It had been years since I first visited this beautiful place. I think we had been married just 3 months and had decided on the spur of the moment to head to the coast for a quick weekend. It was a beautiful fall day, chilly in fact as I remember it. We decided to drive down to Myrtle Beach and check out the big roller coaster. I even managed to ride it with a promise of a pound of fudge! From there we headed south to Brookgreen Gardens. In the years since my first visit, so much has changed. But most importantly, this time we saw it through the eyes of children.
Originally this vast garden was four individual rice plantations: Springfield, The Oaks, Brookgreen and Laurel Hill. A little side note, one of my ancestors is buried in the little cemetery on the grounds of The Oaks plantation. All the plantations were located on the Waccamaw Neck, between the Waccamaw River and the Atlantic Ocean. It was the perfect site for the first owners to plant rice which became South Carolina’s largest crop – “Carolina Gold” surpassed even “King Cotton” for a time. Amazingly, there are still many defined places along the creeks that bear the remnants of the rice cultivation. We took a boat ride and were told of the extreme hardships of the slaves as they cut down huge cypress trees, and carved out flat land from the swamps all by hand. It is now so quiet and serene with many beautiful birds and a few alligators – all out of sight that day.
Back in the 1930s, Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband Archer bought all four properties because they wanted to create a garden sanctuary to showcase Anna’s sculptures. They first thought they’d build a home on the coast to escape the harsh New York winters, but Anna very quickly realized how the land could be better used as a sculpture showcase.
Over 1400 pieces of sculpture from American artists can be found on walkways and small garden rooms throughout the property. Some you can see from a distance and others you find just by turning a corner.
My favorite spot is the group of ancient live oak trees, planted over 200 years before, which are now under planted with thousands of pink and white caladiums which were gently swaying in the light breezes the day we visited. If you stand in the center of this allée of oaks, a large golden statue of Dionysus can be glimpsed at one end of the walk with a beautiful bronze Diana of the Chase at the other. And further still is another group of old oaks on either side of what was the original drive into the old Brookgreen Plantation.
We especially loved the boardwalk that was built around a rice field. The boardwalk ends in a restored slave village with a few of the small cabins that have been rebuilt. There are now four stunning stainless steel sculptures representing a plantation owner, an overseer and a male and female slave. Very powerful imagery. There are also panels that describe the hard life of those that lived and worked on a rice plantation.
In the lowcountry zoo and aviary, the birds are so tame that they will sit very patiently while you walk toward them – and only hop away when you come within a couple of feet. These birds are ones who have been injured and can’t be released back into the wild. Not sure if that alligator was one that they were trying to rehabilitate – he looked very fat and happy lying in the sun on the creek bank. The river otters swam back and forth in their large area and were very inquisitive about all the children hanging over the fence. The grandchildren really loved the big long-horned steers and tame horses that are kept in the stables alongside quite a few clucking chickens and roosters. Across the street is the butterfly house and we were just in time to see a few butterflies being released into this little sanctuary. The girls got to name them as they emerged. We had taken a large glass container of about 40 swallowtail caterpillars that had been eating my parsley at the beach. The butterfly experts explained what the children needed to do to keep the caterpillars happy so they would eventually become butterflies. Note: the last one emerged just this week into a beautiful butterfly! Beyond the butterflies is a children’s playground filled with miniature houses – one even has a water spray which was very welcome on a hot and humid day.
If you’ve never been to this beautiful place – please put it on your bucket list. It’s a perfect spot for a fall or spring getaway. It gets a pretty hot and humid in midsummer but the old oaks are there to provide cool shade. In addition to the sculptures you’ll love seeing the flowers and glimpses of the river and marsh. And you can even buy bags of “Carolina Gold” rice to enjoy at home. Even though there are hundreds of visitors each day, you’ll never feel crowded – just be sure and sign up for the riverboat excursion first!
We made lots of happy memories that day,
#p2PRoute66BP ( love this BP because the photos are perfectly aligned!)
Paper BLUM Bundled Collection
Fonts: A Hundred Miles
#p2PMemorialDayParadeBP (This BP also has lots of photos stacked just right!)
Paper: BLUM Bundled Collection
Fonts: A Hundred Miles