Magnolia Plantation








Brooke Swetenburg (left),
and Kendall Tolan (right)

Magnolia Gardens names new events team

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens has promoted Brooke Swetenburg from events sales assistant to events sales and marketing manager in charge of the office that coordinates corporate and social events and weddings.

Swetenburg joined Magnolia in May 2018 from the College of Charleston where she was a sports marketing intern. Before she joined Magnolia, she was a promotions and fan engagement intern with the Charleston Riverdogs. A 2018 graduate of the College of Charleston, Swetenburg majored in communications with a minor in marketing.

Magnolia also has named Kendall Tolan, a 2018 graduate of Clemson University, as events sales assistant. Tolan majored in travel and tourism management. Before joining Magnolia, Tolan was the manager on duty at Charlestowne Landing. While at Clemson, she was an exchange student at Leeds Beckett University in England.



Sid Evans, Southern Living


Sid Evans, editor and chief of Southern Living magazine, moves into position for a video that features Magnolia as one of the magazine's favorite locations in Charleston. The magazine is owned by Meredith Publications, which prints a stable of name brand publications, including Time and Sports Illustrated. While at Magnolia, Evans interviewed Winslow Hastie, a member of Magnolia's board of directors, and Tom Johnson, Magnolia's executive director. Magnolia, America's oldest garden, is honored to be the only Charleston garden selected. Follow this link, to watch the video:




Thank You

Thanks to the generosity of our annual members and guests we’ve so far delivered nearly 9.5 tons of non-perishable food to the Lowcountry Food Bank. We collected the food during our Annual Holiday Food Drive from Nov. 1, 2018, to Jan. 31. This is the most food we've collected since the food drive was launched six years ago.

We ended that first campaign with 1.5 tons, an amount that prompted us to push the goal higher for the next holiday. With each passing holiday we aspired to collect more food because you keep responding with more and more food. Our mission is to help the food bank in its mission to end hunger in coastal South Carolina.

Alexis Barbalace, the food bank's marketing manager, said the food we’ve donated this holiday will provide meals for more than 14,000 children, seniors and families.

So, 10.5 tons will be our goal for the 2019 holiday season! Watch our website and Facebook page to see how you can help a needy family in exchange for a reduced admission to America’s oldest garden.


Sarah Bennett SmithSarah Bennett Smith

Sara Bennett Smith, the last surviving granddaughter of Adam Bennett, who was the superintendent of Magnolia's gardens before and after Emancipation, passed away Jan. 4, 2019. She was 96.

Mrs. Smith was born at Magnolia on May 2, 1922, to the late Ezekiel and Lula Davis Bennett. Her grandparents, Adam and Hannah Bennett, were enslaved at Magnolia and continued to work and live on the property after the Civil War.

In various accounts about Magnolia, Adam Bennett walked from Magnolia to Flat Rock, N.C., during the war to the summer home of the Rev. John Grimké Drayton, Magnolia's owner at the time. Adam Bennett went there to tell the Rev. Drayton about events at Magnolia during the war.

Mrs. Smith, according to her family, shared with her family the stories she heard of her grandfather being strung up to a tree at Magnolia and being beaten by Union soldiers during their "infiltration" of Magnolia. Mrs. Smiths loyalty to her family and friends are mirrored through grandfather's loyalty to Rev. Drayton, her family said.

Mrs. Smith's funeral was held at Old Ashley Baptist Church on Johns Island. She's buried in Olive Branch Baptist Church Cemetery near Magnolia.


Magnolia Gardens placing exhibit at nation's capitol

The U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., has selected Magnolia Plantation and Gardens as one of only 30 gardens to install temporary exhibits at the nation's capitol in 2019 when the country celebrates public gardens.

Magnolia's unique design as the last large-scale Romantic-style garden in the country fits with the Botanic Garden's mission to create an array of displays that represent a diversity of gardens, said Botanic Garden spokesman Devin Dotson. The Botanic Garden is adjacent to the U.S. Capitol Building.

Arlington, Va., garden designer Jeff Minnich was selected to design Magnolia's entry. "I am delighted that Magnolia was chosen to participate in the 2019 Summer Exhibits at the U.S. Botanic Garden," he said. "It's my honor and pleasure to assist with the design and installation of the display."

Botanic Garden

Magnolia's executive director Tom Johnson said, "To be honored by one of the nation's most prestigious gardens is truly a plus for Charleston, the state of South Carolina and the Drayton family that has been stewards of this land for more than 300 years. With Jeff's expertise, we will design and install a display that reflects the beauty of Magnolia that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors annually through our gates."

The garden displays will be exhibited outside the Botanic Garden from May to October. Gardens were invited to present proposals for exhibits to coincide with the American Public Garden Association's conference that will be held in Washington from June 17-21, 2019. "Thrive Together, Diversity Grows Gardens" is the conference theme. Magnolia's exhibit will reflect diversity in culture and nature.

The exhibit will be a small-scale model of Magnolia's iconic Long White Bridge across a small blackwater pond with metal herons and a metal alligator to represent some of the fauna in the gardens. Signage will explain Magnolia and its romantic gardens and the influences of Native American and African cultures.


Magnolia expands its marketing team to tell a national story

Herb Frazier, marketing and public relations manager at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, has been promoted to public relations director as part of the garden's push to spread its message nationwide.

Herb FrazierHerb Frazier
Kirk BrownKirk Brown

To assist in that effort, Magnolia has named Kirk Brown to the newly created position of outreach coordinator. Brown is the immediate past president of the Garden Writers Association and president of the Garden Writers Foundation.

Magnolia's executive director Tom Johnson said, "Teaming Herb, an accomplished journalist, who knows the depths of Magnolia's story, with Kirk, a leading voice in the landscape and horticulture industry in the United States and Canada, is a winning combination."

Frazier said, "I am humbled by this opportunity to tell Magnolia's unique story as America's oldest garden to a wider audience with Kirk Brown. His connections with the green industry will certainly help Magnolia reach audiences unfamiliar with the garden's horticultural legacy."

Before Frazier joined Magnolia in November 2010, he edited and reported for five daily newspapers in the South, including his hometown paper, The Post and Courier. In 1990, the South Carolina Press Association named him Journalist of the Year. He has taught news writing as a visiting lecturer at Rhodes University in South Africa. He is a former Michigan Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan.

After leaving daily journalism in 2006, Frazier led journalism workshops in Africa and South America for the U.S. government and a Washington-based journalism foundation. He is the author of "Behind God's Back: Gullah Memories." He is a co-author of "We Are Charleston: Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel." He also represents South Carolina on the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission.

Brown said he fell in love with Magnolia and its color on his first visit 40 years ago. He was drawn to the gardens through Magnolia's collection of paintings by artist and naturalist Mark Catesby, who painted the wildlife and flora in South Carolina in the early 18th century. "You can see it, experience it and feel the depth of Catesby's love of the southern counties," Brown said. "His color is so extravagant that it gave me a reason to seriously love Magnolia."

Brown, a resident of Allentown, Pa., has traveled the country as a character performer, presenting portrayals of John Bartram, America's master gardener, and Frederick Law Olmsted, the country's leading landscape architect. Brown has served on many committees for GWA, the American Nursery and Landscape Association and the Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association. He has lectured across the country on topics focusing on the issues of sustainability and liveable landscapes. He also teaches many of the certified classes for the National Garden Club's Landscape Design Schools. He has instructed amateurs and industry professionals in landscape design basics at Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, Pa.

Frazier said Brown will officially join Magnolia on Jan. 1. "But before then we have begun to identify conferences we can attend, stories we can share and others who can help us tell Magnolia’s story."



The hands of the enslaved maintained Magnolia's living canvas

By Herb Frazier

Magnolia Plantation's Gardens

When I focus the camera's lens then press the shutter I feel a tinge of nervous anticipation. I hope I've captured a beautiful moment in time at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens that will never occur again as long as time exists.

My eagerness to see the picture is mixed with reverence for the garden's beauty and the sacrifices of those who've shaped the landscape before me. My thoughts turn to the enslaved people who toiled in the soil generations ago. Black hands scuplted the land into an inspiring place for inspiring pictures.

This once-raw land along the Ashley River is a living canvas. On that wilderness the enslaved used crude tools to build dikes bordering a wildlife-laden swamp. They dug black-water ponds reflecting Magnolia's color. They planted today's mature azaleas, tall camellias, and aged oaks that arch over the entrance. Many of them are unknown. Others are still remembered at Magnolia.

That's their unintended gift to us, a scenic backdrop that draws photographers to America's oldest garden. The white owners got the credit. Then freedom came. A new generation of black hands in the soil followed with equal passion to care for Magnolia's living canvas.

Like the gardeners before them, today's African-American garden staff at Magnolia – people like Isaac Leach and his younger brother Teddy Leach – are more than just the muscle that drag off fallen trees. They understand plant science, the flow of river water for irrigation and the hidden places where fresh water springs from the earth.

They know it because they've witnessed the seasonal changes on this landscape where they've lived since birth. Four generations of Leaches have either lived or worked at Magnolia. Their father, the late Johnnie Leach, Magnolia's revered senior gardener, raised his family in one of the former slave cabins. Before that, Mr. Leach's father Willie Leach was a superintendent of the gardens in the early 1900s.

Isaac Leach likens himself to a painter who uses plants to produce a "picture-perfect" garden. Memory guides him as he maintains the landscape as it was in his childhood.

Teddy Leach says, "We grew up here. It is in our blood. We see trees today at Magnolia that our father planted when we were children," like the towering pines that partition the parking lot. If trees remind them of their father, the land is a reminder of those who worked the land in slavery to make something beautiful. "God created the land," Teddy explains. "The enslaved maintained it and added to this canvas."

But the plants on that canvas aren't always respected, Teddy laments. He becomes furious when he mentions people who pull unopened buds from plants. "Give it a chance to bloom," he demands. "Let it do its job!"

Like me, these protective gardeners wonder if Magnolia's visitors know who is truly responsible for what they see. That's a difficult story to tell sometimes because of the stain of slavery. For the Leaches and others who maintain this living canvas, however, they do so knowing they're carrying on the legacy of the men and women who came before them.

One of them who came before them – the Rev. Adam Bennett – was enslaved at Magnolia but rose to garden superintendent after Emancipation. Charleston resident Deborah Grace is Bennett's great-granddaughter.

"When I think of Magnolia, I liken it to the book of Genesis where the earth was void, then, out of nothing came something," says Grace, who like the Leaches also lived as a child at Magnolia. The land was shaped by people who were brought here not by choice, she says. "With bound hands and feet, they had only the freedom of mind to add beauty to this canvas."

Herb Frazier is Magnolia's public relations and marketing manager.


Romantic Garden Expert



A whimsical, educational garden for children grows in Magnolia's forest

Children's Garden Magnolia Plantation

Magnolia's volunteers and garden staff recently installed hydrangea in the children's garden. The plants were donated by Bailey Nurseries in Newport, Minn.

In the shadow of tall straight pines, work has begun at Magnolia to create a children's garden where young minds can explore nature in an enchanted world seen only through a child's imagination.

This garden for children will become a 20 acre-complex with a campground, outdoor classroom, miniature greenhouse and separate areas for butterflies, edible plants, ferns, wild flowers and a mystical place reserved for fairies.

Magnolia's history as a commercial nursery influenced Magnolia's executive director Tom Johnson's selection of the garden site. The first phase sits along Magnolia's entrance road. Eventually, the garden will spread deeper in the forest where the Nursery at Magnolia Gardens functioned from the mid-1940s to the late-1970s.

"The area of the nursery should be preserved and used again for the children's garden," Johnson said. "I envision it to be more than a place where children can run, have fun and explore the outdoors. My goal is to create a place where young minds can learn the value of environmental protection. Throughout the gardens will be lessons about plants, insects and birds to educate our youth about the order of the natural world."

Johnson wants to encourage children to be curious not only about what stimulates their senses but also to use their imaginations to see what adults cannot. This part of his vision has attracted Paul Haden. He has volunteered to design a fernery and a fairy garden, a miniature garden with tiny structures and plants.

Haden is the managing horticulturalist of Willow Oaks Country Club in Richmond, Va., and owner of the Fife Corner Orchard in Goochland County, Va. He has worked on fairy gardens in Maryland and Virginia. Haden recently spent several days and nights at Magnolia to evaluate the site. He will advise Magnolia on what seasonal plants to display in the fernery and fairy gardens. His selection will take into consideration what the local environment will be decades from now due to climate change.

The popularity of children’s gardens is spreading alongside the interest in locally grown herbs and vegetables. The success of a children’s garden, Haden continued, depends on the use of local history and lore to engage childhood fantasies. Doing so increases the chance of more opportunities for children to have fun while teaching them about the environment.

A fairy garden needs houses. Other horticulturalists from around the country plan to build houses for it. A local artist has created characters for the garden. Recently, Magnolia received a cash contribution and Bailey Nurseries in Newport, Minn., recently donated 100 hydrangea for the garden. Bailey has committed to donate more plants.

A children's garden has to be designed with fairies in mind, Haden explained. "If you don't have the right things for their physical and mental health they might disappear," he said. "If you are going to invite fairies into your garden you want them to have things that are good for their entertainment. They are amazed by the silly things humans do. They are like people. They don’t want to be bored."



Magnolia Gardens will benefit from $1 million Ducks Unlimited grant

Swamp Garden

Ducks Unlimited has received a $1 million federal grant to launch a habitat enhancement and restoration project at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. The goal is to improve the flow of water through the various impoundments and ponds on the 500-acre Magnolia property to raise the diversity of plants and animals.

Funding from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) will be combined with $2.2 million in matching funds from federal, non-profit, state and private sources, said James A. Rader, manager of conservation programs in Ducks Unlimited's South Atlantic Field Office in Charleston. The first phase of the two-year project will begin in the spring.

The project will enhance Magnolia's historic tidal rice field by restoring the function of the inland rice field complex, which includes the Audubon Swamp Garden, Rader said. "The improvements will enhance breeding habitat as well as foraging habitat for species closely associated with the rookery," he said. "The inland rice field project will also increase management capabilities by providing independent flooding, draining and circulation of each and increase connectivity between the inland and tidal systems."

Rader said, "The NAWCA proposal at Magnolia is a great opportunity for Ducks Unlimited to enhance habitat within the urban setting of Charleston. Similar work by Ducks Unlimited included enhancements at Drayton Hall and Bulow County Park in West Ashley."

Winslow Hastie is a member of the Drayton-Hastie family that has owned Magnolia since 1676. He said, "My family's stewardship of this land is well documented. We are looking forward to working with Ducks Unlimited to continue that legacy. We are excited about the potential this project holds to improve the wildlife habitat at Magnolia for the enjoyment of the people who visit our gardens and for the benefit of Lowcountry residents."

Before collaborating with Ducks Unlimited on the NAWCA grant, Magnolia began improvements to the wildlife habitat in the 60-acre Audubon Swamp Garden and the 100-acre water impoundment and wildlife refuge along the Ashley River. Magnolia's ecologist Stacy Turner manages this work. It involves clearing vegetation from the swamp garden, and in the impoundment burning cattails, a fast-growing plant, and introducing native plants.

The grant, Turner said, will hasten the work he's done so far. An engineering assessment next spring will identify the scope of work. Rainwater flowing on the Magnolia property fills the Ravenswood Pond. From there water travels to the swamp garden, then to the impoundment and finally to the Ashley River. Over time culverts that direct water under road beds and dikes have become clogged with vegetation and sediment. These blockages prevent proper management and have led to the degradation of habitat by allowing an overgrowth of vegetation. To solve this problem, Turner explained, small culverts will be replaced with larger ones and embankments will be enhanced.

Turner has plans to reclaim overgrown areas and continue adding native plants, including powdery alligator flag, an aquatic plant that attracts butterflies. Enhancing the flow and management capacity will increase sources of food to diversify the population of wading and migratory birds and waterfowl. When that happens river otters, mink and marsh rabbits will be lured back to the swamp, he added.

Although the grant will support the work for two years "there is never a stopping point when it comes to the ecology," Turner said. "When you finish one part of a project you can turn your head and see another area that needs improvements."

Landscape and environmental consultant Jeff Jackson, founder of Lowcountry Roots, said the land management project at Magnolia is "going to be a major undertaking that holds enormous potential to use native plants, not only for aesthetic purposes, but to attract wildlife to the area." Jackson said Magnolia's executive director Tom Johnson has asked him to work with the Native Plant Society to compile a "wish list" of native plants for Magnolia. Jackson estimates that as many as 70 species of native plants could be used to improve the habitat. Where to plant them, he added, will depend on the slope of the terrain and the moisture in the soil.

Johnson said, "The signing of this agreement is the culmination of months of planning. I am so excited that Magnolia will receive this support from Ducks Unlimited to enhance the wildlife not only at Magnolia but also in the surrounding area. This is certainly the largest project I've ever done in my career that will have wide-ranging impact for years to come."

Grant administration, engineering services and construction oversight will be managed by Ducks Unlimited, the world's largest non-profit waterfowl habitat conservation organization. In addition to the work at Magnolia, Ducks Unlimited will use the NAWCA grant to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enhance the Bluff Unit at the Santee National Wildlife Refuge.

A large component of a successful NAWCA grant proposal is bringing together matching funding from a diversity of partners, Rader said. In South Carolina, the South Carolina Conservation Bank has been an essential ingredient in Duck Unlimited's and other conservation partners' recipe for success, he said. The South Carolina Conservation Bank SCCB provided $653,000 in match for this particular effort.

Craig LeSchack, Ducks Unlimited's director of conservation programs, said, the SCCB "is an incredibly sound investment in conservation and land protection. Most of the restoration we do on public lands in South Carolina wouldn't be possible without the state and private match generated through bank projects. Because of the bank, Ducks Unlimited and its partners have secured more than $25 million from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act for conservation of South Carolina's wetlands since 2007. Other funding sources include Wetlands America Trust, a Ducks Unlimited land trust affiliate, Ducks Unlimited, USFWS and Magnolia."



An artist touches the heart by capturing the eyes

Sharon Turk, an artist and nature tram guide at Magnolia, recently brought tears to the eyes of a family that has a long history with the gardens on the Ashley River.

Johnnie LeachOn July 25, 2016, Johnnie Leach, Magnolia's senior gardener passed away at age 93. Mr. Leach lived with his family in one of the cabins that is currently part of the Slavery to Freedom program at Magnolia from the late 1940s until 1969. Mr. Leach, affectionately known as "Mr. Johnnie", later lived in a modern dwelling at Magnolia until the time of his passing.

The Leach family has been an important part of Magnolia since Mr. Leach's father Willie Leach was a garden superintendent here. Johnnie Leach's sons and a grandson continue their father's legacy of service to the gardens at Magnolia.

Mr. Leach's passing touched Sharon, whose own family has a connection with Magnolia. Her parents are Magnolia volunteers. "The Leaches lost their dad and that is heartbreaking, and my family has a history with their family," Sharon said. "The Leaches have been the kindest and warmest people."

Sharon used her talent of acrylic painting on canvas to express her feelings. "That is what I know how to do, paint a portrait" of Johnnie Leach. She wanted it to be a surprise. She asked Mr. Leach's grandson Jackson Leach, a Magnolia gardener, to quietly pass her a picture of his grandfather. That part of her plan was easy. Creating a portrait that she was happy with was not.

She rejected multiple versions of her work until she had an image that depicted Mr. Leach's kind eyes. "On the fourth painting, I finally felt I was getting there," Sharon said. "Then I showed it to Jackson, and he said I nailed it."

Sharon recently presented the painting to Mr. Leach's sons, Isaac and Teddy Leach, who saw through teary eyes Sharon's image of their father.

"Sharon got his eyes to a tee," Isaac said emphatically.

Teddy choked back tears. Sharon's portrait is so real "it was like he was right there with me. That's my dad. I miss him every day."



Plants Now Available For Sale at Magnolia Plantation & Gardens

Gilliard Garden Center Magnolia PlantationThe Gilliard Garden Center offers a variety of specialty and seasonal plants, including heirloom and hybrid flowering plants, herbs and shrubs for your landscaping needs. The garden center is located adjacent to the Magnolia Plantation & Gardens ticket booth and does not require garden admission. Visit the garden center to take home a piece of America's oldest romantic style gardens.

Hours of operation are 10 am – 2:30 pm Monday – Friday and 9 am – 4 pm on Saturday & Sunday.

Magnolia dedicated the Gilliard Garden Center to honor Tena Lena Gilliard who was a greeter and revered employee at Magnolia during the turn of the 20th century. Gilliard once lived in the cabin that is now the garden center that bears her name. It is the second action Magnolia has taken to recognize Gilliard. In 1942 Magnolia registered the Tena Gilliard Camellia with the International Camellia Register.



Long White BridgeNew Summerville Marketing Program Takes Flight

The Town of Summerville, South Carolina, has launched a new marketing campaign and Magnolia, America's oldest garden, is the only local garden that city officials tout as a place to see when visiting the Flower Town in the Pines. "Historic Magnolia Plantation consists of lush gardens through which flora and fauna-inclined visitors can meander. The fall season brings with it fresh mirabilis, roses, lycoris, crape myrtle, Mexican petunia and more plant life." CLICK HERE to view the full press release.



Swamp Garden gets new naturalist for improved maintenance

Stacy Turner
Stacy Turner

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens has embarked on a multi-year environmental project to re-establish and diversify native plants varieties and rejuvenate the wildlife habitat in the 60-acre Audubon Swamp Garden.

As part of the effort, Stacy Turner has been named to a new position – Audubon Swamp Garden naturalist. The swamp is named for naturalist John James Audubon, who was a friend of the Drayton family that has owned Magnolia since the late 1670s.

A similar ecological project is underway at Magnolia's 120-acre impoundment and wildlife refuge along the Ashley River. The three-year project there also is designed to improve the wildlife habitat and water quality for wading birds and waterfowl and establish a variety of native plants.

In the Audubon Swamp, Turner has already begun removing unwanted vegetation, including cattails from the edges of the swamp to provide a better view of wood duck boxes, cypress and tupelo trees and to improve the habitat for water fowl.

Clearing the swamp of unwanted plants is not as simple as it might seem, said Turner, who has undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology. "You have to look at the water flow to determine where to clear first. Not all of the vegetation is removed", he added. "It is a balance. You have to leave enough habitat for the wildlife. Ideally, you select the non-native plants to remove.”

Over time, Turner plans to introduce native grasses, shrubs and trees that include yaupon holly, lemon-scented fringe trees, coral honey suckle and crossvine. Each of these plants has a beneficial characteristic. Native Americans used the holly leaves to stimulate vision and crossvine attracts humming birds.

"I want natives that people don't usually see," Turner said. Lantana, which is scattered throughout the swamp, will be replaced with the American beautyberry, serviceberry and sparkleberry. "I would like to use natives in place of the typical plants that can sometimes be invasive," he said.

Turner has consulted with native plant vendors, a botanist at The Citadel and the Native Plant Society to select 20 initial native plants for the swamp and the best locations for them.

Diversifying the vegetation will improve the swamp garden's appeal to water fowl and migratory birds. "There is no point for the birds to nest if they can't find food to feed their young," he said. "Wildlife also helps to sustain the plants by distributing the seeds."



Land management project expanding Ashley River wildlife habitat

Land ManagementMagnolia Plantation and Gardens has begun a three-year project to improve the wildlife habitat and water quality in an impoundment and wildlife refuge along the Ashley River.

Tourists take a daily nature boat tour at Magnolia that travels on a 120-acre impoundment past alligators, wading birds, waterfowl and a variety of native plants. But that experience is being threatened by cattails, an invasive aquatic plant.

The first phase of the project involved spraying the cattail with an environmentally safe herbicide to remove the vegetation that is choking the impoundment.

Tom Johnson, Magnolia's executive director, said removing the cattails will improve the nature watching experience for wildlife enthusiasts.

Today, Magnolia is owned by the 12th and 13th generations of the Drayton family whose ownership of the 500-acre Magnolia began in the late 1670s. "This project is following through with the Drayton family's three hundred year stewardship of the land to preserve a healthy landscape for the next generation," Johnson said.

Robert C. Strange, an ecologist with Sabine & Waters, environmental land management consultants in Summerville, said removing the cattails will allow for other plants and aquatic life to flourish and improve the food source for fowl and fish.

Following the herbicide treatment the dried cattails will be burned between January and March. The impoundment will be drained and the nature boat channel will be dredged deeper. Three more water control devices will be installed to allow for improved water exchange between an adjacent 20-acre impoundment and the Ashley River.

The spoil from the dredging will be used to create additional islands in the larger impoundment, Strange said. These islands will create new opportunities for birds to build nests and roost in the coming years.

The work will not chase away the alligators. "The gators will stick around, and they will be fine," Strange added. "Magnolia has enough swamp, and they will go out in the river. They come, and they go."


Celebrate Black History Month

The following is an excerpt from Paul Porwoll's book Against All Odds: History of Saint Andrew's Parish Church, Charleston, 1706-2013, published in 2014 by WestBow Press. Copies are available at the Magnolia Plantation Gift Shop, St. Andrew's Parish Church, and online through WestBow Press and Amazon.

Rev. John Grimke Drayton
John Grimke Drayton

Ministry to the "Black Roses"

John Grimke Drayton is renowned for his vision that transformed Magnolia-on-the-Ashley into one of the world's horticultural masterpieces. Less known, but as remarkable, is Drayton's ministry to his "black roses," as he called the African Americans under his care, as an Episcopal priest.

In 1851 Drayton became rector of St. Andrew's Parish Church, established and built in 1706 just a few miles south of Magnolia. St. Andrew's was one of the earliest Episcopal churches that ministered to enslaved Africans. In 1845 two chapels in the parish were opened, one at Simon J. Magwood's plantation and the other on Nathaniel Russell Middleton's Bolton-on-the-Stono. Five years later a third chapel was begun at Magnolia.

Drayton had actually started his slave ministry much earlier, in the 1830s. He spent Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings in religious instruction with the adults and two evenings a week and Sunday mornings with the children. CONTINUE READING...

Magnolia Foundation support felt throughout Lowcountry South Carolina

The Magnolia Plantation Foundation, the non-profit arm of Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, has awarded $90,000 in grants to 21 local and national organizations that support a variety of causes.

The foundation gave grants to selected non-profit groups involved with animal welfare, nature conservation, history, youth activities, education, horticulture and the arts.

This year's list of 21 grant recipients is the largest number of grants given to local and national non-profit groups since the foundation was established in 1988 by Magnolia's former owner the late John Drayton Hastie Sr., who wanted a way to give back to the Tri-county community.

Today, seven trustees, consisting of Hastie's children and grandchildren, direct the foundation. Grants for 2015 were recently approved during the trustees' annual meeting. The foundation was reorganized in 2004, two years after Hastie's death. Since then its giving has totaled about $90,000 annually.

"The foundation is delighted to carry on our father's legacy," said. J.D. Hastie Jr. "We expect that in the future, as Magnolia Gardens continues to grow, we will continue to support worthy causes that benefit our community."

Richard Hendry, a program officer with the Coastal Community Foundation in Charleston, said he was aware of Magnolia's foundation. He was surprised, however, at the amount of the contributions. "It is impressive," he added. "I thought the Magnolia Foundation supported the Magnolia property."

Hastie said the Magnolia Foundation's mission sets it apart from foundations like those that support Middleton Place and Drayton Hall, two other historic properties that flank Magnolia. "We hope more people will come to understand the differences between us and them."

"The Magnolia Foundation gives to the community and does not support the Magnolia property," Hastie said, "but the foundations at Drayton Hall and Middleton only support their properties, and they do not make gifts to the community."

Berkeley County First Steps, based in Hanahan, is a newcomer to the Magnolia Foundation's list of recipients. The foundation gave the state-funded, early childhood education program a grant for its literacy program. The Magnolia Foundation this year also awarded grants to the Charleston Animal Society in North Charleston, Francis R. Willis Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Summerville and Pet Helpers on James Island.

Joseph McGill

This year, the Slave Dwelling Project, founded by historic preservationist Joseph McGill, was awarded its second grant in two years. McGill said the grant will be combined with other contributions to match a $50,000 grant the project received from the S.C. Department of Archives and History.

"This donation puts us closer to matching the funds necessary for assessing slave dwellings in South Carolina," said McGill, who launched the slave dwelling project four years ago at Magnolia. "I am often asked how many extant slave dwellings exist in South Carolina," he said. "Four years into the slave dwelling project, that's a question I still can't answer. But this assessment will help us to begin to answer that question."

Recipients of Magnolia Foundation grants are:

  • Alliance Française de Charleston
  • Phillip Simmons Foundation
  • Rev. John Grimke Drayton Azalea Society
  • Boy Scouts of America Venturing Crew 1676
  • Coastal Carolina Camellia Society
  • West Ashley High School
  • Center for Birds of Prey
  • Keepers of the Wild
  • Marion County Animal Shelter
  • Humane Net
  • Native Plant Society
  • St. Andrews Parish Church
  • Clemson Master Gardeners
  • Historic Charleston Foundation
  • Coastal Conservation League
  • St. John in the Wilderness Episcopal Church
  • The Slave Dwelling Project
  • Berkeley County First Steps
  • Charleston Animal Society in North Charleston
  • Francis R. Willis Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • Pet Helpers on James Island



Magnolia Gardens, One of America's Most Beautiful
My Charleston Today 5.22.14

Magnolia Plantation on P&C TV



Atlanta Artist Ken Weaver Donates
Painting to Magnolia

Ken WeaverAtlanta artist and weaver Ken Weaver, whose work is among hundreds of private and public collections across the country, donated an oil painting Monday to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens of the first three camellias named at Magnolia.

The painting features the blooms of camellias named for Julia Drayton, Sara Hastie and the Rev. John Drayton, who develop the gardens at Magnolia beginning in 1840 and three decades later opened them to the public as a tourist attraction. Julia Drayton was Rev. John Drayton's wife. Sara Hastie was the wife of C. Norwood Hastie, a 20th century owner of Magnolia.

Weaver presented the painting to Magnolia's executive director Tom Johnson, who first became aware of Weaver's work while he was the chief horticulturist for the American Camellia Society in Fort Valley, Ga. Weaver's painting of a camellia hangs in the lobby of the main building at the Massee Lane Gardens.

Weaver, a life-long artist who has worked in a variety of mediums, has chosen in recent years to paint in watercolors. "I used to work in oil," Weaver said. "Maybe I'll go back to oil. People apply more value to oil." He is currently the financial officer for the Georgia Watercolor Society.

Weaver's wall hangings have been on display in prestigious galleries and venues around the United States, including the Lincoln Center in Dallas and the Renaissance Center in Detroit.

Weaver is easily bored if he's not fully engaged in a project. In January, while he was in a lull, Coca-Cola chemist Harry Waldrop, aware of Weaver's Massee Lane camellia painting, suggested he paint a camellia for Magnolia.

A phone call to Johnson set the stage for Weaver's next project that was completed in two weeks.

Johnson said, "We are honored that an artist of Ken Weaver's stature has chosen to contribute his time and talents to memorialize three important camellias in Magnolia's camellia collection. Visitors to Magnolia each fall and winter view our camellia garden, which is one of only five gardens in the United States designated as a Garden of Excellence by the International Camellia Society."

Johnson said Weaver's 22" by 28" framed painting, will be displayed in a prominent place at Magnolia.

For more information about Weaver, visit his website at:

Ken Weaver