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Welcome Back to SchoolFree garden admission on Labor Day for School District employees and immediate family from Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley Counties. Offer valid September 1, 2014. Show any form of school district employee identification and you and your immediate family members get FREE BASIC ADMISSION to Magnolia Plantation & Gardens. Offer not valid in conjunction with other offers. This offer opens Magnolia to self-guided tours. Additional charges may apply for optional guided tours.


N.C. couple wins "Sharing the Romance"
wedding giveaway

Wedding WinnersA Raleigh, N.C., couple whose marriage proposal in April captured the hearts of golf fans at the Augusta National Golf Club, are the winners of "Sharing the Romance," a $50,000 wedding giveaway offered by Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and wedding vendors in Charleston.

"Sharing the Romance" winners Courtney Sweetser and Caleb Smith are having a good year. In addition to submitting the winning wedding contest video they were gifted with hard-to-get tickets to the venerable Masters golf tournament. The opportunity gave Caleb a splendid venue to propose to Courtney.

On Magnolia Lane, leading to the golf club, tournament patrons posed for pictures. When Courtney and Caleb approached, Caleb whispered to the photographer to take a few extras as he was about to ask the big question.

Courtney said, "As we were taking the picture Caleb knelt down and told me he had something he needed to ask me. He then proposed. I was so surprised and shocked I didn't know what to say. Everyone in line started cheering and clapping for us and as we walked away after taking our picture we had to walk back by everyone in line. We felt like the golfers in the tournament because everyone was high fiving us and congratulating us and clapping."

The couple will get hardy applause, kisses and hugs during their Feb. 7, 2015, wedding in Magnolia's Carriage House. Nineteen wedding vendors in Charleston will donate their services to make Courtney's and Caleb's wedding an event to remember. They will honeymoon in Charleston.

Magnolia launched the wedding giveaway contest in February. Couples were asked to submit short videos explaining how they met and why they'd want a wedding at Magnolia and honeymoon in Charleston. In June, judges chose four semifinalists. Videos were posted on Magnolia's website, allowing people around the country to vote for the couple with the most compelling story. Courtney and Caleb received the most votes. An independent company tabulated the votes.

Wedding planner Cindy Zingerella of Engaging Events will help Courtney and Caleb plan their wedding, provide the décor and reception flowers and bring their wedding dreams to life. The other wedding vendors and the services they'll provide are:

ACW Limo - limousine for bride and groom
Artistic Eye Productions, video services
Bellelina Skincare And Makeup Studio
Bridal House of Charleston, wedding gown
Charleston Place Hotel, two nights hotel stay
Cindy Zingerella of Engaging Events, wedding planner and reception flowers
Classical Charleston, ceremony music
Complete Music of Charleston, DJ service
David's Tuxedos - tuxedo for groom
Dodeline Design - invitation and save the dates
Elaine's Events, cake
EventWorks, rental service
Mix Charleston, bar service
Mosaic Catering
Richard Bell Photography
Snyder Event Rentals
TapSnap1002, photo entertainment
Tiger Lily Florist and wedding floral designer Gayla Harvey, ceremony and personal flowers
Wedding Hanger Shop, personalized wedding hangers

Fox24-TV and "Charleston Weddings" published by "Charleston Magazine," were the contest's media sponsors.

"Sharing the Romance" is the brainchild of Tom Johnson, Magnolia's executive director. During garden tours and public lectures, Johnson speaks passionately about Magnolia being the last large-scale romantic-style garden in the United States.

"Congratulations to Courtney and Caleb," Johnson said. "We are thrilled that we can offer this opportunity to them so they will have a memorable wedding experience in America's oldest public garden in Charleston, one of America's most picturesque cities."

Opened in 1870 as a public garden, Magnolia is one of America's first tourist attractions. Since then, international visitors have strolled winding footpaths through more than 100 acres of azaleas, camellias and other seasonal flora. Unlike a formal, well-manicured garden, Magnolia's romantic-style gardens are designed to be in harmony with nature.


An early Autumn on the Ashley
gets Master Gardeners support

The Tri-County Master Gardeners will provide volunteers for the 7th Annual Autumn on the Ashley open-air craft fair Sept. 19-21 at Magnolia.

More than 50 vendors are expected to exhibit wood carvings, paintings, textiles, pottery, jewelry, culinary oils and photographs. The Philip Simmons Artists Blacksmith Guild will demonstrate their craft while dancers entertain the crowd.

Autumn on the Ashley, which is free to the public, opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. A $100 vendor fee will be charged for a vendor booth space to display handcrafted items. No retail items will be allowed. Vendors are responsible for their own pop-up tent, tables and chairs. Vendors who require electricity are encouraged to register early. Eight spaces with electricity are available.

The Master Gardeners will answer gardening questions and receive soil samples. The cost for soil samples is $6 each. Call 843-722-5940 to get tips on how to collect a sample. Plants and gardening books will be on sale.

In past years, the crafts fair has been held in October. For information and to reserve a booth, call Magnolia's operations manager Mary Ann Johnson at 843-571-1266, extension 229.


Tori Luke talks about Magnolia's youth programs


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."


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.