Magnolia Plantation
The Gardens The House Nature Train Boat Tour From Slavery to Freedom Horticulture
Zoo & Nature Center Weddings & Events


Ladybugs flying free at Magnolia Gardens

Children will scatter throughout Magnolia Plantation and Gardens on Saturday, July 26, to free nearly 150,000 ladybugs in the Lowcountry's largest one-time release of the beneficial beetle.

Ladybugs will fly throughout the 60-acre garden beginning at 9 a.m. Each child will receive a small container of the popular insect.

Chris Smith, Magnolia's Nature Center director, said ladybugs are natural predators to harmful insects such as aphids, scale insects and other small insects.

Other groups will setup nature displays during the ladybug release. The organizations that will be represented are:

  • Auburn University graduate student Lydia Moore, conducting bat research throughout the Lowcountry
  • Cypress Gardens, butterfly display
  • Grice Marine Laboratory at the College of Charleston
  • Keep Charleston Beautiful, an anti-litter campaign
  • Keeper of the Wild, a wildlife rescue center
  • Reptile Innovations

Prizes will be awarded for the best ladybug costumes. Categories will be children ages one to two, three to five and six and older. A face painter will attend the event.

The night before the release ladybugs will be held in a cool place so they will be less active when they are set free. "This way, they won't fly away quickly," Smith said. "They will take to their surroundings a lot easier."

A $15 general garden admission is required to participate. Children under six are free.


Bird pictures take top three photo contest prizes

Egret In Flight

Charleston-area photographers took the top three prizes in the 4th Annual Magnolia Plantation and Gardens Photo Contest with images of birds.

Justin Falk of Charleston was awarded first place and a $300 prize with "Egret in Flight". The second-place prize and $250 went to David Archer of Summerville for "Little Blue Heron Chicks" Charleston resident Mary Wessner's "Waiting for Takeoff" won the $200 third-place prize.

Archer and Wessner also received $35 honorable mention prizes for "Great Egret in Breeding Plummage" and "Listening Intently," respectively.

Judges also choose eight other entries for $35 honorable mention prizes. Honorable mention winners were:
· Cary McDonald, Mount Pleasant, "Flying Fish"
· Arthur Ellis, North Charleston, "Creeping Green Heron"
· Leah Sparks, Charleston, "White Flight" and "Take Off"
· Michael Watts, Martinez, Ga., "Breakfast"
· Karen Seals, North Charleston, "Living History"
· Matt Krausmann, Summerville, "Mom I'm Hungry Again"
· Jim Miller, Mount Pleasant, "Swamp Opera"

Magnolia organizes the competition along with the Lowcountry Photographic Club. The competition is open to professional and amateur photographers. All photos submitted were taken at Magnolia between March 1 and May 31.


Magnolia's Primitive Campgrounds Getting
Ready for Summer

Primitive Campground

Magnolia's primitive campgrounds are available to organized youth groups. To make a reservation, contact Tori Luke, Magnolia's youth program coordinator. Tori made an initial inspection of the four camping areas to begin the process to ready them for the summer. Tori can be reached at 843-571-1266, ext. 220.


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

Magnolia Plantation on P&C TV


Winners announced in Magnolia Gardens poetry contest


Young Summerville Writer Continues
Her Winning Ways

What began as an extra-credit assignment in an English honors class ended with Rachael Laemers winning an iPad as the first-place prize in Magnolia Plantation and Gardens' poetry contest, "Sharing the Romance."

"Why not," Rachael said when teacher Jennifer Plane suggested she enter the competition's youth category. The deadline was approaching fast, she was tired, but in spite of it all, she wrote "Garden of Love."

Rachael, 15, a 9th-grader at Summerville High School, is no stranger to winning writing contests, her mother, Noreen Laemers, boasted Friday.

Rachael's winning streak began when, as a second grader, she wrote "Reflections," an essay about the International Primate Protection League at Knightsville in Dorchester County.

Noreen Laemers, the IPPL's animal care worker, said it is home to 36 gibbons, the smallest of the apes, rescued from research labs. Others are unwanted zoo animals or discarded pets.

Rachael volunteers at the IPPL where she does landscaping and gardening. Her passion for nature is reflected in the poem she penned: "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"

Poetry Winner

Magnolia’s executive director Tom Johnson, left, presents an iPad to Rachael Laemers, who is joined by her parents, Noreen and Paul Laemers of Summerville.


Father Never had a Chance to Appreciate
Daughters Winning Poem

PoetPam Stewart of Summerville recited to her father, Harry Baker, the romantic-style poems he loved to hear but couldn't read because he was blind.

"I know many poems by heart, and I'd recite them to him," Stewart said Thursday. "Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth. He really liked them."

In elementary school, Stewart wrote poems for class assignments. Later, she was inspired in her senior year of high school to write poetry by an English teacher who was Scottish. She revered the romantic poets.

Stewart had not written a poem since then until recently after she read a newspaper story announcing a call for entries to Magnolia Plantation and Garden’s poetry contest, "Sharing the Romance."

Her 22-line poem – "O! Magnolia" – was therapeutic and the judge's choice as the first-place entry in the adult category from nearly 200 entries.

She wrote her poem in about an hour while caring for her ailing 95-year-old father who moved to Summerville a decade ago. He had become too frail to manage the family's sprawling farm at Mahaffey, Penn.

She rushed to mail the poem before a March 1 deadline. When it arrived at Magnolia, the envelope and its contents had been mangled by a postal service processing machine. Fortunately, her phone number was still legible on the ripped page. After a call to Stewart she quickly resubmitted her poem, and it won.

"I am just floored," she said. "I just thought the poem was rather sing-songy, but I didn't have time to change it. I don’t know what to think." She told her father she had entered the contest, but she didn't read it to him.

After submitting the poem, she had planned to bring her father to Magnolia's Gardens. But the weather was too cold. She'd wait until the spring. But her father died March 21 not knowing she had won the contest.

"He would probably be happy to know I won because he couldn't do much," she said. "That would have given him pleasure."


Magnolia in 5th Year with
French Garden Exchange Program

French Intern
Ruth Morgan
French Intern
Mathilde Blanc
French Intern
Caroline Giannesini

Two French landscape design students in Paris and a North Carolina horticulture technology student will continue Magnolia Plantation and Gardens’ mission to exchange culture through horticulture.

Caroline Giannesini and Mathilde Blanc, students at the National Landscape School of Versailles, are the French Heritage Society Student Exchange Program's picks to work with Magnolia's garden staff this summer while pursuing their individual areas of interest.

They will tour gardens in the Lowcountry and elsewhere in the South with Magnolia's executive director Tom Johnson and members of Alliance Francaise in Charleston. Their internships begin in early July and end in late August.

While the French students work at Magnolia, Ruth Warner Morgan, a first-year student at Alamance Community College in Graham, N.C., will intern from early June to early August at two French gardens. Morgan is scheduled to intern at Jardin Botanique du Château de Vauville in the North near Cherbourg in June. She will spend July at Parc du Château de La Bourdaisière near Tours. Morgan will return to Alamance in the fall to finish the final year of her degree.

Nine other French students have interned at Magnolia since 2010. Morgan is the fourth American student to represent Magnolia in the exchange program.

Jean-Christophe Pigeon, one of the first two students to intern at Magnolia five years ago, served on the committee that selected Giannesini and Blanc.

Johnson said, "It is exciting to watch how this program has matured and how we have developed lasting relationships with our French colleagues. We are also excited that Jean-Christophe had a hand in selecting two students who'll enjoy this experience as much as he did."

Morgan, who has done post-graduate work in textile science, is studying horticulture to prepare for a new career. Johnson said, "She has a proven track record as a focused and hard-working student who will get the most of her experience in France."

Johnson said, "Next summer we would like to send two American students to France." To be eligible, a student must be enrolled in an accredited horticulture program. Some proficiency in French is required.

Since 1985, the French Heritage Society, which also has an office in New York, has sponsored an educational exchange program for American and French students in the fields of preservation, cultural management, architecture, art history, horticultural and other areas related to historic preservation. American students have been selected for internships in decorative arts, history, art history, gardening and museums while French students have been selected for internships in research, art history, gardening and museums.


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


Welcome Victoria Luke New
Youth Program Coordinator

Youth Program CoordinatorVictoria J. Luke has been selected for the newly created position of youth program coordinator at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.

Luke earned a master's degree in parks, recreation and tourism management from Clemson University where she also received an undergraduate degree in wildlife and fisheries biology. While at Clemson, Luke taught a flora and fauna identification course in an informal outdoor classroom.

Magnolia's executive director Tom Johnson said "hiring someone with Victoria's experience will position Magnolia to offer some of the best youth programming in South Carolina."

Luke said, "I hope to expand the youth programs to make Magnolia a prime desitnation for all types of youth groups nationwide."

Luke will collaborate with Magnolia's historian Lisa Randle and nature center director Chris Smith to customize programs for youth groups. "Chris will continue to oversee the Boy Scout program, but I will manage programs for Girl Scouts, Venturing Scouts, school and church groups and collegiate clubs," Luke said. "We also want to offer special programs for day care and after-school programs."

When Luke was a graduate student at Clemson she also taught a camping and backpacking course. That experience, Johnson said, fits well with Magnolia's effort to increase the use of a primitive campground that is open free to groups that conduct projects at Magnolia.

As a native of Seneca, Luke is new to the Lowcountry along with her fiancé Matt Johnson, education manager for the Audubon Center at the Francis Beidler Forest.

To get information about youth programs at Magnolia, contact Luke at or 843-571-1266.