GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2008 show35
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Show #35/1309
Charleston - Middleton Place and Magnolia Plantation


Plantations and Charleston History
PLANTATIONS ARE AN IMPORTANT PART OF CHARLESTON HISTORY. The early landowners wanted to put the rich land to good use. Rice was the first money crop and with the help of slaves the landowners were able to develop rice as a crop. Once the landowners became wealthy because of rice they then established wonderful gardens on their property.

Click here for more info

Romantic Gardens
THE GARDENS AT MAGNOLIA PLANTATION ARE ROMANTIC GARDENS. A romantic garden is a different concept. It came into play right after the Civil War, during the industrialization move. Before that time most gardens were very formed and structured, almost like soldiers lined up. During the Romantic Movement gardens became much more of an escape from the every day doldrum of the regular world. They threw structure to the wind. These gardens were designed to be enjoyable, they were intended as a surprise where every new turn provided a new view or look and the paths were often overgrown.

Click here for more info

Flowerdale
THE FIRST GARDEN IS CALLED FLOWERDALE. It is probably the oldest un-restored garden in America. It dates back to the 1680's. When looking at the structure of this garden it is apparent that it predates the romantic era. This is more of a French formal garden and was a favorite spot of Ann Fox Drayton the original mistress of the Plantation. It is planted with Antirrhinum 'Snapdragon' thus a formal Snapdragon garden. The cherubs were added in the mid 19th century when statuary of that type would have become prevalent.

Click here for more info

Camellia Garden
THE GUYS NEXT VISIT THE CAMELLIA JAPONICA GARDEN with Camellias in full bloom. This is a winter garden. Many don't realize that Charleston was a wintertime garden destination. People would come down from the North in the winter to enjoy flowers not available in the north. This garden has several hundred varieties of Camellias. Camellia sasanqua is one, but they have Indica Azaleas as well and they have a huge collection of Magnolias. But, Magnolia Plantation is famous for its' Camellias. These bloom from September up to March providing wonderful color in the dead of winter when everything else is dull. They have several hundred varieties of the ancient Camellias, the pre-1900 varieties.

Click here for more info

Audubon Swamp
THE NEXT STOP IS THE AUDUBON SWAMP. This is 60 acres of swampland, Tupelo swamp, that has a diverse collection of birds and species of plant material. It is named after Mr. Audubon who came to Magnolia at the invitation of one of the founders to paint one of the birds in one of his famous prints.

Click here for more info

Romantic Garden
THE NEXT GARDEN HAS A MORE RELAXED FEEL and is indicative of the romantic style garden discussed. Some have said that a romantic is an extravagant liar. That's what a romantic garden does. It lures one into the illusion that you're in the middle of something far away, far from the humdrum of daily activity. Here the pathways are somewhat overgrown. The Azaleas and Camellias in the background provide the feel you're part of nature. It's alive, it's vibrant, it sometimes feels un-maintainable but one gets the feeling that you're part of the garden.

Click here for more info

Middleton Place
MIDDLETON PLACE WAS STARTED IN 1741 and is the first formal landscape garden in America. This garden was started by Henry Middleton. When he came here it was all natural, everything we see today was landscaped by Henry. It took about 10 years to landscape the entire garden and the terraces.

Click here for more info

Formal Landscape Bed
JOE AND SIDNEY START AT A FORMAL LANDSCAPE BED. This is how it would have looked hundreds of years ago. The formality one sees today was part of the formal layout of Middleton Place in the beginning. The butterfly beds in this area, the main parterre, mimic the wings of a butterfly. In this area they have Buxus microphylla japonica (Japanese Boxwood) that outline the bed. Annuals and perennials are inside. Sidney and his crew change them out 2 times a year. The change out is a little tricky because they have annuals and perennials mixed together, thus it's not the typical tilling process. They take the annuals out, till those areas, mark the bed, then put in the new plants for the next season.

Click here for more info

Ornamental Grasses
THE GUYS NEXT LOOK AT SOME BEAUTIFUL ORNAMENTAL GRASSSES. The Hierochloe odorata (Sweetgrass) is stunning. It is what the Charleston basket makers use in making Sweetgrass baskets. Joe thinks Ornamental grasses are under utilized across America as a landscape addition. They have many functional uses. For example along a waterway they help retain soil, they're a windbreak in other cases. When the wind hits them they provide a wonderful wispy look and when the light hits it is stunning. There is no replacement for ornamental grasses in bloom.

Click here for more info

Azalea Hillside
THE NEXT AREA IS A HILLSIDE COVERED IN AZALEAS. There are over 40,000 Azaleas on the hillside and in the spring it's a fabulous spot. To add to the effect there is a lake below. The reflection in the lake makes the view doubly impressive. In addition to the Azaleas the hillside is covered with flowering Dogwoods. These bloom about the same time as the Wisteria that hang from the trees and add a bluish, purplish color. The Rosa 'Cherry trees' line the edge of the lake, framing the spectacular view.

Click here for more info

Sunken Octagonal Garden
HERE THEY HAVE A SUNKEN OCTAGONAL GARDEN. It's shaped in an octagon and it's on the hypotenuse of the triangle, where all of the formal gardens at Middleton Place are placed. Joe's high school geometry is a little rusty but the hypotenuse is the longest angle of a right triangle and all of these gardens are on that line. Henry Middleton designed it that way in 1741 because that was the design he wanted to create at Middleton Place. This area has a lot of turf.

Click here for more info

What Causes Fall Color
THE NEXT AREA VISITED IS THE REFLECTION POOL. It is surrounded by Dogwood trees and Azaleas. The Dogwoods are beautiful in the fall because the red leaves reflecting on the water are gorgeous. Many are curious as to why leaves change color in the fall. The change is dictated by the calendar but there are other factors. First, as the the nights become longer and the days shorter, the energy in the tree shifts down into the roots. In that process the chlorophyll production shuts down. There are pigments in the leaves that are present all year but now that the chlorophyll has gone away those pigments come through. The best fall color comes about when there has been a warm, wet spring, mild summer days, then in the fall bright sunny days with cool nights, with temperatures remaining above freezing. When all those factors come together, one has beautiful fall colors.

Click here for more info

 


LINKS:

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Middleton Place Gardens

The Inn At Middleton Place

Garden Smart Plant List



Complete transcript of the show.


In gardening much has changed yet much has remained the same since the 1700's. To learn more about this, Garden Smart visits 2 plantations in Charleston, South Carolina. These exquisite gardens have endured and flourished for over 200 hundred years.
Kay Myers introduces Charleston. Kay is a native and loves to take her friends on Charleston tours. And, every time she does she finds something different, something interesting. Charleston is known for it's history. For example, if one stands on the Battery of Charleston, in front of all the magnificent mansions, one can look out and see Fort Sumter. That is where the first shots of the Civil War took place. From that same vantage point by then looking to the left one sees Fort Moultrie. That's where a pivotal battle in the Revolutionary War took place. As well, Charleston has magnificent homes open to the public and there are many churches with historical significance. Charleston has gone through earthquakes, hurricanes and wars and yet it has survived. In spite of all the downfalls Charleston has endured and today has a quaint, wonderful culture. Because of this, today it is one of the top 3 cities in the country to visit.
PLANTATIONS ARE AN IMPORTANT PART OF CHARLESTON HISTORY. The early landowners wanted to put the rich land to good use. Rice was the first money crop and with the help of slaves the landowners were able to develop rice as a crop. Once the landowners became wealthy because of rice they then established wonderful gardens on their property. Kay and Joe are presently at Magnolia Plantation and gardens. These gardens have a long and interesting history. They are now open to the public and millions of people from around the world have visited. Just up the road is Middleton Place. That is where the first landscaped gardens in America were established in the 1700's. Both plantations are a treasure and offer a unique look into the past.
Joe starts at Magnolia Plantation where he visits with Tom Johnson. Tom is one of the top Camellia experts in the country and the Director of Horticulture at Magnolia Gardens. Tom feels he's one of the luckiest people in the world. He's had 4 jobs in his entire life. Out of college he went to work for a landscape company in Atlanta, where he worked on the Carter Presidential Center. After 2 years President Carter offered Tom the job as Director of Horticulture of the Carter Center and Tom then spent 15 years developing and managing the gardens for President Carter. He then decided to get a real job, moved further south, and took the job as the Horticulturist for the America Camellia Society where he stayed for the next 7 years. About 1 and 1/2 years ago Drayton Hastie, one of the owners of Magnolia Plantation offered Tom the job of Director of Horticulture at Magnolia Plantation. Tom accepted and has now been here 8 months. It's a great job.
Top


THE GARDENS AT MAGNOLIA PLANTATION ARE ROMANTIC GARDENS. A romantic garden is a different concept. It came into play right after the Civil War, during the industrialization move. Before that time most gardens were very formed and structured, almost like soldiers lined up. During the Romantic Movement gardens became much more of an escape from the every day doldrum of the regular world. They threw structure to the wind. These gardens were designed to be enjoyable, they were intended as a surprise where every new turn provided a new view or look and the paths were often overgrown. At Magnolia one is embraced by the love, the beauty and the lore that is Magnolia allowing one to understand why this type of gardening scheme was and is so exciting and so vibrant.
Joe and Tom start the tour. They first encounter a Quercus Virginiana 'Drayton' Oak tree. This was planted in 1680 by Thomas Drayton when he first moved to the plantation. Drayton Hastie Sr. remembered playing under this tree as a child and when he passed away he asked that his ashes be put in this tree. Thus his grandson, in 2002, put his ashes in the tree so he would be with Magnolia forever. The spot the ashes are placed in the tree is visible from the ground. And, it is a magnificent tree.
Top


THE FIRST GARDEN IS CALLED FLOWERDALE. It is probably the oldest un-restored garden in America. It dates back to the 1680's. When looking at the structure of this garden it is apparent that it predates the romantic era. This is more of a French formal garden and was a favorite spot of Ann Fox Drayton the original mistress of the Plantation. It is planted with Antirrhinum 'Snapdragon' thus a formal Snapdragon garden. The cherubs were added in the mid 19th century when statuary of that type would have become prevalent. Then in the 1840's when Camellias became popular they too were added. As were the Rhododendron indicum (Azalea) which are located on the side of the garden. Magnolia Plantation was the first garden in the south to plant Azaleas outside. Prior to that they were grown in conservatories. They would have been brought into the country around the Boston area, then grown in conservatories. Azaleas lend themselves well to putting garden rooms together because they are big and tend to isolate different areas of the garden. The clipped Boxwoods, Buxus sempervirens, also add an element of isolation. Here the Snapdragons are planted inside the Boxwoods. In the early days they used geometric designs. This look dates to the 1680's and provides a feel for what a formal French garden looked like in the 1600's.
Top


THE GUYS NEXT VISIT THE CAMELLIA JAPONICA GARDEN with Camellias in full bloom. This is a winter garden. Many don't realize that Charleston was a wintertime garden destination. People would come down from the North in the winter to enjoy flowers not available in the north. This garden has several hundred varieties of Camellias. Camellia sasanqua is one, but they have Indica Azaleas as well and they have a huge collection of Magnolias. But, Magnolia Plantation is famous for its' Camellias. These bloom from September up to March providing wonderful color in the dead of winter when everything else is dull. They have several hundred varieties of the ancient Camellias, the pre-1900 varieties. Currently, Magnolia Plantation has set aside a lot of property and is traveling the country locating ancient Camellias, propagating them, bringing them back, archiving them and providing a home for them at Magnolia Plantation so that people can see these wonderful Camellias that date back to the 1800's. Many of these plants can no longer be seen in American gardens.
Tom talks about the virtues of Camellias. As discussed, they grow in the winter when nothing else is in bloom. They lend themselves well to a Romantic garden because when you go around a corner where it might have been dull, you all of a sudden have a bright red or white Camellia which stands out beautifully.
Many don't realize that the Camellia is predominately a man's flower. More men grow Camellias than do women. Tom thinks that's because Camellias are easy to grow, they're idiot proof and he thinks men don't really like to be challenged. We think he's kidding but we're not sure.
Top


THE NEXT STOP IS THE AUDUBON SWAMP. This is 60 acres of swampland, Tupelo swamp, that has a diverse collection of birds and species of plant material. It is named after Mr. Audubon who came to Magnolia at the invitation of one of the founders to paint one of the birds in one of his famous prints.
The area looks to Joe like a painting. The vista is filled with Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower). Interestingly it has survived by accident. They removed a lot of invasive plants and what that did was create mats of floating debris. The Sunflowers seeded themselves on top of the mats and now there is a big, wonderful view that changes every day because the mats create different patterns every day as they float around. Lemna minut (Least Duckweed) is floating in the water as well. It is one of the favorite foods for some of the local ducks. They'll actually eat about 70% of the Duckweed. Along with the ducks there are about 200 species of birds. The Boy Scouts of America in the Coastal Carolina Region have adopted this as a project which is an invaluable tool and helps teach them to become stewards of the environment for the next generation.
Top


THE NEXT GARDEN HAS A MORE RELAXED FEEL and is indicative of the romantic style garden discussed. Some have said that a romantic is an extravagant liar. That's what a romantic garden does. It lures one into the illusion that you're in the middle of something far away, far from the humdrum of daily activity. Here the pathways are somewhat overgrown. The Azaleas and Camellias in the background provide the feel you're part of nature. It's alive, it's vibrant, it sometimes feels un-maintainable but one gets the feeling that you're part of the garden. It's a very relaxing feel.
And, that has been the sense that Joe got with this visit. It was relaxing, a beautiful place and it was a pleasure to spend time with Tom. Thanks Tom, Magnolia Plantation is a magical spot.
Down the road from Magnolia Plantation is Middleton Place, a large and beautiful garden and certainly historic. Sidney Frazier is the Vice President of Horticulture and in charge, along with a small staff, of keeping it looking nice.
Top


Sidney provides some background information. MIDDLETON PLACE WAS STARTED IN 1741 and is the first formal landscape garden in America. This garden was started by Henry Middleton. When he came here it was all natural, everything we see today was landscaped by Henry. It took about 10 years to landscape the entire garden and the terraces. The terraces are unique. Normally in the low country the ground is flat. Today they have about 65 acres of formal landscape. To maintain this property Sidney has a crew of 10 full time gardeners plus many others that come in to prune larger trees and perform other tasks.
Sidney started at Middleton in 1974. He came here to work during the summer but was captivated with the look of the place. He couldn't believe what he was seeing and was excited that he could have the opportunity to work in such a beautiful setting. He then went to a local technical school, acquired the knowledge necessary to do this work and has now been here 33 years working his way up through the ranks.
Top


JOE AND SIDNEY START AT A FORMAL LANDSCAPE BED. This is how it would have looked hundreds of years ago. The formality one sees today was part of the formal layout of Middleton Place in the beginning. The butterfly beds in this area, the main parterre, mimic the wings of a butterfly. In this area they have Buxus microphylla japonica (Japanese Boxwood) that outline the bed. Annuals and perennials are inside. Sidney and his crew change them out 2 times a year. The change out is a little tricky because they have annuals and perennials mixed together, thus it's not the typical tilling process. They take the annuals out, till those areas, mark the bed, then put in the new plants for the next season. The plants in this area include Ageratum houstonianum. These are wonderful plants, very heat tolerant which is important here. They have Lantana, another heat tolerant plant and they have a small, low growing Ruella and the taller Ruella in the center. They try to use plants within each area that require the same amount of water.
The partiers are broken up with flowerbeds and turf and with a path. One of the beds, the next we visit, is long and linear. This is the type setting one would see in England and France. Again, Ageratum is planted in this bed. They planted it in the middle of the bed, surrounded by Boxwoods, because it provides height and provides the formality they desired. This long bed draws ones eye along and at the end it is punctuated with some taller trees. Juniperus virginiana 'Brodie' works well, they hold their shape, they don't need to trim them, they're disease resistant, drought resistant and are perfect for the sandy soil. The Ageratum's are pulled out at the end of the season, normally in November, when they put in Viola x wittrockiana (Pansies). The Pansies take them into the spring when they then have a mixture of Tulipa.
Top


THE GUYS NEXT LOOK AT SOME BEAUTIFUL ORNAMENTAL GRASSSES. The Hierochloe odorata (Sweetgrass) is stunning. It is what the Charleston basket makers use in making Sweetgrass baskets. Joe thinks Ornamental grasses are under utilized across America as a landscape addition. They have many functional uses. For example along a waterway they help retain soil, they're a windbreak in other cases. When the wind hits them they provide a wonderful wispy look and when the light hits it is stunning. There is no replacement for ornamental grasses in bloom. Sidney feels one of the best times to view sweetgrass is early in the morning when the dew is still visible. It looks like a cloud floating.
Top


THE NEXT AREA IS A HILLSIDE COVERED IN AZALEAS. There are over 40,000 Azaleas on the hillside and in the spring it's a fabulous spot. To add to the effect there is a lake below. The reflection in the lake makes the view doubly impressive. In addition to the Azaleas the hillside is covered with flowering Dogwoods. These bloom about the same time as the Wisteria that hang from the trees and add a bluish, purplish color. The Rosa 'Cherry trees' line the edge of the lake, framing the spectacular view.
Sidney offers his pruning tips for Azaleas. Many people prune Azaleas too early or too late. One should prune azaleas right after the plant blooms. That is the safest time to prune. Once through pruning and dead wooding it's an excellent time to fertilize. Basically, all the work on azaleas can be done at one time.
Top


Joe and Sidney visit another garden. This view is more understated than the last but stunning. Throughout Middleton Place there are beautiful sites, the parterres, the Camellia allays, all the gardens at Middleton Place are beautiful. This formal garden is also beautiful but unique, a different style. HERE THEY HAVE A SUNKEN OCTAGONAL GARDEN. It's shaped in an octagon and it's on the hypotenuse of the triangle, where all of the formal gardens at Middleton Place are placed. Joe's high school geometry is a little rusty but the hypotenuse is the longest angle of a right triangle and all of these gardens are on that line. Henry Middleton designed it that way in 1741 because that was the design he wanted to create at Middleton Place. This area has a lot of turf. It is Stenotaphrum secundatum (St. Augustine). It's Charleston grass, a grass that requires a lot of shade but because of the dampness of this garden, because it's a sunken garden, this grass is thriving and healthy. In early times this was a bowling green. The guys would bowl here and the ladies would sit around on the outside terraces and watch the game being played.
Top


THE NEXT AREA VISITED IS THE REFLECTION POOL. It is surrounded by Dogwood trees and Azaleas. The Dogwoods are beautiful in the fall because the red leaves reflecting on the water are gorgeous. Many are curious as to why leaves change color in the fall. The change is dictated by the calendar but there are other factors. First, as the the nights become longer and the days shorter, the energy in the tree shifts down into the roots. In that process the chlorophyll production shuts down. There are pigments in the leaves that are present all year but now that the chlorophyll has gone away those pigments come through. The best fall color comes about when there has been a warm, wet spring, mild summer days, then in the fall bright sunny days with cool nights, with temperatures remaining above freezing. When all those factors come together, one has beautiful fall colors.
And with that in place fall is a great time to be in the garden. Particularly the garden at Middleton Place. Joe thanks Sidney for the tour. This has been a great experience.
In this show we visited 2 historical Charleston, South Carolina plantation gardens. Both were thriving businesses in their day. But we also saw how important gardens were to their owners. Now thanks to the preservation efforts of Tom Johnson and Sidney Frazier and many others the plants popular back then are still around to be enjoyed today. And, importantly available for our children to enjoy. These garden designs were influenced by early European settlers. One was formal with symmetry and balance, the other more romantic, relaxed and casual. Joe likes the more relaxed style better but no matter which design you like the choice should be reflective of your lifestyle and your preferences because, importantly, there are no rules in gardening. Hopefully the tips and ideas presented in this show were as helpful to you as they were to Joe. We can learn a lot from the past. This show is a great example of that.
Top



LINKS:

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Middleton Place Gardens

The Inn At Middleton Place

Garden Smart Plant List


   
 
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