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Garden of Romance

"Garden of Romance"

Winners announced in Magnolia Gardens poetry contest

Two Summerville residents won the top prizes in Magnolia Plantation and Gardens' poetry contest, "Sharing the Romance."

In the adult competition, Pam Stuart won $500 for her poem "O! Magnolia." In the youth competition, Rachael Laemers, a 15-year-old student at Summerville High School, won an iPad for her poem, "The Garden of Love."

Judges selected poems that best emulated the sensibility of romantic poets and described Magnolia as an idyllic "garden of romance." Magnolia is America's last large-scale romantic-style garden.

Nearly 200 poems were submitted from poets across the country.

When Tom Johnson, Magnolia's executive director, guides visitors on walks through the gardens, he emphasizes the romantic style of gardening sets Magnolia apart from other gardens. "Unlike most of America's gardens, which are formal and seek to control nature, Magnolia cooperates with nature to create a tranquil landscape like Eden where humanity and nature are in harmony," Johnson said.

Other winners in the adult competition, their poems and prizes are:

• Susan Laughter Meyers, Summerville, "Morning Meditation," second place, $300
• Warren Slesinger, Beaufort, "White Blossoms," third place, $200
• Frances J. Pearce, Mount Pleasant, "Magnolia-on-the-Ashley," honorable mention, $50
• Liz Rose Dolan, Rehoboth Beach, Del., "Even If It Rains, I Will Wait in the Garden," honorable mention, $50
• Davi Walders, Chevy Chase, Md., "May Light," honorable mention, $50

Youth division winners are:

• Danielle Drew, Goose Creek, "The Garden of Love," second place, $200
• Selena Halabi, Ladson, "The Garden and I," third place, $100
• Morgan Venters, Summerville, "A Walk at Magnolia," by honorable mention, annual membership
• Sarah Anne Welsh, Summerville, "The Garden," honorable mention, annual membership
• Erin J. Littlejohn, Mount Pleasant, "In this Garden," honorable mention, annual membership

Marjory Wentworth, South Carolina poet laureate, and Dr. Jacquelyn Markham, an award-winning poet, judged the poems in the adult division. Entries in the youth division were judged by Donna Adams, reference and young adult librarian, Otranto Road Regional Library in North Charleston, and Willette Wilkins, creative writing teacher, North Charleston Cultural Arts Department.


Adult Division, Garden of Romance Poetry Competition

"O! Magnolia"
By Pam Stuart
First Place

Many gardens have I seen, and sat,
Scarcely breathing, enveloped in that
Heady daze of sensibilities of every kind
But in none of these did I find
Such flowing peace that sets apart
As that from Reverend Drayton's heart.
The dark smooth waters of the pool
Reflect, invite, are quiet, cool
The Florida moss hangs low, and's blown
In a slow graceful rhythm all its own.
And O! the riotous blooms on every side -
A feast for every happy eye.
The gentle paths, o'erhung with ancient leafy shade,
Do not disturb, but seem made
Long ago by faery citizens of this quiet place
Who revered Nature's form and grace
And let her spill her beauty
As she pleased. And so now we,
With thanks, wind down these lovely ways,
And forget the busyness that crowds our days.
And trade it for such bliss –
As this.


"Morning Meditation"
By Susan Laughter Meyers
Second Place

I sit by the water and think, on Monday,
how seven morning bells may chime for me–
six faint tolls and one that says
my name in pleasing syllable, or nearly
what I answer to. In the tallest pine
a cardinal, its familiar song
of notes I've memorized through time:
metallic hymn enchanting me along
a swath of ferns and lilies, the sleeping owl.
On any given day I fall in love
with peacock cries and cirrus clouds,
magnolia leaves, bright feet of mourning doves.
Of all the season's psalms to thrill upon,
nature's bell–so greenly!–calls me home.


"White Blossoms"
By Warren Slesinger
Third Place

They overhang
the roadside in the dogwood's dark,
the reddish branches that separate and stretch
ahead of us, the sense of them suspended
like a breath

(the noise
and the noiselessness of motion:
the windshield wipers catch and click
the beads of water like minutes on a clock)

the sense of them
suspended like a breath, the moment
when the branches bend with them as white
and wet as we expect

the space
beneath us splashed when the centerlines
appear and reappear behind the tripped
mechanic motion)

as white and wet
as we expect, the petals ripped and splattered
in the dogwood's dark while the wind

that snatched the blossoms
from the branches whirls around us;
the road so wet, it shines in the darkness.


By Frances J. Pearce
Honorable mention

A vermilion bridge from Japan.
Our names carved on bamboo.
Alligators written into the plan.
Hanging moss gives a clue.

We hear a rustle of palmettos,
stroll near the River Ashley,
shelter in charming gazebos,
wander garden rooms to see

ruffled camellia japonica petals.
We pronounce our selves in love,
contemplate endless hypotheticals.
Here: iris, dogwood, foxglove.

We return again and again.
Peacock, peahen.


"Even If It Rains, I Will Wait in the Garden"
By Liz Rose Dolan
Honorable mention

Come back. I will listen.
so we can begin again. We will

bleach the mildew off the shady side of the barn
wear white gloves

plant lobelia and creamy calla lilies
sweet corn, egg plant, winter squash.

Next to the plot of cornflowers
where a bee colony buzzes about its enclave,

we will sing the old songs
around a brilliant fire. So distracted am I

by your absence, I have scorched
the roof of my mouth.

Send a letter written in blue-black ink on linen sheets.
Wherever you are I need to know

you are faring well, you are whole.
I need to see your sweeping C's and unclosed o's.

I need to press the oil of your skin.


"May Light"
By Davi Walders
Honorable mention

A suddenflush, pink-petaled,
Lush as peonies spilling from
A woman's arms. Light lingering
Along a path, warming earth,
Birch, thrush, and fern,
Fuller than April's thin tapers,
Softer than June's stalky shafts.

Wild, haughty light of heather
Breaking ground, hawthorn
Bursting under wood. A queen's
imperious light, trumpeting
each golden iris, tossing
diamonds on the lake,
crowning the dogwood white

or a daughter's light, blushing,
laughing, teasing, a halo
hovering before spiraling
into summer haze. May’s
elixir-alchemizing the air,
unveiling the eye. We drink
it in, begin to see again.


Student Division

"The Garden of Love"
By Rachael Laemers
First place

Beautiful colors bloom within a whimsical garden
They travel within me, filled with love and a passion for romance

There is infinite passion in every heart and in every garden
Some are allowed to run free as love does within us

Vivid colors inspire me as I walk through the gardens
I experience the sense of life the beautiful violets let burst from within them

The beauty found within hearts is very different from the beauty found in nature,
But they both begin with a simple seed, creating life within a person


"The Garden of Love"
By Danielle Drew
Second place

Serene are the gardens I see,
That flow to and fro, and are free;
Free to soothe my aching soul
And fill with love the empty hole.

This piece of heaven that I now view
Has expressed its wonder, never to few,
But all who come, the weak, the strong,
Immediately feel as if they belong.

The sunny breezes stir my soul,
The camellia's scent has made me whole;
For the perfect chord has struck my heart,
And now we shall never be apart.


"The Garden and I"
By Selena Halabi
Third place

The gravel path has lined a way,
To a happy, brighter day.
I was troubled when I came,
But here, nothing is the same.
Here, I find my mind at rest,
By watching Nature at its best.
My worry has now come apart,
Freedom settles in my heart.
Flowers bloom in gleaming light,
Shady trees are of great height.
To my right, I see a brook,
To my left, a cozy nook.
An act of magic, this all seems,
Bucolic visions, mystic dreams.
This garden is a fantasy,
A fantasy made just for me.
Forgotten is my Yesterday,
I now see things in a new way.
Birds are chirping, darting by,
My life sees the garden and I.


"In this Garden"
By Erin J. Littlejohn
Honorable mention

In this garden of romance
Is the bridge between love, happiness, and joy
A place where two worlds meet

In this garden of life
Is a world like no other
A world where everything is more alive

In this garden of nature
Is a path to another dimension
An oasis full of the rich, teeming essence of life

In this garden of hope
Are people who care
People who believe in themselves as well as others

In this garden of romance and life
In this garden of nature and hope
Is the very heart, the very soul, of love


"A Walk at Magnolia"
By Morgan Venters
Honorable mention

When I think of a day with you, I picture us at
Magnolia, walking beneath the oaks.
Walking past the beautiful flowers and looking into
your eyes and feeling at peace.
To be with you, in the heart of the South at
Magnolia, things are perfect.
The smells, the scenery and the beauty just make
things with you even better.
When I think of a day with you, you're by my
side, walking through Magnolia.


"The Garden"
By Sarah Anne Welsh
Honorable mention

The garden is where I find you
In it I feel at ease, amidst all of the noise
The stillness of the water, the bursts of all the color,
They are all reflections of your beauty
The clouds sit freely in the sky, hiding the mysteries above
The shade protecting over the garden
Nothing compares to the comfort of your presence,
And the garden radiates the same vulnerability
While taking a stroll though the garden, I find rest
That familiar tranquility that makes me reminisce of you
The sunshine pervades sweetly down on my cheeks
The warmth that makes me feel at home
The birds sing their songs for you
And the water, so inviting, and so at peace,
It reminds me of your graceful heart
The flowers, so delicate in their antiquity,
They speak of joy and triumph
But who could forget, the father of the gardens
The Grand Magnolia tree
With its roots holding onto the heart of Magnolia