Katie Lee Ashley stands guard over the Petunias while she waits for her fellow canines to arrive. (Photo by Tami Ashley)
By Brian M. Howle
Thinking of taking the family pooch along for a day trip to one of S.C.’s wonderful, aromatic and fully-in-bloom gardens this weekend? Well, I hate to tell ya, Sparky, but think again.
That is, of course, unless you plan to visit beautiful Magnolia Plantation and Gardens close to Historic Charleston, SC, just off of storied, live oak-lined Highway 61.
Nestled on the banks of the Ashley River, Magnolia Gardens – the oldest public gardens in America – offers an all-day schedule of events to fill your day with history, beauty, nature and communing with a large number of God’s creatures, large and small. And unlike every other major garden in the Charleston area – as well as most around the state – Magnolia puts out the water bowl for your dog because, well, the owners think dogs are people, too!
The Long Bridge at Angel Lake, Magnolia Plantation’s most-photographed vista. (Photo by Tami Ashley)
Once you clear the Ashley River bridge when heading south on U.S. Hwy. 17, it only takes about 15-20 minutes to arrive at the history-laden gates of Magnolia Plantation. After paying the entry fee, a variety of tours are available for separate charges. Guided tours include Magnolia’s plantation home; a Nature Train tram tour (I recommend this one because you cover the main grounds with a very entertaining guide at the wheel); the Audubon Swamp Garden tour; a Nature Boat tour of the wetlands; and the new “Slavery to Freedom” tour.
Majestic live oaks abound, like this one gracing the Ashley River with full floral guard. (Photo by Tami Ashley)
Once inside the gates, you’re free to wander the lush, floral-covered grounds at your own, leisurely pace. Azaleas are the star of this show, but the variety of flowering plants is seemingly endless. Self-guided walks throughout the garden’s many trails are easy to follow. The rich, historic past of Magnolia Plantation permeates everything around you, and the original slave cabins command a sense of reflection among the stands of breathtaking, huge, moss-draped live oaks. Amenities such as bicycle rentals, a great little gift shop in the plantation homestead, restrooms and a beverage/snack bar are available for your convenience.
Children of all ages will absolutely love the ample petting zoo that features a myriad of animals readily found in the glory days of plantation life – from pigs and goats, to proud roosters and peacocks. My favorites can be found among the small herd of ponies grazing the main pasture, who stroll up to the split-rail fence to solicit muzzle rubs and sugar cubes.
Katie’s “Elvis Snarl” lets us know she’s picked up some “P-mail” left behind by a previous pooch amongst nature’s delights. (Photo by Tami Ashley)
Get an early start and make a full day of your visit, as this glorious marriage of natural beauty and man’s stewardship will literally take a full day to completely explore and enjoy to its full magnificence!
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is located at 3550 Ashley River Road (Hwy. 61), Charleston, SC 29414. Open daily 8am to dusk; Adults $15, Kids 6-12 $10; Kids under 6 Free. For more information, visit http://www.magnoliaplantation.com or call (800) 367-3517.
This article also appears in Alternatives NewsMagazine and Coast Magazine, April 8 – 22, 2010; and online at http://www.myrtlebeachalternatives.com .