• A Journey through Time and Place

    By Nancy Spitler

If you haven’t visited the South Carolina Botanical Garden lately, you may think of it merely as home to the red caboose, a wide-ranging collection of hostas and camellias, and the Clemson Heritage Garden. Those alone make for a magnificent experience for visitors. But if you venture beyond that part of the garden, you’ll discover a treasure trove of landscapes where you can lose yourself in time and place.

In a short space between the duck pond and the Fran Hanson Visitor’s Center, you can travel the entire state of South Carolina, from the barrier islands to longleaf pine savannas, from maritime forests to granite outcrops, from piedmont woodlands to rich cove forests. You can travel back in time to a Native American shell ring to discover why sugar maples and trillium can grow on the edge of a salt marsh, then on to a piedmont prairie to see how different our habitat appeared when it was home to Native Americans. And you can walk through a garden of carnivorous plants native to South Carolina and the Southeast.

  • Walk through the grasses and flowers that populate South Carolina’s coastal plains. Live oaks with Spanish moss and Palmetto trees complete the landscape.

That journey, says garden director Patrick McMillan, “makes us unique among all gardens.” In the climate of the Upstate, he says, “we can grow anything grown in any region of the state.” And the Natural Heritage Garden Trail illustrates that point.
It also illustrates a strong connection between people and the land, a living laboratory that teaches the lesson that the world never forgets the choices we make. “We’re trying to connect people with the environment,” says McMillan. “We depend on nature, but what’s out there is shaped by our choices.”

  • With pitcher plants and venus flytraps, along with butterworts and bladderworts, a large display of carnivorous plants will interest visitors of all ages. The area features walls built using tabby construction.

One of the newest features of the garden is the Southwestern Collection near the geology museum which, according to McMillan, is the largest collection of desert plants on the east coast. The more-than-130 species of cacti as well as large agave plants, lilies and more may be native to Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico, but they are also potentially great bedding plants in South Carolina, says McMillan. Some of these plants, he says, “will become staples in our yards. They flower all year, but don’t need to be watered.”

  • The garden hosts a variety of events for all ages, including summer campus for children, woodland wildflower walks with the garden naturalist and a variety of seasonal hands-on activities. This group is learning 19th-century washing skills.

Rebecca Smith led a songwriting workshop at the Garden Creativity camp for children at the botanical garden this summer. She split the group into a younger group and an older group, and in about 30 minutes, they wrote a song about what they hear in nature. Take a few minutes and listen!

The botanical garden is the largest laboratory on campus with more than 70 classes and over 7,200 students using the botanical garden each year. More than a hundred classes for adults and children range from garden-to-table cooking to fossil preparation, and many of those are free. Summer camps offer kids the opportunity to travel back in time to the 19th century or go on a great green adventure. The amphitheater is home to a free concert series in the spring and the fall, and plant sales provide income for the garden and allow visitors to share in the beauty of its plants.

  • The Heritage Gardens are dedicated to honoring the history of Clemson University and the state of South Carolina. Learn what life was like as a cadet in Clemson’s early years, visit the red caboose and enjoy a free concert in the amphitheater.

This is only a sampling of what can be found within the 295 acres of the South Carolina Botanical Gardens with its 10,000-plus species of plants, situated on the edge of the Clemson campus. Over the last several months, our photographers captured images of its beauty and diversity. Enjoy the images below and  learn more about the garden.

But don’t pass up the chance to wander these paths yourself when you’re back in town to visit campus. Bring a picnic or just your curiosity. You won’t be disappointed.

Plan a visit to the South Carolina Botanical Garden!

Plan a visit today. Be aware that the main entrance to the garden is closed as of August 1, to make way for construction of a new entrance. Enter, instead, through the Caboose Parking Lot.
Before you go, take time to download the Discover SCBG app on your iPhone or Android. This app lets you discover the different plants and locations in the South Carolina Botanical Garden. Just walk around the garden and an alert will ask if you wish to see the plants in the garden closest to you. Alternatively click on the description above any clicked pin to see its plant listing.
A few things to remember:
• GPS is required to get local garden notifications and see your location.
• Internet is required to see the map itself and get the latest message from the SCBG.
• To search for plants by common or Latin names, use the search tab.
• To view the last garden you entered use the garden tab.
You will see QR signs throughout the garden with DISCOVER SCBG App on them. This is our new Garden database of plants and their locations throughout the garden. Please use the links below to locate the downloadable app or type discover South Carolina Botanical Garden in the searchbox.

SCBG cactus flower Garden database of plants & location - Discover SCBG mobile app