Magnolia Plantation

Family Fright Nights


2016 Horticultural Symposium

Renowned horticulture and culinary experts from across the South will gather at Magnolia to share information and give demonstrations for professionals and gardening enthusiasts alike. The Charleston Horticultural Society will host a plant sale and a variety of local businesses will have produce and products for sale.

Horticultural Symposium


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.



Magnolia Foundation grant supports
two Trident Tech scholarships

Archibald Grimké
Archibald Grimké
Katina Bosko
Katina Bosko
Lynette Cobb
Lynette Cobb

With a grant from the Magnolia Plantation Foundation, Trident Technical College has awarded scholarships to two students studying horticulture and hospitality management.

Katina Bosko of Summerville and Lynette Cobb of North Charleston were selected as the first students to receive the scholarships named for 19th century attorney, journalist and diplomat Archibald Grimké.

Born into slavery in 1849 on a Lowcountry rice plantation, Grimké was one of the first black students enrolled in the Harvard Law School. He was a cousin of the Rev. John Grimké Drayton, who in 1870 opened Magnolia as Charleston's first tourist attraction.

John Drayton Hastie, one of the Magnolia Gardens directors, said, "Our family is very pleased to help a young man or woman obtain the training they seek in order to be successful at their future jobs. We believe Trident Technical College is an outstanding institution, and we are grateful for the opportunities they offer our community."

When Bosko, a 2008 graduate of Chapin High School near Columbia, S.C., started the horticulture program at Trident she was unsure of her career path. "This scholarship," she said, "will allow me to put even more focus on my degree and find a job in this field after I graduate."

Cobb, a 1995 Burke High School graduate, said the scholarship "is truly a blessing. This will allow me to fulfill my dream in the hospitality and tourism management field. Now I can move in the right direction when I graduate." She hopes to open a soul food restaurant.

Bosko and Cobb are scheduled to graduate in May 2017. Each of them will receive financial support for the fall and spring semesters. The Magnolia Foundation will make an annual gift to the Archibald Grimké Scholarship Fund that was established in January with the Trident Technical College Foundation.

Kim Hallin, associate vice president for development and executive director of the Trident Technical College Foundation, said "The foundation thanks the Magnolia Foundation for establishing the Archibald Grimké Scholarship. We are very grateful for the generous support this scholarship will provide to Horticulture and Hospitality/Tourism Management students at Trident Technical College. The TTC Foundation strives to create community investments today for tomorrow's workforce. With the help of donors like the Magnolia Foundation, TTC is able to award over $400,000 to deserving students each year."


Magnolia Gardens names new youth program coordinator

Kimberly Zuercher

Kimberly Zuercher, a former special needs and early childhood teacher's assistant with a Kansas school district, has been named youth program coordinator at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.

As a nature train driver at Magnolia for two years, Zuercher interpreted the natural surroundings as she took guests on a 45-minute tram ride around the perimeter of the 500-acre property.

"I've always enjoyed children and the different ways they learn," she said. "When the youth coordinator position became available, I was excited about the possibilities."

The youth program coordinator at Magnolia designs programs to enhance a student's learning outside the classroom in the areas of biology, math, art and history.

Zuercher added that "I want to create hands-on learning experiences in a safe and small group learning environment that students will remember for a lifetime."


Winners announced in 3rd Annual Garden of Romance Poetry Contest

A marketing copywriter with a health care firm in Plymouth, Minn., and a homeschool student in Charleston took the top prizes in the 3rd Annual Garden of Romance Poetry Contest sponsored by Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.

Josh Crane of Burnsville, Minn., won first place in the adult division with "An Invitation to Examine [the Garden's Lovely Ways]." The first-place prize is $500.

Charleston resident Grace Daniels, a homeschool student, won the first-place prize in the youth division with "Nature's Song." She will receive an iPad. The judges also selected three other poems penned by Daniels for a third-place prize and three honorable mention prizes.

The other winning entries in the adult division are:

- Carole Strickland, Wadmalaw Island, S.C. second place, $300, "Awakened to the Joy"
· Catherine Cummings, Marietta, Ga., third place, $200, "The Garden Sprite"

Honorable mention winners – $50 prizes – are:

- Pam Stuart, Summerville, S.C., "Magnolia, If I had Known"
- Maria Martin, Charleston, S.C. "Sonnet Written Among the Blooms of Magnolia Gardens"
- Andrea Roberts, Myrtle Beach, S.C. "From John to Julia"
- Karen LoCicero, Mount Pleasant, S.C. "Magnolia’s Dreams"
- Charles Moore, Wadmalaw Island, S.C., "Th' Gardens Of My Mind"

The other winning entries in the youth division are:

- Lauren Koch, Evansville, Ind., second place, $200, "Our Home"
- Grace Daniels, third place, $100, "I am"

Honorable mention winners – annual family membership to Magnolia – are:

- Grace Daniels, "If," "Ageless Paradise" and "In the Blink of an Eye"
- Amos Hay, Singapore, "La Douleur Exquise"
- Rachel Daniels, Charleston, S.C., "My Little Shining Star"

Entries in the adult division were judged by Katrina Murphy, vice president of the Poetry Society of South Carolina, and Emily Davis-Fletcher, freelance poet and writer. Youth division poems 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.

Magnolia is America's last large-scale romantic-style garden. The contest was open to poems that emulate the style of romance poets William Wordsworth, Ashley Tennyson and Percy Bysshe Shelley. A Wordsworth quote inscribed on a small sign at Magnolia's entrance reads: "Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher."

The Rev. John Grimké Drayton is credited with adopting a romantic style of gardening at Magnolia after visiting Europe in the 1800s as the Romantic Movement swept Europe and America. In addition to garden design, the Romantic Movement also touched many aspects of European and American society and inspired poetry.

The winning poems will be posted on Magnolia's Facebook page, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, and this website soon.


Volunteer at America's Oldest Garden!

Volunteer at Magnolia Plantation

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens is recruiting volunteers for the gardens, greenhouses, Nature Center, Audubon Swamp Garden, office support, greeters, docents, special events and youth programs. Do you have a lot of energy and time? If so, join our winning team today! CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE


Bees bring Magnolia Gardens a hive of possibilities

Honey Bee

Bee hives will give Magnolia Plantation and Gardens a new buzz to highlight the insect's role as pollinators and the human threat to them.

Tori Johnson, Magnolia's student and youth group coordinator, recently earned her wings as a certified beekeeper after completing a two-day introductory beekeeping course sponsored by the Charleston Area Beekeepers Association.

During the training at the Medical University of South Carolina some 30 participants were instructed on beekeeping supplies, safety equipment, diseases, the types of bees and how to maintain a happy colony.

Bee colonies will be installed this month near the Magnolia campgrounds within an easy flight of the gardens in time for the springtime azalea blooms. "First and foremost the hives will be good for our gardens because the flowers will reap the benefits of the pollinators," Johnson said. "Secondly, it is a great education opportunity to inform the younger generation about the importance of pollination and to keep healthy bees."

Magnolia's desire to assist in supporting the continued existence of honey bees and other pollinators is of global concern. A recent report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services warns that pollinators are facing extinction.

The IPBES released its assessment after a two-year study of the threats facing pollinators – both vertebrates, such as birds and bats, and invertebrates, such as bees, butterflies, and other insects. In some regions of the world, environmental impacts are pushing 40 percent of invertebrate pollinators to the brink of extinction. Butterflies and bees experience the highest risk. Among vertebrates, 16.5 percent of species are threatened by extinction worldwide.

In an interview with ThinkProgress, a political news blog released by the Center for American Progress, Simon Potts, co-chair of the IPBES report, said. "Without pollinators, many of us would no longer be able to enjoy coffee, chocolate and apples, among many other foods that are part of our daily lives."

Johnson said, "If we lose our bees, our agricultural industry will crash. It is very serious, and I don’t think the general population understands how important pollinators are to our world."

Johnson's mission is two-fold: maintain a happy colony and use the colonies as a teaching tool for youth and scouting group. The first goal is more difficult than the second. If the bees are not happy they could swarm, sending up to 60,000 bees on a hunt for a new home for their queen, she said. Johnson does not plan to take youth groups to the hives. Instead, she'll show them removable sections of it and the honey. With a smile, she added, "We'd like to leave the bees alone."

Magnolia has purchased Italian bees, the most common type, she said. "They are popular among beekeepers because they are less prone to disease, they produce quality honey and they are not aggressive."

As a large-scale garden, Magnolia uses chemicals to control insects and other pests. Tom Johnson, Magnolia's executive director, said Tori Johnson (no relation) will audit garden chemicals at Magnolia to ensure they are environmentally friendly. Magnolia plans to teach about the benefits of bees and the threats they face.


Magnolia Gardens joins plant monitoring network

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, a steward of the land for three centuries, has joined with other environmentally conscious gardens to monitor threats harmful insects and diseases pose to plants and food crops.

Magnolia has joined the Sentinel Plant Network that encourages public garden professionals, volunteers and visitors to detect and report serious plant pests and diseases.

Tori Luke
Tori Luke

Tori Luke, Magnolia's student and youth group coordinator, recently attended a regional meeting of the Sentinel Plant Network at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. She was trained to recognize signs and symptoms of potential threats. She will hold workshops at Magnolia to educate youth groups and others.

Luke will train "first detectors" to watch for Asian longhorn beetle, emerald ash borer, red palm weevil, sudden oak death and thousand cankers disease. "These are just a few of the significant pathogens and insects in the southern region that could devastate ornamental and native plants and food crops," she explained.

"Magnolia is involved because we are part of a larger picture," she said. "As stewards of the land, Magnolia and other gardens have an obligation to report and fix threats to the country's ecosystem."

"In the southeast, many states like North Carolina and Georgia have had occurrences of some serious intrusion," she said. "We want to be diligent about caring for our gardens. Magnolia currently has none of these pathogens, and we want to keep it that way."

The Sentinel Plant Network receives funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The network is also affiliated with the American Public Gardens Association (APGA) and the National Plant Diagnostic Network. Magnolia is an APGA member.

To learn more about threats to Lowocuntry flora, contact Luke at


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."

Remembering Tina Gilliard


Eva Mae Gailliard

Eva Mae Gailliard has vivid memories of the night her grandmother Tina Gilliard, a revered employee at Magnolia in the early 1900s, died at her home in Charleston.

Gailliard of the Bronx, N.Y., and members of her family visited Magnolia in late May to learn more about their ancestor and to expand what is known of her.

A cabin near the ticket booth was once Gilliard's home. Today it is known as Tina Gilliard's Cabin. The family has changed the spelling of their last name to "Gailliard."

Gilliard was born two years after the Civil War at Middleton Place. She later came to work as a greeter at Magnolia.

She was so highly thought of that Magnolia named a camellia in her honor. She is one of three employees of African descent at Magnolia who have camellias named for them.

Around 6 p.m. on March 2, 1958, Gilliard announced metaphorically that her life was coming to an end.

As a five-year-old Eva Mae shared a bed with her grandmother, she asked her if she was tired?

"No, I am going to my father," the grandmother said.

"Can I go?" Eva Mae asked.

"When it is time you can meet my father," she promised.

Then she began to sing "I’m Going Home on the Morning Train." After a few verses, Tina Gilliard whispered, "Thank you father." Then she took her last breath.

"I got this warm feeling when they put her in the hearse."



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


Tori Luke talks about Magnolia's youth programs


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