Just south of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is a place of sweeping live oak trees that contains just about everything special about the Carolina lowcountry. Made up of four former rice plantations, Brookgreen Gardens has a little something for everyone. It is a beautiful place to spend a fall afternoon, strolling through carefully planned gardens with interesting sculpture dotting the landscape.
Started in the 1930’s by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, today the garden covers a little over nine thousand acres. The Huntingtons had come to South Carolina from New York after Anna was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Originally what was planned as a winter home for the couple developed into something much more. The Huntingtons were so enamored of what they found in South Carolina that they decided to form a non-profit company as a means of establishing an outdoor museum of sorts. Both Archer and Anna had a connection to the art world, and in fact they met when Archer commissioned a sculpture from Anna. Because of this connection, they decided to also exhibit carefully selected sculptures throughout the garden.
In addition to nature and art, today as you walk around, you will see reminders of the history of this place. Dormant rice fields abound. A long majestic oak alley that dates back three hundred years and that once welcomed visitors to Laurel Hill Plantation, still stands. All that remains of the plantation besides this row of oaks is a small caretakers house.
Another of the original plantations, the Oaks, has a unique history all its own. Owned by the Alston family, the mistress of the house was Theodosia Burr, daughter of Aaron Burr. Tragedy is tied the Oaks and although nothing remains of the original house besides a few scattered bricks, there is a family cemetery that sits in the woods and can be visited via a special tour at Brookgreen.
But it is nature that takes a front seat at Brookgreen these days. Walk around under the beautiful old trees. Enjoy the profusion of butterflies seen in the fall. Soak in the vivid colors of all types of flowering plants.
This place is a photographer’s paradise.
All photos by the author.