Magnolia Plantation and Gardens – Charleston, South Carolina

On stop two of our Charleston day of adventure, Mamaw and I made the short drive from Drayton Hall, to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Founded in 1676 by the Drayton family – related, but not the same Drayton Hall family, Magnolia Plantation has the oldest public gardens in America, opening its doors to visitors in 1870.


Situated just down the road from Drayton Hall and along the same Ashley River, Magnolia Plantation is Charleston’s most visited plantation. Named after the grand southern magnolia tree, this property is far more known for it’s beautiful flowers than trees.

Pressed on time, Mamaw and I were unable to spend as much time as we would have liked wandering around the romantic gardens, but the little we did get to see was rich, colorful, and magical. The popular Spanish moss alone provides a mystical backdrop in all the humid, southern states like Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama.


In 1825, the estate was left to two brothers, Thomas and John Grimke, who inherited it from their grandfather, Thomas Drayton, the great-grandson of the original Drayton owners. As part of the condition of ownership, the Grimke brothers had to change their surname to Drayton, their patriarchal name. Shortly after acquiring Magnolia, Thomas Grimke Drayton died on the property in a hunting accident and John Grimke Drayton, who had been studying theology in England, became the sole owner. Drayton continued studying seminary in New York, where he met his future bride and later married Julia Ewig at Magnolia. To escape the stress of operating the plantation, Reverend John Grimke Drayton found peace in tending to the gardens. Reverend Drayton is accredited with introducing the flowering shrub to the United States and cultivated a variety of camellia hybrids on the grounds of Magnolia.

Reverend John Grimke Drayton passed away in 1890, but the estate has continued to be owned and managed by direct decedents of the Drayton family since his passing.


In addition to exploring the gardens, visitors can also check out the main house, take a guided boat tour through the rice fields, and grab something to eat at the lunch counter. The rave reviews for the From Slavery to Freedom Tour caught our attention, but we were unable to make it work in our schedule. Next time, Magnolia, next time!

Are there any spectacular garden spots on your Bucket List Travels checklist?!


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