South Carolina: Beautiful Gardens
South Carolina’s first gardens were planted by plantation owners during colonial times. Gardens were popular pastimes for English settlers and the warm climate allowed them to develop gardens to enjoy all year. Today you can tour gardens at any time of year and see the beauty they created.
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens: Founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, Magnolia Plantation is the oldest public gardens in America, opening its doors to visitors in 1870. Three centuries in the making, the 500-acre Ashley River estate is home to America’s last large-scale romantic garden and one of the finest camellia collections in the world.
Thomas Drayton and his wife Ann established the first gardens on the property when they moved to the English colony of Charles Towne in 1679, which is now Charleston. About 150 years later, another Drayton turned the gardens into a gift of love to his wife. In addition to the romantic gardens, Magnolia Plantation also features a Reconstruction-era home, horticultural maze, antebellum slave cabins, a petting zoo and a blackwater cypress and tupelo swamp, once a reservoir for the rice fields.
Magnolia Plantation Video
Charleston also is home to Middleton Place, one of the oldest plantations in America. The 110-acre National Historic Landmark is an 18th-century rice plantation overlooking the Ashley River. Middleton Place was the home of Henry Middleton, President of the First Continental Congress and his son, Arthur Middleton, signer of the Declaration of Independence. The gardens were started in 1741 by Henry Middleton and restored by Middleton descendants. The gardens reflect the elegant symmetry of 17th-century European design. These gardens contain the oldest camellias in the new world, planted in 1786 by French botanist Andre Michaux. The Middleton Oak on the property is estimated to be almost 1,000 years old. Guided tours of the House Museum interpret the Middletons’ vital role in American history. In the plantation stable-yards, craftspeople including a blacksmith, potter, carpenter and weaver recreate the activities of a self-sustaining Lowcountry plantation.
This 175-acre swamp/garden northwest of Charleston offers a walk-through butterfly house, beautiful plants, birds and more. The Swamparium features fish, reptiles and amphibians native to the swamp and nearby waterways. The new Heritage Museum tells the history of this former rice plantation through text and displays of slave artefacts found there. The swamp/garden is easily accessible with 4 miles of walking paths and the famous flat-bottomed boats. Once part of Dean Hall Plantation, the gardens are especially lovely in spring when the azaleas, dogwoods, wisteria and daffodils are in bloom. The swamp was prominently featured in the year 2000 in the motion picture “The Patriot”, starring Mel Gibson.
Boone Hall Plantation:
Boone Hall is one of America’s oldest working, living plantations, established in 1681 by Maj. John Boone. The famous avenue of oaks, a three-quarter mile driveway lined with massive Spanish moss–draped live oaks, dates to 1743. Bordering the avenue of oaks are nine original slave cabins, which housed the plantation’s house servants and skilled craftsmen. This cluster of cabins, known as Slave Street, is one of the few remaining intact in the Southeast and the only brick slave street in the US. Boone Hall and its grounds were prominently featured in the TV mini-series “North & South”, a Civil War epic by John Jakes and Alex Haley’s “Queen”, among others. Crops have been continuously grown and produced here for more than 320 years. Peaches, strawberries, tomatoes and pumpkins as well as many other fruits and vegetables are still grown, with pick-your-own fields open in season. The main modern market on SC 17 is now open for business.
SC Botanical Garden at Clemson:
The South Carolina Botanical Garden is a diverse 295 acres of natural landscapes, display gardens, streams and nature trails. Together with a nationally recognised nature-based sculpture collection and the Bob Campbell Geology Museum, the SCBG is a premier site for experiencing nature and culture. The South Carolina Botanical Garden is home to an official American Hosta Society Display Garden, a 70-acre arboretum, a butterfly garden, a wildflower meadow and fern and bog gardens. The garden is also home to more than 400 varieties of camellias, as well as an extensive collection of hollies, hydrangeas, magnolias and native plants.
Set on 300 acres on the SC coast, Brookgreen Gardens is a beautiful sculpture garden with a wildlife sanctuary, creek excursions, back-road tours and seasonal events. Comprised of four former rice plantations, Brookgreen was the first public sculpture garden built in the US. The garden was opened to the public in 1931 by its founders Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. Mrs Huntington’s works are featured along with other prominent American sculptors. More than 1,200 sculptures by 350 artists are featured in 10 separate garden “rooms”, with accent pools and fountains. Seasonal offerings include a spring garden fair, two indoor changing exhibits, evening dining and other programmes in the summer. There is also the Harvest Home Weekend festival in the autumn and the Night of a Thousand Candles during the festive season. Visit the E Craig Wall Jr Lowcountry Centre and enjoy one of the daily programmes, tours and excursions.
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden:
Riverbanks in Columbia is home to more than 2,000 magnificent and fascinating animals and one of the nation’s most beautiful and inspiring botanical gardens. The lush 170-acre site features dynamic natural habitat exhibits, scenic river views, spectacular valley views and significant historical landmarks.
Swan Lake Iris Gardens:
The Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter are home to some of the nation’s most intensive plantings of Japanese iris, which bloom yearly from mid to late May until the beginning of June. The garden also boasts many other floral attractions, including colourful camellias, azaleas, day lilies and Japanese magnolias. A Braille Trail enables the sight-impaired to enjoy the scents and sensations of the gardens and visitors can enjoy the sights and scents of our Chocolate and Butterfly Gardens. The adjoining Swan Lake is the only public park in the US to feature all eight swan species.
Greenwood, which lies in the heart of the Old 96 tourism district, is headquarters for the Park Seed Company. The company is one of the oldest and largest mail-order seed companies in the United States. You also can visit its nine-acre trial gardens.