The Ashley River is still, disguising all evidence of flowing water. The surface reflects puffy clouds hovering in the blue sky above.
Azaleas fill the forest with blooms of red, pink and purple. Birds chirp cheerful messages across the branches. A warm spring day greets Charleston, South Carolina.
My daughter skips along the path in front of me, singing songs and burning off the fruity cereal she devoured at breakfast. I am halfway tempted to join her, but my two left feet remind me otherwise.
The path winds around Cypress trees pushing their knees above the water’s surface, then back into the forest of Azaleas. A few more turns and we reach a large clearing.
A gently sloping lawn is bathed in soft sunlight and surrounded by colorful Azalea blooms peeking out of the forest. The path continues but I have no desire to follow it. My eyes are riveted to a giant Live Oak tree lurking to the side of the lawn.
The tree’s trunk is large enough that 2 people cannot get their arms around it. Secondary branches are thicker than many of the small trees planted in the garden. The outer edges of the canopy easily reach 50 feet. Completing the spectacle is the Spanish Moss that drapes every horizontal member, gently swaying to imperceptible breezes.
Looking at this tree I cannot decide if I want to climb it or sit underneath it. I stare for a few minutes before my daughter snaps me to attention. She pulls my hand and we continue down the path to meet the others.
This garden space captures my imagination, feeling a bit like a secret hideaway. It is a fairly large area, yet it is surrounded by lush foliage and covered by the shade of this giant tree. I want to build a tree house here and stay for the summer!
The gardens at Magnolia Plantation are formal and traditional, but only on the public side of the mansion. The rest of the property embraces and blends with the natural swamp forest. This unique approach has created some brilliant spaces and allowed them to withstand the pressures of time.
Places like Magnolia Plantation are treasures that we should make time to enjoy. More than a gateway to the pleasures of Nature, they provide window to the past and engage the imagination.
I invite you to share your favorite garden space with your sweetheart this (belated) Valentine’s Day!