The City Magazine Since 1975

Petal Pushers

March 2018
Petal Pushers

The Garden Club of Charleston has tended historical gardens and hosted tours for nearly a century

(Left) Since 1941, The Garden Club has maintained the formal gardens at the Heyward-Washington House, owned by The Charleston Museum. (Right) The House and Garden Tour invites visitors into homes on March 23 and 24.

The green thumbs behind The Garden Club of Charleston are rather like the beds they tend: They possess deep roots, boast a well-executed design, and constantly experience new growth. Established in 1922 with an aim to further gardening in the city, the nonprofit now boasts some 400 members, making it one of the oldest and largest organizations of its kind in the country.

“We support and maintain seven gardens on the peninsula, as well as one at Charles Towne Landing,” explains president Rue Lucas. The club keeps green spaces at The Charleston Museum, the Confederate Home, and the Legare Waring House, as well as the Philip Simmons gardens and a healing garden at MUSC, blooming year-round. They’ve planted, weeded, and pruned the beds of the Joseph Manigault and Heyward-Washington houses since the 1940s. And for nearly 90 years, since then-club president Clelia Peronneau McGowan established the Gateway Walk, this flower guild has nurtured that urban garden path, which meanders through cemeteries, courtyards, and church grounds from St. John’s Lutheran at Archdale Street to Philadelphia Alley, behind St. Philip’s Episcopal.

While the organization is grounded in tradition, it also thrives on modern merits. In addition to regular meetings, 36 committees work throughout the year to carry out club business. One leads a monthly respite program for seniors with Alzheimer’s, another operates a junior garden club for home-schooled girls, and yet another arranges a memorial Arbor Day celebration. “We also sponsor scholarships to a week-long nature camp for high-schoolers called ‘Camp Wildwood,’ as well as a student in Trident Tech’s horticulture program,” explains Lucas.

This month heralds The Garden Club’s most fruitful season, highlighted by the annual House and Garden Tour, which raises funds for community projects. On March 23 and 24, participants wend their way through more than a half-dozen private South of Broad homes, looking to docents for details of each location’s history and for help identifying plant material in flower arrangements (created by club members, of course) and gardens. Now in its 83rd year, the tour kicks off for the first time with a Thursday-night preview party and silent auction ($45) at Hibernian Hall.

Tour Guide: The House and Garden Tour is Friday, March 23, and Saturday, March 24, from 1 to 5 p.m. Find details and buy tickets ($50) at thegardenclubofcharleston.org.

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Photographs courtesy of (top) The Garden Club of Charleston & (bottom) The Charleston Museum