Gardens speak across generations: their beauty persists beyond the individual bloom of each flower, beyond the showy seasons and the dormant ones, beyond the gardening styles that change through the ages. They are islands of cultivated beauty, attracting us to marvel at their sensory delights just as the blossoms attract bees and butterflies.
Today being Mother’s Day, and me being several hundred miles away from Mom, I decided we needed to revisit my childhood memories of somewhere both Mom and I loved. Edisto Memorial Gardens have been the pride of Orangeburg, South Carolina, for more than a few generations. Set along the floodplain of the longest blackwater river in America, the Edisto, this beauty spot under the ancient cypress was first preserved to honor a Confederate victory on the site in 1865.
In the 1920s, the first superintendent of parks for Orangeburg planted the first azaleas under the cypresses. But it’s the colorful rose garden, visible from US 301, that draws so many visitors. It was started in 1951, and has 79 beds of roses today.
The year is lost to me. But I was very young and very thrilled to have my first camera in hand, a Kodak Brownie. On our vacation route to Florida, we stopped at Edisto Gardens, and I took my first-ever photos. Especially of the beautiful, colorful, fragrant roses. But after the trip, after the photos were developed, I got a shock. They were in black and white! They didn’t capture the glory of what we saw.
As US 301 was our usual road trip route, we stopped there many times over the years, and eventually I got those color photos. I remember walking my dog, Tippy, along the levee next to the river when we were making the final journey to move to Florida.
Revisiting the gardens today, it was a delight to see dozens of families simply walking and enjoying, especially in the rose gardens. The blood-red Edisto roses are just one of many cultivars found in the extensive rose beds.
New since my last visit in the mid-90s, the Horne Wetlands Park adds a half-mile boardwalk (a mile round-trip) winding through a dense forest of cypress, tupelo, red maple, and oak along the river’s edge.
Wandering the rose garden, collecting a virtual bouquet of roses to share with Mom online, I saw families making their own family portraits in the garden as a Mothers’ Day tradition. The pride that Orangeburg has in this garden is unmistakable – the signs leading into the city proclaim “Welcome to Orangeburg, home of Edisto Memorial Gardens.” And with such pride, this oasis of beauty will delight generations to come.