Brookgreen Gardens is a place that is really hard to describe. From the fighting stallions sculpture at the park entrance on highway 17 to the zoo trail, there is literally something for everyone. The admission was around $14 when I went and that gave you access to the park grounds for a week. At the main entrance there be sure to stop in at the welcome center to pick up a map and to see what all is going on in the park that day. The park gives several different types of tours most free and the staff is very knowledgeable about the grounds. The sculpture garden itself is very beautiful place and is constantly changing throughout the year. The garden has a variety of different flowers and plants that all have their normal growing cycle. As one flower is fading out another is coming in to take it's place. There are several historical trees on the ground One oak tree on the extreme left side of the park past the garden with Diana has been certified to have been living at the time the US Constitution was signed in 1887. The sculpture in the park are all different types - Marble, granite, steel, bronze, brass, copper. There are three protected sculpture centers within the park. The Rainey Sculpture center displays the traveling exhibits and sculpture contest winner exhibits throughout the year. The Brown Sculpture court and the Offner Sculpture Center offers rarer sculptures that the park has deemed needing more protection. The Offner center offers different education videos and lectures about sculpture. There is usually full time staff in the center that will answer any questions you have about the sculpture and about sculpture in general.
The park itself is well designed. Trails wind through open grass areas, by different lakes and ponds, and through different tree areas. I highly recommend the Live Oak Allee. Words can't describe the beauty and traquility of this garden. The Palmento garden also is a unique place. If you are walking on a real windy path towards the backside of the garden look down at your map closely. The area was designed as a butterfly. Portions of one of the old plantations can be seen through the back side of the garden. The plantation foundation now serves as a water reservoir for the park. The only building left standing is the Old Kitchen. It is kind of unique that the kitchens were built separate from the plantation houses because of the fire hazzard of cooking in those days. The old kitchen remains, but the main plantation house was destroyed by fire. The old kitchen serves beverages and refreshments if you need them. When you are in the park make sure you look for the white bird that is roaming around the park somewhere. I think it may be an egret but don't quote me on that. I don't think it is an official garden "pet" but I have seen him each time I have visited the park.
The Trail beyond the Garden wall is also a unique section worth viewing. The trail takes you on a portion of the old plantation grounds that was used for rice production. There are different rice fields along your way. When you get to the river there is an observation deck to view the other rice areas and the river in general with it's unique dark color caused by the rich soil in the area. If you follow the trail completely it will lead you to the Low country center. Along the way you will pass the tree arboretum and a labyrinth path you can to the center and back without repeating your steps.
The low country center is where you can purchase tickets for additional tours not included in the park admission. If you like history I can actually recommend each of the tours. The Boat tour takes you down the river while explaining about plantation life and rice growing. Along the way you will see different locks on the old rice fields used to bring water into the fields when the water turned fresh. You may see alligators, bald eagles, turtles and different wildlife along the way. The northern and southern trek tours take you on tours of the different areas of the original plantations that make up the current garden property. I believe it is the southern trek with the Oaks plantation. This tour was a little bumpy and you were in the all terrain vehicle most of the time, but the guide was very knowledgeable and well worth the tour. He explained about the Alstons family history and tragedy. Their relationships with some of the founding fathers. Along the way tour path you can see the plantation house foundation, where the slave village was located and a long needle pine forest featuring a rare breed of woodpecker. The only stop was a tour of the Alston family cemetery. This cemetery featured different types of graves. The graves were below ground, but they had ornamental coverings such as you would see in New Orleans or somewhere.
At the back of the Low Country Center there is a path you can take over to the zoo. This path is an educational path that takes you through one of the old plantation slave villages that was on the garden grounds. There are different audio station that tells you about slave life and about rice production. You go past a rice field. There is also a portion of an old cypress tree trunk that was discovered in one of the southern rivers and brought to the garden. It shows you the size of the trees the slaves had to tear down to clear the plantation areas for rice production.
Finally there is the zoo. This is a good place for the kids. The otters are quick and the kids will enjoy watching them swim around. The zoo concentrates on different areas of the South Carolina area. You can see farm animals, otters, alligators, fox, deer, water birds, raptors, turkey, and other small animals such as squirrel. Across the road from the tram stop is the butterfly house. I believe it is a couple dollars for admission. The guide takes you through the house and tells you about butterfly life and the different types of butterflies in the house. He gives you ample time for pictures as you go through. It is important to note because of the different types of plants in the sculpture gardens a variety of butterflies can be seen throughout the garden area as well so have a good camera ready. After you are done with the zoo area there is a tram that goes from the zoo area to the low country center and then back to the welcome center/ parking lot.
As you can tell from my description the park can actually be made a day event. There is a picnic area on the grounds you can drive or walk to that has tables and shelters. Close to the park entrance there is also a small cafe that is usually open until about a couple of hour before the park closes. It has a lighter menu that features different salads, sandwiches, and soups for purchase. The Old Kitchen also serves a smaller menu of food and beverages.
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