Charleston was a busy place to be over Memorial Day Weekend. The historic city was packed, the beaches full of bathing people, and the weather absolutely beautiful. I was visiting for a wedding, and after a morning at the beach I was drawn to one of the oldest gardens in America: Magnolia Plantation and Garden.
The gardens were founded in 1676, over 300 years ago! The Drayton family originally began the gardens for their personal enjoyment, but the grounds were eventually opened to the public after the Civil War. Though it began as a classic English garden, it was later transformed using a more informal, romantic style that has made it so famous today.
My fiance and I knew about the historic garden from its website and word of mouth, but we were ready to see it for ourselves – so ready we were even willing to pay the rather steep $15 per ticket. We first noticed not the garden itself, but all the peacocks walking around the property. Males were particularly vocal, displaying at the slightest provocation. They were beautiful, and gave the gardens a rather exotic feel.
Pathways wound around the gardens themselves, with beds of flowers and shrubs interwoven in different mixed forest stands. Part of the garden borders the Ashley River and marshy waterfowl refuge, and within the garden visitors can circle small ponds.
It was these ponds that I loved the most. They were quiet, calm in the heat of the afternoon. Huge cypress trees shaded the waters, and white bridges crossed the surface here and there. The bridges were gorgeous. Most were white, and a few built with a high arch. Their delicate construction gave the gardens a very picturesque quality, and it was hard to tear myself away.
We wandered through the bamboo and azalea garden, though they were no longer in bloom. A horticulture maze made from high shrubs created a welcome game, ending in a female statue in the center. Finally, we walked along a length of the largest live oaks I have ever seen, stretching their long limbs across a green, grassy lawn.
The entire garden was amazing – as my gushing throughout the blog probably indicates – and I appreciated the way the plants and flowers were allowed to run a bit more wild. A fabulous way to spend a Memorial Day weekend afternoon!