Read an Excerpt
In the spring of 1989, my husband and I opened our garden to the public for the first time, during the Historic Charleston Foundation's Annual Festival of Houses and Gardens. An enthusiastic visitor from Texas asked what books she could take home on Charleston's private gardens. I answered that the only one I was familiar with was Charleston Gardens, by Loutrel Briggs (1893-1977), but that it had been published in the early 1950s and was out of print. She shrugged, gave me a piercing look, and asked, "Why don't you write a new one?" And so the seed was sown and from it grew The Private Gardens of Charleston.
This book does not attempt to educate the reader about the history of Charleston gardens, for many of them are quite well-documented, especially the famous trio near the city: Middleton, Magnolia, and Cypress Gardens. Plats of some seventeenth-and eighteenth-century city gardens can be found on early tax maps. Mrs. Emma Richardson published charming pamphlets for the Charleston Museum on early plats and on the garden at the Heyward-Washington House on Church Street, describing typical flowers of the period. On the same subject, Miss Elise Pinckney wrote a fascinating account of Thomas and Elizabeth Lamboll, two early Charleston gardeners, also published for the Museum. Thomas Lamboll's correspondence with the famous eighteenth-century botanist, John Bartram, gives an idea of the tradition of enthusiasm for research, collecting, and growing plant material that started with the earliest explorations of the Lowcountry.