I had driven by Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina probably 100 times, but it wasn’t until recently that I stopped to visit. Why? Maybe because I wasn’t sure what lie inside the gates behind the huge silver horse statue out front.
Little did I know that the priceless Fighting Stallions sculpture at the entrance was created by garden’s founder, Anna Hyatt Huntington, a local artist and philanthropist. Anna oversaw the beauty and creativity inside Brookgreen Gardens and left the masterpiece for us all to enjoy.
Who was Anna Hyatt Huntington?
Anna Hyatt Huntington was the brainchild behind the 9,100-acre amazing sculpture garden and wildlife preserve known as Brookgreen Gardens. The grounds were formerly rice plantations and are now majestic, picture perfect manicured gardens that look like they are straight from a book. Anna and her husband, Archer, found that this would be the perfect place for she and her sister Harriett Hyatt Mayor to display their works. Other American sculptors were soon added.
Brookgreen Gardens opened on South Carolina’s Hammock Coast in 1932, making it the first public sculpture garden in the country. It also has the largest collection of figurative sculpture (by American artists) in an outdoor setting in the world. Whew, that is a mouthful!
Hint: You can take a boat ride to see the rice plantations while at the gardens.
What to See at Brookgreen Gardens
The biggest draw at Brookgreen Gardens are the American figurative sculptures, while the Lowcountry Zoo, another offering at Brookgreen, is a close runner up. Besides Anna Hyatt Huntington and her sister, Edward Frances McCartan, Gutzon Borglum, and the Piccirilli Brothers also have pieces on display, amongst others.
A few pieces that intrigued me were Diana (fountain) by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Dionysus by Edward Francis McCartan, and the Fountain of the Muses by Carl Milles.
Brookgreen Gardens Property Features
In total, around 1500 sculptures are displayed at Brookgreen Gardens. One day may not be enough time to see the amazing works showcased here. We toured for a few hours and only saw a small portion of them. A fun fact is that part of Brookgreen Gardens is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and another part (the sculpture garden) became a National Historic Landmark in 1984.
Besides the beautiful sculptures, there are also magnificent trees and flowers. In fact, something is always in bloom on the property. From zinnias, begonias, and snapdragon, to bachelor buttons, hydrangea, and azaleas, you are in for a visual delight.
Photographers will swoon over the photo opportunities found at Brookgreen Gardens. You’ll stroll through 250-year-old live oaks with moss hanging beneath them, the perfect backdrop for that new profile picture. Then take in the roses and perennials in the Brenda W. Rosen Carolina Terrace Garden. Pay special attention to the serpentine lattice brick walls, Moorish in style.
Children are more than welcome at Brookgreen Gardens. They have their own garden to enjoy, as well as special activities throughout the year.
Learn more about South Carolina’s Lowcountry on the audio tour, emphasizing the historic preservation of this unique area, free with garden admission. The 30-minute fictional story about the plantation takes you by the rice-field overlook trail.
The Gullah Culture: A Special Offering
The Gullah Geechee is a living culture of direct descendants of West African slaves brought into the US in the 1700s to work the rice, cotton, and indigo fields along the Georgia and South Carolina seaboard. Hundreds of years later, they still continue to teach the traditions of their ancestors and have a strong-knit family unit. The cultural corridor of the Gullah culture runs from Wilmington, NC to St. Augustine, FL.
Brookgreen Gardens is fortunate to have Ron Daise sharing the Gullah culture of his people through special programs offered at the gardens. I was privy to a little insight of the culture as we sang songs and learned about what makes the people of Gullah special. It was a history lesson at its finest and I won’t spoil it for you, but it does involve spiritual songs, benne cookies, rice dishes, and having respect for elders.
I will say that my daughters watched a show called “Let’s all Go to Gullah, Gullah Island in the mid 1990s, which his family were the stars of. I recognized the enthusiasm in his voice right away.
Why You Should Visit Brookgreen Gardens
A visit to Brookgreen Gardens is a wonderful way to see impressive artwork, admire lovely flowers and trees, be at peace with nature, and get some exercise in a gorgeous setting. No matter what reason you choose, you are sure to have an enjoyable time. I’m so glad that I finally experienced the magic of these gardens and hope you will, too.
Brookgreen Gardens is open daily from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM. Tickets are $18 for adults ($16 for those over 65) and $10 for children ages four to twelve. Three and under is free. There is public WiFi available.
Brookgreen Gardens Photo Gallery
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Thanks to Brookgreen Gardens for hosting our half day FAM trip during the Travel South Conference. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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