Following unbeaten paths often takes me to places that are just off highly trafficked areas. That’s what I found when I turned off of John B. White Sr. Boulevard in Spartanburg onto the grounds of the Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve -- a beautiful botanical paradise just minutes from downtown.
The parking lot is at the edge of an area of hardwood trees, shrubs and a dazzling perennial bed. A gazebo sits among the trees near a splashing fountain that appears to be feeding a pond, waterfall and stream.
Founded by Harold and Josephine Hatcher in the early 1970s, the Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve is the expression of the couple’s love of nature … a love that inspired many others. Shortly after moving to Spartanburg, the Hatchers, who had retired to the Upcountry after living in Indiana for 30 years, bought a wooded area -- a depleted former cotton field -- behind their house and began working with the land to use it for gardening projects. Soon the Hatchers were spending most of their free time with the soil in the new lot, and over the years they would plant thousands of trees, shrubs and flowers.
According to the park’s historians, the Hatchers’ devotion drew the attention of members of the Spartanburg Men’s Garden Club, the Spartanburg Garden Club Council, Spartanburg Community College, and the Unitarian Universalist Church, whose members began to volunteer their time and donate resources. Soon, trails were paved, waterfalls and bridges were completed and a gazebo was built.
Today, the Hatcher Garden consists of four layers -- tall conifers and hardwood trees, a lower layer of dogwoods and redbuds, a layer of shrubs (among them, azaleas and hydrangeas), and groundcover of ferns and wildflowers. Visitors who take to the Bartram Trails will meander around and over ponds and tumbling streams. Benches and covered shelteres are set about for relaxation, reflection or communing with the park’s permanent residents -- squirrels, birds and turtles.
In 1987, the Hatchers transferred control of the property to the Spartanburg County Foundation to ensure its protection. The Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve is a non-profit organization, administered by a board and sustained by memberships, rentals, plant sales and visitor donations. The park is free and open to the public everyday during daylight hours.
Josephine Hatcher died in 1999 and Harold Hatcher in 2003 at the age of 96. Their ashes were scattered in the garden. The custodians maintain this wonderful park as “a testament to the power of partnership and to the integrity of the Hatchers’ vision and the community that gathered around them.”
If You’re Going:
From Interstate 26, take Exit 22, turn onto John B. White, Sr. Boulevard and go about two miles.