Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina

Stuart Forster travels to the USA and photographs at Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina.

Brookgreen Gardens is located near Murrells Inlet in South Carolina. The 9,127-acre property hosts a botanical garden in which a vast collection of sculptures is displayed.

Disclosure: Stuart Forster, the author of this article, visited as a guest of Brookgreen Gardens.

'Call of the Bison' by Herb Mignery at Brookgreen Gardens.

‘Call of the Bison’ by Herb Mignery (b 1937).

Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina

“We are the finest museum of American figurative sculpture in the world,” said Lauren Joseph, the Director of Marketing, as we met by the Welcome Center of Brookgreen Gardens.

Floral dispplays are also among the attractions at Brookgreen Gardens.

Floral displays are also among the attractions at Brookgreen Gardens.

Brookgreen Gardens for American sculptures

The collection encompasses more than 2,000 artworks by over 430 artists. It was started by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntingdon, who purchased property in the area in 1930 because of the latter’s tuberculosis and need to spend winter in a warm climate for the sake of her health. By mid-1931 they had established Brookgreen Gardens as place for the protection of the region’s flora and fauna.

'The Young Diana' by Anna Hyatt Huntington at Brookgreen Gardens.

‘The Young Diana’ by Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973).

Anna Hyatt Huntingdon was herself a renowned sculptor. She created Joan of Arc, the first monument by a woman to be displayed publicly in New York City (it can be seen in the Riverside Park on the city’s Upper East Side). The couple subsequently invested in artworks, expanding the collection and supporting artists during the Great Depression of the early 1930s.

Diana by Paul Manship at Brookgreen Gardens

‘Diana’ by Paul Manship (1885-1966).

The sculptures at Brookgreen Gardens are displayed outdoors as well as in the Rainey Sculpture Pavilion, Offner Sculpture Center and Brown Sculpture Court.

Joy by Karl Gruppe at Brookgreenn Gardens.

‘Joy’ by Karl Gruppe (1893-1982).

Spanish moss on live oaks

Spanish moss hangs from the sprawling boughs of live oak trees that reminded me of the landscape that forms a backdrop for scenes in the movie 12 Years a Slave. The trees are known as live oaks because they are evergreens, retaining their foliage during winter.

Live oak trees dripping Spanish moss on the Live Oak Allée at Brookgreen Gardens.

Live oak trees dripping Spanish moss on the Live Oak Allée at Brookgreen Gardens.

Willows and palmettos, the state tree of South Carolina, can also be seen in the gardens.

'Actaeon' by Paul Manship. This work is the companion to Manship’s 'Diana' sculpture.

‘Actaeon’ by Paul Manship. This work is the companion to Manship’s ‘Diana’ sculpture.

The gardens are located on the site of a former plantation that once used slave labour to plant and harvest rice. Prior to the Civil War of 1861 to 1865, Georgetown County, in which Brookgreen Gardens is located, had more rice plantations than anywhere else in North America.

'Pegasus' by Laura Gardin Fraser at Brookgreen Gardens.

‘Pegasus’ by Laura Gardin Fraser (1889-1966).

Brookgreen Gardens’ Live Oak Allée is formed by gnarled-looking trees with drooping branches. The trees are approximately 250 years old. They once formed a form of arboreal guard of honour lining the way towards the original plantation house, which has long since burnt to the ground.

'Riders of the Dawn' by Adolph Alexander Weinman (1870-1952).

‘Riders of the Dawn’ by Adolph Alexander Weinman (1870-1952).

In movies plantation houses are often depicted as grand mansions with vast verandas. That may be true of the houses elsewhere in the United States of America but I was informed that in South Carolina most of the buildings on plantations were rarely grander than a comfortable two-storey homes with a porch.

Another view of 'Riders of the Dawn' by Adolph Alexander Weinman (1870-1952).

Another view of ‘Riders of the Dawn’ by Adolph Alexander Weinman (1870-1952).

One of the former owners of the land on which Brookgreen Gardens now stands was Joseph Alston, a state governor of South Carolina. He married Theodosia, the daughter of Aaron Burr, the third Vice President of the United States and the man who shot Alexander Hamilton during a duel.

'Diana' by Augustus Saint-Gaudens at Brookgreen Gardens.

‘Diana’ by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907).

Footpaths lead between the various gardens and their sculptures, along Live Oak Allée, between pools and fountains, and around a butterfly-shaped garden. If you are interested in art and nature allow at least half a day to explore Brookgreen Gardens.

'Dionysus' by Edward McCartan (1879-1947).

‘Dionysus’ by Edward McCartan (1879-1947).

Further information

See the Brookgreen Gardens website for more information about the expansive property, which is located in the part of South Carolina that’s known as the Hammock Coast. The website has information relating to opening times and ticket prices.

Flowers blooming in Brookgreen Gardens.

Flowers blooming in Brookgreen Gardens.

The sculpture garden is just one aspect of Brookgreen Gardens. It also hosts a zoo with creatures native to the South Carolina’s Lowcountry, the region encompassing state’s four most southerly counties. The Lowcountry Trail, accessed along a boardwalk, is a way of exploring the history of the people who were once enslaved on the plantation.

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  1. John Fox 7th May 2019 at 7:15 am #

    Inspirational photography! The sculpture garden is something I’m adding to my itinerary.

  2. Daniela Perkins 25th July 2019 at 9:18 pm #

    The photographs of Brookgreen Gardens are stunning. Its now on my travel bucket list.

    • Stuart Forster 29th July 2019 at 12:53 pm #

      That’s great news. Thanks for your positive feedback.

  3. Vintage House Restaurant 1st August 2019 at 2:17 pm #

    I’ll Digg this and personally recommend to my friends.

  4. Sophie Jackson 23rd September 2019 at 1:23 am #

    Just Googled the gardens and viewed your photography. Brookgreen in now on our list of places to visit on our Carolinas road trip.

    • Stuart Forster 7th October 2019 at 12:06 pm #

      It’s lovely to read that comment. Thank you!

  5. Arnold Wall 14th October 2019 at 9:56 am #

    The combination of flowers and art appeals to me.

  6. Keith Hall 8th November 2019 at 5:14 am #

    This looks a really interesting place to visit. The combo of art and flowers really appeals to me.

    • Stuart Forster 10th November 2019 at 12:53 pm #

      I’m pleased to read that you like Brookgreen Gardens. Their quietude was also a factor in why I enjoyed visiting.

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