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The Accidental Gardener: On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again…

Now that Covid vaccines are widely available, Willy Nelson said it best, “Just can’t wait to get on the road again!” Here in the Lowcountry, we are fortunate to be just a beautiful road trip away from many fabulous attractions. As my hubby tells me every day, I can go on, and on — forever. So, for the sake of his sanity and yours, I will try to narrow my focus and contain my enthusiasm (for the moment). Here are few great day and road trips for garden lovers.



Savannah

The Hostess City has some of the prettiest parks in the country, and no visit to the Lowcountry would be complete without a visit to this charming city. In addition to the rich history in both architecture and horticulture, Savannah offers two of the most wonderful gardens anywhere.

Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens

To enjoy this scenic 52-acre botanical garden, pay the $5 admission and pick up a self-guided tour map. The most historically significant plants at CGBG are the bamboo groves, primarily those planted by USDA plant explorers prior to 1945. Numerous hardwood trees planted in the 1920s remain, many of them rather rare species even in today’s horticultural standards. Other substantial plant collections include palms that are cold hardy to at least 15 degrees – the largest outdoor palm collection north of Florida. Moreover, over 900 camellia plants fill the Judge Arthur Solomon Camellia Trail, including several camellia species not commonly seen outside of their native China. Daylilies, landscape/shrub roses, bearded irises and aquatic ornamentals are showcased in garden beds. Various hardy tropical plants grow across the grounds, too. Areas of note include the Cottage Garden, Xeriscape Garden, Water Garden, Shade Garden, Organic Vegetable Garden and expansive Bamboo Maze with three-story lookout tower. The Garden for All Abilities is for people with physical disabilities.

Day trip: Hilton Head Island to Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens

54 minutes (48.5 miles) via U.S. 278 W and I-95 S


Georgia Southern’s Armstrong Campus Arboretum

The Arboretum covers 268 acres and displays a wide variety of shrubs and other woody plants. Developed areas of campus contain native and introduced species of trees and shrubs, most of which are labeled. There are some fabulous apple trees that produce wonderful fruit. Natural areas of campus contain plants typical in Georgia’s coastal broadleaf evergreen forests such as live oak, southern magnolia, red bay, horse sugar and sparkleberry. Several plant collections have been established in the Arboretum, including a Camellia Garden, Conifer Garden (containing over 140 different conifers), Fern Garden, Ginger Garden, Primitive Garden and an International Garden, which celebrates the diversity of the university community by displaying plants from around the world. One beautiful rose bush in particular hails from France and was brought over right before the breakout of WWII – it’s sure to inspire you.

Day trip: Hilton Head Island to Georgia Southern’s Armstrong Campus Arboretum

56 minutes (43.3 miles) via SC-46 W and May River Road



Charleston

I can’t honestly think of a more romantic city than Charleston. I first visited Charleston as a young girl, and it left a lasting impression on me that has never diminished. I only wish time were as kind to my own appearance as it has been to Charleston. I am simply enamored with every aspect of Charleston, including its abundant flora and fauna. 

Private garden tours

Steeped in rich history, wonderful food and fabulous vistas, Charleston truly offers something for everyone. But have you ever wondered what magical gardens live behind those imposing brick or wrought-iron gates as you meander through the city? Well, wonder no longer. The Charleston Horticultural Society offers private tours of these gardens from September through May. 

Book a tour: There are several packages available, so I urge you to call (843-579-9922) to set up a tour specifically curated for your interests. Learn more at chashortsoc.org.


Hampton Park

The Charleston Horticultural Society also created a wonderful audio series that reveals some of the rich history and culture that lies beneath the city’s paths. Hampton Park, one of Charleston’s largest parks, (covering 60 acres and located right outside the front gates of the Citadel) boasts the most extensive floral displays of any park in the city. Hampton Park has a history both bright and dark, with rich and fascinating stories. The Charleston Horticultural Society’s tour brings Hampton Park’s history to life. The audio walking tour called Layers of the Landscape is available by calling its office.

Road trip: Hilton Head Island to Hampton Park 

2 hours, 3 minutes (97.8 miles) via US-17 N


Great nurseries

Last but certainly not least, if time allows, do yourself a favor and visit one, or better yet, both of these nurseries – I am never disappointed in the unusual varieties of plants that they offer and have never once left empty handed.



Ask & Answer

Dear Accidental Gardener,

I live in a condo with a covered hallway in front of my unit with no direct natural light. I’d like to place live plants outside my front door but I don’t know which plants will live in such low light. — Stumped in Skull Creek

Dear Stumped,

Several plants come immediately to mind but each with its own needs. The peace lily would provide a beautiful display of flowers but does require regular watering. The prayer plant is a good choice if you want to add a pop of color to a drab area because its leaves have variations in rich green, purple, yellow and red. However, you will need to mist its leaves regularly. If you don’t want to be burdened with regular watering or misting, try a snake plant. It’s almost impossible to kill except by overwatering. Hope this sheds some light on your situation. — Accidental Gardener

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