No matter the season of your visit to South Carolina, you are likely to find something in bloom. The peak spring bloom of cherry trees, azaleas, dogwoods and many others is from mid-March to late April, but the calendar is filled with perfect dates for strolls through gardens in every corner of the state.
Here is a sampling of what you’ll find at four of our favorites:
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Charleston
The gardens at Magnolia Plantation are a bit different from some of the formal gardens around the country. The Magnolia gardens are considered unrestored – meaning they let plants grow as nature intended them. The gardens have been drawing visitors since they were first open to the public in the 1870s, although some sections date back more than 325 years. It’s one of the last remaining Romantic gardens in the US.
The biggest show is in the spring, when azaleas, dogwood, roses, irises, wisteria, gardenia and dozens of other blooming plants and trees bust forth, but you can find beauty and blooms all year. A 12-month calendar to tell you what’s in bloom when you visit MagnoiliaPlantation.com.
Of note: Travel and Leisure magazine named Magnolia Plantation one of “America's Most Beautiful Gardens."
To visit: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is open every day, including holidays. Basic garden admission is $15 for adults and $10 for children 6-12. Guided tours and admission to other parts of the plantation are extra.
Swan Lake Gardens, Sumter
The gardens at Swan Lake are beautiful year-round, but iris lovers will want to visit from mid-May to early June, when thousands of Japanese irises are in bloom.
Swan Lake Gardens began in 1927 as a private fishing retreat. The owner tried unsuccessfully to landscape the grounds of his home with Japanese irises. When they failed to grow, he had his gardeners dig up the bulbs and dump them at the nearby swamp. The following spring, they burst into bloom (leading Southern Living magazine to call it a “lovely mistake.”)
Of note: The annual Sumter Iris Festival is celebrated each year on Memorial Day weekend. If you can’t visit then, there are dozens of other types of plants in the 150-acre botanical garden. It also is the only public park in the country that is home to all eight swan species.
To visit: Swan Lake Gardens is open from 7:30 a.m. until dusk every day, and the visitor center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Admission is free.
Edisto Memorial Gardens, Orangeburg
If you’re a rose lover, you won’t want to miss the Edisto Memorial Gardens in Orangeburg, home to 4,800 rose plantings representing 120 varieties. Roses begin blooming in late April and continue until the first killing frost, usually in November. The Orangeburg Festival of Roses, one of the Southeastern Tourism Society’s top 20 events, is held the weekend before Mother’s Day in May to celebrate the start of the blooming season.
The gardens began with 5 acres of azaleas planted in the 1920s, with a playground and greenhouse added in the following years. The first rose was planted in 1951, and today, the Edisto Memorial Rose Garden contains 79 beds of roses representing rose classes from miniatures to Old Garden Roses. The Edisto Memorial Gardens now cover 175 acres, complete with azaleas, camellias, roses and other flowering trees and plants among giant, centuries-old cypress and other varieties of native trees.
Of note: Edisto Memorial Gardens displays past winners from All-America Rose Selections along with some newer introductions. For 40 years, the gardens were one of just 23 test gardens sanctioned by All-America Rose Selections, while in 2008 the gardens became affiliated with the American Rose Society's testing program, picking top miniature and mini-flora roses throughout the US. In 2012, American Garden Rose Selections was formed to continue testing roses and Edisto Memorial Gardens is now one of nine test gardens nationwide.
To visit: The gardens, on US Highway 301 just four blocks from downtown Orangeburg, are open every day from dawn until dusk. Admission is free.
Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet
Brookgreen Gardens is truly a garden for all seasons. From the daffodils and dogwoods of spring to the crinums and daylilies of summer to spider lilies and swamp sunflower of fall to the crocuses and camellias of winter – it’s all there, mixed in among fabulous pieces of sculpture. The floral jewel of the state’s coast, Brookgreen is a 9,100-acre garden just south of Myrtle Beach.
Brookgreen was designed by artist Anna Hyatt Huntington in 1931 as a garden that combined sculpture and artwork with plants and trees. A live oak alley garden features 300-year-old live oak trees that were planted when Brookgreen was a rice plantation. The garden is home to horticultural surprises, a kitchen garden, children’s garden and terrace garden, along with native plants of the Southeast and herbs and vegetables grown during the plantation period. The Labyrinth at Brookgreen is the latest addition to the gardens, overlooking a tributary creek of the Waccamaw River.
Of note: The Brookgreen website includes a list of which plants are in bloom.
To visit: Brookgreen Gardens is open 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. every day. Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors 65 and older, $7 for children ages 4-12. Regular admission tickets are good for seven consecutive days and include admission to the gardens, Native Wildlife Zoo, the Lowcountry Center and Trail and the Enchanted Storybook Forest.