her interest in a floral career.

Saucer Magnolias in Houston

Mrs Chapin, anthophile and wife of Fred Chapin, was born in 1877 and started her floral business in 1942. She divided the location of her floral business between her home nursery and a stall at the Downtown Farmer’s Market. She had a keen eye for plants and trees, and the character they exuded, using this as the basis for her selection. According to Sigman, “Mrs. Chapin explained that you judge a tree’s character as you do a man’s, by his bearing, posture, and dress.”

She must have been without a doubt one of the finest judges of floral character in the city of Houston at the time, as Byrd claimed the residents of River Oaks bought her magnolia trees with the same urgency as “U.S. steel.” Additionally, as if her perspective on floral matters and seemingly lovely personality weren’t enough to warrant a mention in Byrd’s The Stroller, she was also a natural poet whose poems, “came to her like falling petals.”

In a lovely vale secluded, where
the great magnolias wave,
There was born within my soul
that day the courage of the

One of Mrs. Adelaide’s poems
Present day location of Mrs. Adelaide Chapin’s former home and nursery

Sadly, Mrs. Adelaide Chapin is no longer with us and neither is her home at 1421 W 26th St. in the Houston Heights. Rest assured, however, that Mrs. Chapin lived a long life and passed away in 1963 at the age of 86, 16 years after Byrd’s article was printed. We can also take solace in the fact that many of Mrs. Adelaide’s seedlings are likely thriving throughout Houston today, particularly in River Oaks.

Leave a Reply