Tuesday, April 15, 2014

4/14/14 Romantic Gardens of Magnolia Plantation

Ashley River; Charleston SC

     There are only a few spots that can be described as heaven on earth, and one such place lies close to Charleston SC.  In fact, this place is so special that in 1872 magazines in Europe said if one were to visit America, they must not miss Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon and this place.  To find it, you head westward from the Morris Island Lighthouse at the mouth of Charleston Harbor and meander up the Ashley River.  

     Passing the historic district of Charleston and through the draw bridges that cross Rt. 17, you wander another ten miles upstream through tidal estuary.  The river narrows, and you arrive at one of the few old rice plantations that were salvageable after Sherman blazed his path of destruction through the southeastern United States in the final days of the Civil War. 

     By this point the river has narrowed to a couple of hundred yards, and if you can view it at sunrise it presents a vista that can only be deemed spectacular - even by the most skeptical of eyes. 

     A few of the old water gates for the rice fields are preserved and functional, leading to expansive rice fields that fueled this area's economy during the early and mid 1800's.

     Beneath the giant oak trees festooned with Spanish moss, shimmering magnolias, cypress and cedar trees that line the banks of the river you will find a path.  You will spot it immediately, because this path is lined with flower beds and flowering bushes and borders the river for about a half mile before turning inland.

     One of the first things evident is a level of intoxicating fragrance in the air that can only be caused by hundreds of thousands of blooms.  Continuing on the path leads over numerous decorative bridges and past still lagoons.   

     All manner of little places beg you to stop your journey and just abide a while.

      And on the path leads.  One would think that a path this splendid must lead somewhere magnificent.

     And it does not disappoint.  We finally emerge at the old plantation house at Magnolia Plantation, built by the Dreyton family.  It is currently owned and maintained by the 12th generation of Draytons and has been open for the public to enjoy since 1870..

    Spacious stairways lead past expansive piazzas (wrap-around porches) into the main house.

     We meet Tom Johnson, Executive Director of Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.  Tom is quick with a laugh and a smile, but who wouldn't be if your work allowed you to spend your life in a place like this?

     "These are 'Romantic Gardens'" says Tom.  "They differ from formal gardens in that Romantic Gardens seek to cooperate with nature rather than control it.  The idea of a Romantic Garden is to have a place that looks natural, and this is the only large Romantic Garden in the United States.  I have 170 people who work diligently to keep the gardens looking unsustained."

     It is not often that I can spend a whole day shooting photos with an artistic approach, and enjoyable it has been.  So far, we have only made it through a few acres of gardens and this place is hundreds of acres in size.  Tomorrow we will speak more with Tom, go exploring and meet some special folks who make this place work.

Have a great Tuesday everyone !!

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