One thing I don’t think I’ve mentioned about our recent trip is why we originally chose to visit Charleston in April. The timing was supposed to coincide with the blooming of the azaleas.
According to my research, azaleas bloom anywhere from mid-March to late April in South Carolina. I was never able to take a trip during azalea season while I was employed because that was also the exact timing of our annual audit. So one of the items on my post-retirement bucket list was a trip to see the azaleas in bloom (another is a trip to the Netherlands to see the tulips in bloom, maybe next year?).
But as all of you gardeners out there know, the timing of spring blooms can be somewhat unpredictable. The weather can have an impact, it can depend on how soon things start to warm up. So even though we visited Charleston the first two weeks of April, we pretty much missed most of the azaleas, except for that little patch of them in Waterfront Park that I shared earlier.
I suspect that the storm we flew in on (with torrential rain and high winds) didn’t help either.
My grand plan for viewing azaleas included a trip to Middleton Place, the oldest landscaped gardens in America. The gardens were originally laid out in 1741 and they were inspired by the gardens at Versailles.
Here is how I was picturing the gardens at Middleton (photo borrowed from the web) …
And here is how they actually looked.
Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans …
And although I was disappointed to have missed the azaleas, I definitely was not disappointed with our visit to Middleton Place.
You have to remember that when we left home there was still snow on the ground, and actually, it was snowing when we returned home too! So I was quite happy to wander around these gardens and just admire the green. The fact that is was also a gloriously sunny day and around 70 degrees didn’t hurt either.
It was not crowded at all the day we visited. Probably because most people were aware that the azaleas were done. I suspect that when the azaleas are at their most magnificent, the place is packed.
There were a handful of azalea blooms here and there, and a few of the camellias still had flowers as well. So I did see some color.
But Middleton Place is definitely worth a visit even if there isn’t anything blooming.
There are 110 acres full of paths, formal gardens, and secret gardens to explore.
Just beware that, as all the signs say, the gators are real.
Yikes! I have to admit, those guys freaked me out a little. But they pretty much seemed to be minding their own business, and we didn’t get too close to them.
Prior to the civil war, the house at Middleton Place consisted of a main center building with a ‘flanker’ on either side. It was burned down by union troops in 1865. The south flanker was the least damaged and thus was repaired and continued to function as a home until 1975 when it was turned into a museum.
It’s certainly a lovely building, but probably not quite what you picture in your head when you hear ‘plantation’.
You can pay extra for a guided tour of the inside (which is the only way to get inside), but we chose to forgo that.
You don’t have to pay extra to explore the stable yards which serve as an open air museum with costumed artisans explaining the functions of the various buildings and the craftmanship of the era.
We chatted with the blacksmith who showed us how they made nails, the cooper who was making wooden buckets, the potter who was making clay pots, and the seamstress who was spinning wool. All four of them knew a lot about their craft and it was very interesting to visit with them.
They also have livestock including cattle, goats, sheep, pigs and horses at Middleton.
Now you know I’m always keeping an eye out for furniture inspiration, and I found some in the candle making building.
Isn’t that an awesome chippy cupboard? I love the zinc top that is nailed all around the edge.
Despite missing the azaleas, I enjoyed visiting Middleton Place. However, if you’re looking for a more traditional visit to a “plantation” while in the south, this may not fill the bill. There are a few other options in the area including Drayton Hall and Magnolia Plantation.
Do you have any recommendations to share with others? If so, be sure to leave a comment and let us know!