October 2007: Magnolia Plantation & Gardens


Charleston, South Carolina

For Thomas Drayton and his son, Thomas, Jr., in 1675 it was Barbados or bust. They boarded the ship Willing Wind and left England only to arrive in what had become the most densely populated colony in the British empire. With all the choice land for a sugar plantation already snapped up the Draytons turned their attention to the new Carolina Colony. Soon after arriving on the Ashley River young Drayton married Ann Fox and inherited the Magnolia Plantation in 1680. The young couple set about building a plantation house and at the same time planted America's first estate garden, Flowerdale. Through the Revolution and the Civil War and the end of the age of the gentleman planter the estate was ravaged but the gardens survived intact. In the 1870s, Magnolia Gardens opened to the visitors as one of the country's oldest public gardens.Today the estate remains in the hands of the Drayton family and Flowerdale looks much as it did 300-plus years ago.

You wouldn't expect to find a formal garden as a Park of the Month to hike with your dog. But how dog-friendly is Magnolia Plantation? Not only are dogs allowed to walk the grounds but they can ride the tour trams and even go in the plantation house (if you carry the dog). And it is quite a treat - you are not likely to have a canine hike like this anywhere else. The prescribed path through the maze of walking paths stops at two dozen points of interest, crosses graceful bridges, looks in on 250 varieties of azaleas, skips through quiet stands of towering bamboo and wanders by 900 types of camellias. More hiking with your dog is available through the 60-acre blackwater cypress and tupelo swamp. Plus there are nature trails on the property. 

The Drayton Oak, just off of Bridge Square and not too far from the site of the original Plantation House, was planted around 1680 by Thomas Drayton, Jr. at the time he and his wife Anne settled at Magnolia. If your dog acts strangely at this magnificent live oak it may be because he senses the ghost of Magnolia's recently deceased owner, J. Drayton Hastie, Sr. When he died in December of 2002, his grandson and successor did place his ashes in the tree, and Thomas Drayton's beautiful oak became home to one of Magnolia's newest ghosts.

On Ashley River Road (SC 61). From US 17 go west for ten miles.