Tuesday, April 15, 2014

4/15/14 A bit of Magnolia's History

     Yesterday we had a glimpse of the beauty of the gardens at Magnolia, but there are many dimensions beyond the little bit of ground we covered, and today we will try to cover a bit of it.  Lisa Randle is the staff historian at Magnolia Plantation, and she along with others helped fill me in on a bit of the history.  Lisa is currently finishing her doctorate degree in history, and is researching old documents and papers from other families that had interaction with the Draytons.  The DuPonts are a current interest. 

Lisa Randle

     The story behind the creation of the gardens is a love story.  It is the story of the fourth owner of the plantation, John Grimke' Drayton.  He was the son of one of Thomas Drayton's (who had no male heirs) daughters and legally changed his name as a requirement of the inheritance.

John Grimke' Drayton

     In 1825 while in college seminary classes in New York, he met and married a woman from Philadelphia, who was afflicted with severe homesickness for her home.  In an attempt to make her feel at home, he brought clippings of many different plants from greenhouses in Philadelphia to plant and hopefully make her feel a bit more at home by planting and "earthly paradise."  Drawing on what he had learned in Europe from the Romantic Garden Movement that was ongoing at that time, he planted expansive gardens.  Although he never was successful in his attempts at changing her attitude, he did plant a beautiful gardens and accomplish many firsts in United States horticulture. 

     Magnolia Plantation is one of the highest demand wedding spots in Charleston SC, which in turn has been ranked as the United State's top wedding destination.  There are currently three different venues on the plantation for ceremonies and receptions and a fourth is being added.  This is the carriage house which sits on the river and is one of the locations.

Early photo of the gates at Magnolia

     Another great story from the plantation is that of Adam Bennett.  Adam, who had been a slave, was left in charge of the plantation when Sherman's troops arrived.  After they had destroyed the structures, he walked 300 miles to North Carolina to inform Mr. Drayton that the gardens had not been destroyed.  He was instrumental in convincing Mr. Drayton to return and rebuild, and he returned as well, now a free man.  Several of Adam's descendants still work to this day keeping the gardens and property in shape.

     Peacocks and hens roam freely about the plantation, making a colorful diversion in an already vibrant place.

     And, there are all those bridges.  This one emerges from beneath old growth bamboo and has a tree growing through its center.

     There is also a red bridge with flower boxes lining its edges.

     Statuary abounds throughout the gardens - much of it only obvious if one is looking closely.

     This one is actually a water fountain that was frequented by a pair of cardinals while I was there.

     Even the greenhouses and other horticulture buildings blend into the landscape.  This is home to 140 new varieties of camellias that have been bred and named here.

     There are many acres of woodland, pasture and old rice fields here.  Trams depart every few minutes to carry visitors around the property, including the Audubon Sanctuary, which we will visit tomorrow.  And with over 500,000 visitors a year, this is perhaps America's most loved gardens.

     One parting shot of the edge of one of the pastures.  If you want to visit Magnolia, you might check out Better Homes and Garden's website to print a free admission ticket on National Public Gardens day.  (coming up soon)  But regardless of when you visit, bring a picnic basket and get ready to relax.  There are picnic areas everywhere and the beautiful nooks and crannies are everywhere.

Have a great Wednesday !!

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