Touring Brookgreen Gardens
Just beyond Fighting Stallions on the entrance drive stands Donald de Lue’s bronze heroic sculpture, a memorial to American soldiers lost at Omaha Beach in Normandy. Other patriotic installations are found throughout the garden. In many ways the entrance drive is a trailer for coming attractions.
Anna’s Youth Taming the Wild is rendered in stone in contrast to the many metal sculptures throughout the garden. The Huntingtons sourced marble anywhere from Tennessee to Italy, and occasionally resorted to ordinary limestone.
Eugenie Frederica Shonnard’s gray marble Marabou is another hint at the unique sourcing strategy. The Huntingtons were devoted to representing women artists as much as possible, and were quite successful considering a pre-feminist social environment that kept the works of women in very short supply.
Richard McDermott Miller’s Wind on the Water is a windswept woman with long streaming hair, upraised arms and a diaphanous flowing gown. She is stepping lightly off her pedestal directly opposite to the entrance of the Archer Milton Huntington and Anna Hyatt Huntington Sculpture Garden.
Classical music is piped throughout the garden and among the artwork and lush vegetation you’ll find occasional marble slabs inscribed with poetry and quotations. Much has changed since the garden expanded far beyond Anna’s original butterfly design, which now forms a central core for a sprawling network of trails and ponds.
With all its varied attractions Brookgreen Gardens is a National Historic Landmark accredited by the American Association of Museums. Curators continue to bring in the finest American sculpture while planners and landscapers continue to create settings in which to display them. Your admission ticket to the garden is good for seven days, and you’ll need them.
Stuff besides sculpture
Pavilion Restaurant is next to the Rainey Sculpture Pavilion and Courtyard Café is at the Lowcountry Center. You can buy souvenirs at Keepsake Gift Shop adjacent to the Tarbox Welcome Center.
The Lowcountry Center and Lowcountry Zoo are showcases of flora and fauna. You’ll get the whole story on local plantation-era herbs and vegetables at Bethea’s Cultural Garden, and excursions of various descriptions launch from the center.
The zoo is the only certified zoo on the Carolina coast, and you’ll see otters, alligators, red and gray foxes, wild turkey, deer, and a butterfly exhibit. Two aviaries house the bird collections — the Cypress Swamp Aviary and the Birds of Prey Aviaries. The animals here were either raised in captivity or have been victims of a significant injury. In either case they cannot live in the wild.
The Labyrinth at Brookgreen is located along The Trail Beyond the Garden Wall. Created in accordance with a medieval design, it is a seven-circuit Chartres style labyrinth made of shells and natural grasses and set on the banks of a tributary of the Waccamaw River. The purpose of a labyrinth is quiet, walking meditation, and interpretive panels are set up to explain all that. If you prefer to sit and meditate, try one of the creekside benches.
Seasonal events include a spring garden fair, summer evening dining programs (with live music and theatrical performances), Harvest Home Weekend Festival in the fall and Night of a Thousand Candles during the holiday season. Brookgreen Gardens also offers workshops in sculpture throughout the year, taught by nationally known sculptors.
Go by foot, by bus or by boat to see the former rice plantations. Some of these tours may not be suitable for very small children.
Mini-bus is the only way to reach the trailhead of the Oaks Plantation History and Nature Trail, an approximately one-mile loop with interpretive panels along the way devoted to slave narratives. Tours depart on a regular schedule from the Lowcountry Center.
Go by boat for a creek cruise on a 48-foot pontoon boat “The Springfield.” The tour follows the riverbanks where you’ll see alligators, waterfowl and osprey while an interpreter narrates the history of the rice fields and the lives of the African slaves.
Go by foot on the Southern Trek, a back-roads circuit of The Oaks through the plantation’s rice fields and the Alston family cemetery. The cemetery contains a monument erected to the memory of the mysteriously vanished Theodosia Burr Alston.
Go by bus on the Northern Trek, a ride through Laurel Hill down an oak-lined avenue to a cemetery, a Civil War earthen fort site and a crumbling chimney that was once part of a historic rice mill. A high bluff along this route allows for a panoramic vista of the Waccamaw River.
Buildings have been added as the garden expanded beyond the original core butterfly plan. The Callie and John Rainey Sculpture Pavilion houses two art galleries that host ever-changing exhibits. The buildings themselves are works of art, one of them fronted by a 20-foot long horizontal bronze frieze of ocean waves created by Stanley Bleifeld.
Campbell Center for American Sculpture is out there among the animals. Brown Sculpture Court is near Dogwood Garden.
Keep a sharp eye on this place. Something new is always added to this ancient realm.
Explore the Brookgreen Gardens
Discover the history, surrounding areas, and attractions of one of the Grand Strand’s most sought out attractions, the Brookgreen Gardens.