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Archives exhibit showcases ‘Camden’s Grand Gardens’

Posted: February 10, 2012 4:26 p.m.
Updated: February 13, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Gardening on a grand scale was a hallmark of Camden from the 1840s through the 1940s. Be a time traveler and imagine going to see a 32-acre garden wonderland with long sand paths passing under manicured green arches of cherry laurel, cassena, and holly. Along your walk you pass shrubs carefully clipped to make topiary shapes. Take in the scent of the Cherokee Rose hedges which encircle the whole garden. Linger in the shade of the grand magnolias and Cedars of Lebanon. Picture a terraced walkway with green arches above your head at each set of steps. At the bottom of that walkway a picturesque lake spreads out in front of you. Small islands dot the lake with rustic timber bridges to each. Blooming flowers and shrubs scent the air as you walk the edges of the lake.

The owner of this place invites people to enjoy his garden and it has become quite the place for the young adults to do their courting; one young lady, visiting Camden in 1863, said it was as popular as the Battery in Charleston for this purpose. This garden is at the Johnson place and the owners will later name it “Holly Hedge.”

Come see the famous gardens of Camden as they were a hundred years ago. This new exhibit at the Camden Archives and Museum is full of old images from its collection featuring five of the area’s famous formal gardens.  Other featured gardens are Greenleaf Villa, the Pine Flats/Hobkirk Inn, Lausanne/Court Inn and The McRae Place/Horsebranch Hall. Also featured is the garden cemetery, Quaker Cemetery. In the exhibit, documents from the William E. Johnson Papers relate the history of Holly Hedge as it was being developed by Johnson from the 1830s until his death in 1871 Another exhibit case features “The Southern Gardener and Receipt Book,” written by Camden resident and postmaster Phineas Thornton and first published in 1840. This book was used all over the Southern states as the “go-to” manual for gardening, animal husbandry, home medicine remedies and recipes. The Thorntons lived in the house now known as Collins Funeral Home, which they called “Oak Grove.”

This is the latest in the archives’ changing exhibit schedule and will be on display until late June.  The Camden Archives and Museum is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. It is also open the first Sunday of each month from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.

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