Charles Mason Hovey (1810 – 1887)
Horticulturist Charles Mason Hovey was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on October 26, 1810.
Hovey was passionate about gardening from his youth: at the age of 15 he tended his first garden, and at 17 he constructed a greenhouse. At 22, and with the help of his brother, Phineas, he cultivated a nursery on 36 acres of land. Celebrated as one of the best nurseries in the country, Hovey’s featured carefully landscaped grounds, a conservatory and greenhouses, and a diverse selection of flowering plants and fruit trees. He worked to inspire aspiring horticulturists, and did so most successfully with the breeding of hybrid plants suited to local growing conditions.
Hovey developed a strain of plump, prolific strawberries that thrived in America, the seeds of which he offered for sale through his own catalog. 1834 saw the success of the “Hovey Seedling Straw-berry,” the first named variety of fruit intentionally produced in America. Later successes in hybridization included the Hovey pear and the Hovey cherry.
The diverse array of flowering plants and shrubs at the Hovey nursery helped popularize many types of flowers, most notably the camellia. Hovey wrote extensively on the flower between 1835 and 1850, featured 102 varieties of camellia in the 1852 Hovey & Company seed catalog, and in 1879, exhibited part of his collection in London. He was awarded a first class certificate by the Royal Horticultural Society for his variety Mrs. Anne Marie Hovey, named after his wife. The Hoveys married in a candlelight ceremony on Christmas Day, 1835.
Over the years Hovey contributed to many horticultural publications: he founded The American Gardener’s Magazine and Register with his brother in 1835; two years later the title changed to The Magazine of Horticulture, Botany, and All Useful Discoveries and Improvements in Rural Affairs and Hovey served as editor; and from 1847 to 1856, he authored and illustrated Fruits of America. In 1843 Hovey joined the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, and became its President from 1863 to 1866.
Charles Mason Hovey is buried in Lot 4205, Mound Avenue.
Adapted from the research of Judy Jackson and Cathy Breitkreutz, as published in Mount Auburn’s Person of the Week: Charles Mason Hovey, 1999.
For further reading about Charles Mason Hovey, please see the Summer 1988 issue of Sweet Auburn magazine.