The chance to travel.As a member of a couple organizations that have travel programs I’ve been fortunate to be part of the committees that plan and escort tours. My latest trip was to Charleston SC and Savannah GA. A few years ago I met a few gardeners from this area and in turn they introduced me to a few others who were more than helpful in sharing their own gardens and advice on seeing others.We started in Charleston with all it’s rich history and gardens that date back a few hundred years. I love to combine history, culture and gardening. The first morning we had a walking tour of old Charleston, which was a history class on the stroll. That afternoon we had the opportunity to visit nine private gardens in the historic district. That day, like all the days on the trip, ended with a delicious meal. Another highlight of the south is the food and great restaurants.
The second day was a trip to two of the best known plantations near Charleston, Magnolia and Middleton. Magnolia Gardens is known as the most romantic garden in the country and it certainly lives up to its name. Middleton was equally as large but was more of a working farm. They still practice techniques that date back two hundred years.On the third day we had a little revision in plans due to heavy rains over night. We had a local garden designer, gardener, farmer all rolled into one as our guide. He took us out to Angel Oak which is at least 400 years old. It is a live oak and the largest specimen in the country. Next he took us to a small public park which looked back across the bay at Charleston. We ended our outing with lunch at one of his private clients garden. We left a little time at the end of this day for a little exploring on our own.
We left Charleston headed for Savannah but not without a little side trip for that day. We spent most of the afternoon in Beaufort. Beaufort has to be one of the most charming little towns in the south. Again we had a great guide who arranged to give us a guided walking tour of this little place. Having lived and gardened in Beaufort for 30 years he knew all the back roads and a few private gardens to wander through.
On our first day in Savannah we again had a walking history lesson as we wandered from square to square. We were able to see three private garden along with all the beautiful city spaces that Savannah has. Savannah was built around 22 squares, which are now parks, so you never have to go more than 2 blocks in any direction to be in a park. We did break it up a bit by stopping for a delicious lunch at an old Inn. It was haunted but that is another story.On our last day in Savannah we had the opportunity to have one of the best known gardeners in Savannah as our guide. We started out at Armstrong University which has one of the best arboretums and plant collections in the low-country. We then went to see his own private garden and that of one of his clients on the water. After a lunch in the art museum we ended the day with a visit to the Ship to Sea Museum and Gardens.
Food is very much a part of the celebration of southern culture. We started the tour with a fine welcome dinner at Magnolia’s in Charleston, complete with story teller Tim Lowry. That set the tone so we ended the trip with a group dinner at the Old Pink House in Savannah, complete with period music. The one souvenir I brought back was a cookbook. Now when I make a special dinner I can remember this time in the low-country.