Sunday, March 17, 2013

66th Annual Festival Of Houses And Gardens In Charleston March Through April-See All the History and Beauty Up Close And Personal

When I built my house back in Northeastern Ohio some years ago, part of my vision for the landscaping was to build rock mounds across the front of the property in various locations and fill them with an assortment of ground cover and flowers indigenous to the North, mainly perennials. To accomplish the scheme, hundreds of rocks of different sizes were needed. I collected the rocks from varying locations: Creek beds and new housing developments were prime collection areas. To justify the wanton abduction of the rocks from said locations, I coined a phrase, "The earth belongs to no man."

It was a labor of love. I spent many hours nurturing the plants and cultivating the mounds every spring. The daily ritual of toiling among the rock mounds brought me an inner peace resulting in extreme pleasure from watching the procession of colors and shapes produced by each individual species as spring flowed into summer and summer into fall. Red hot pokers, lupine, holly hocks, black-eyed susans, asters, cone flowers, salvia, stella doras, and low growing phlox were some of my favorites.

Azalea bloom in Summerville
I don't miss the snow of Northeastern Ohio, but I do miss the rock gardens, especially as spring approaches, which has been a little slow in coming to the Lowcountry this year. Just when you think it is going to warm up, cooler winds prevail. Despite the warm weather delay, the yearly azalea bloom has already begun, soon to be followed by other early season bloomers. Before you know it, Azalea Park in Summerville will be awash in a sea of magenta, as will all the gardens throughout the Lowcountry and historic, downtown Charleston.

In 1937 the writer of Carolina Gardens, Edward T. H. Shaffer, forever characterized the spirit of the Holy City with these endearing words, "Viewed as a whole, that bit of drifted yesterday caught between time and the rivers, called Charleston, is a city set in a garden." A casual stroll along any Charleston street during the peak blooming season of March and April will offer you the ideal vantage point for a colorful experience.

Charleston gardens
Tucked behind wrought iron gates, or stucco and brick walls, native varieties of dogwood, redbud, and fringe trees accent the private gardens of Charlestonians, as well as azalea, yellow jessamine, and wisteria. A few homes throughout the historic district are open to the public year round, but for the most part you can only glimpse the rich and diverse horticultural heritage of the "city set in a garden" from its sidewalks, except for a brief time in spring. The rare opportunity to wander beyond the iron gates and brick walls becomes a reality during Charleston's annual Festival of Houses and Gardens for the 66th time, this year of 2013 from March 21st to April 20th.

Wisteria hanging on iron fence overlooking private gardens
Tours feature seven to 10 properties each day in one of 11 neighborhoods, dating from the American colonial period, through the antebellum and Victorian eras, to early 20th century. Meeting Street, Wentworth Street, Anson Street, Tradd Street, East Battery, Church Street, Legare Street, Broad Street, Charlotte Street, South Battery, and finally King Street, distinctively noted as a street untouched by the great fires that ravaged old Charleston.

The highlight of each Thursday are The Glorious Garden Tours. This is a walking tour featuring eight to ten private gardens. Guides are stationed at each location to provide information about garden design, plant material and history. Included is a wine and lemonade reception at the Nathaniel Russell House, 51 Meeting Street, from 4-5 PM.

Morning History Walks, Plantation Picnic and Oyster Roast at Drayton Hall, Downtown Villa Picnic and Oyster Roast at Aiken Rhett House, Circa 1886 Wine Tasting at Circa 1886, and a Vodka and Rum Tasting with Firefly Distillery and featuring Vince Gilmore on "The Charleston Cocktail" at the Historic Charleston Foundation are scheduled throughout the festivals duration. You will need to reserve your spot - Click on the links for more information and scheduled days and times.  I'll see you around town.

No comments: