Jane (Campbell) Symmes

October 15, 1926 ~ August 20, 2021 (age 94)



Jane Campbell Symmes died peacefully at her home, Cedar Lane Farm, in Madison, Georgia, on August 20, 2021, at the age of 94. She was the daughter of Mary Louise Heinking Campbell and George Wade Campbell of Atlanta and was predeceased by her husband, John Cleves Symmes. 


Throughout her long and active life, Jane worked tirelessly to enrich our cultural lives and beautify the landscapes around us. She was a dedicated environmentalist, a passionate student of history, and a leader in civic engagement. 


Born and raised in Ansley Park, in Atlanta, she attended Washington Seminary, St. Mary’s School in Raleigh, NC, and graduated from Agnes Scott College with a BA in Art History. She was a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and served in the Junior League of Atlanta. She met her future husband, John Symmes, in 1955 while she was buying plants at his nursery.


Jane and John co-founded, owned, and operated a commercial landscape contracting firm, Symmes Nursery in Atlanta. In 1966, they set off on a mission to grow their own distinctive trees and shrubs and established a wholesale nursery on an old farm in Madison, GA. They reclaimed the land and painstakingly restored a pure example of an 1830’s “Plantation Plain-Style” house and gardens, which was featured in numerous publications, and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


After her husband’s death, Jane continued the nursery in Madison called Cedar Lane Farm for more than 25 years. She was an early champion of native plants, and her catalog was one of the first to identify them and advocate for their ecological benefits and aesthetic qualities. She also developed a unique catalog of historical plants that included cultivars that she selected and introduced to the nursery trade. Among the plants she named were Trachelospermum jasminoides ‘Madison,’ Lonicera sempervirens ‘Cedar Lane’ and Calycanthus floridus ‘Athens,’ and Magnolia grandiflora ‘Symmes Select.’ These distinctive plants can be found in landscapes nationwide, and she generously made them available to a wide range of civic projects that beautified her community.  


Jane was one of a group of visionary Madisonians who transformed the Madison Graded School, a stately 1895 Romanesque Revival building on main street, into the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center, a widely acclaimed regional visual and performing arts center. With Lisa Hammett, she co-authored Madison, Georgia: An Architectural Guide and was also a founding board member of the Madison-Morgan Conservancy working to preserve open space and the rural character of Morgan County.


She was involved in the restoration and creation of gardens at the Tullie Smith House at the Atlanta History Center, and the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation honored her for her years of restoration work. Named a “Gardening Great” by the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University, she also received the Balentine Horticulture Award from the Southern Flower Show, and the Award for Commercial Horticulture from the American Horticultural Society. Jane was also named an Honorary Member of the Garden Club of America and a founding board member of the Southern Garden History Society, who paid tribute to her “exceptional service and outstanding contributions to its mission.” As a founding member of the Decorative Arts Advisory Committee of The Georgia Museum of Art, she was the first recipient and namesake of the Jane Symmes Spirit Award, honoring dedication to the decorative arts. 


Jane loved baseball, golf, horses and was never without a dog as a constant companion. She was an avid traveler but liked nothing better than a lively gathering of her family and friends around the dining room table at Cedar Lane. Vibrant, engaged, always well-read, and impeccably dressed, Jane loved people from all walks of life and possessed an abiding curiosity about their lives. She was an endlessly engaging companion and as good a listener as she was a storyteller. Jane was also legendary for her generosity -- allowing non-profit institutions to use her property for numerous functions and historic tours.


Throughout her life’s work, she sought to preserve our history -- our architecture, landscapes, and culture. In the end, Jane believed that the beauty and vitality of our past were best expressed by a celebration of our common heritage in the present. Whether championing adaptive use of an old building or saving an antique rose, her passionate determination to keep history dynamic and meaningful was Jane’s greatest gift of all. 


She is survived by her daughter, Jeanne Symmes Reid, her husband Frank Hunter Reid, grandson Alexander Symmes Reid of Greenville, South Carolina, her daughter Anne Cleves Symmes, her husband Stephen Goodhue Ives and granddaughter Campbell Symmes Ives of Garrison, New York, her stepdaughters Carol Symmes Mitchell of Roswell, Georgia and Holly Symmes Montford of Savannah, Georgia and their families. 


A graveside service will be held at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia.   Due to Covid restrictions, the service is for family only.  A gathering to celebrate Jane’s life will be held at a future date.


In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in her memory to The Madison-Morgan Conservancy,  The Madison-Morgan Cultural Center and the Episcopal Church of the Advent.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Jane (Campbell) Symmes, please visit our floral store.


Family to do services at later date

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