THE CHARTER GARDENS
Seven gardens came together over multiple years to organize the association known as Discover South Carolina Gardens. These founding Charter Gardens believe that through this initiative, tourists to the state—families, gardeners, horticulturists, historians, scientists, artists, photographers, young and old—will view these public displays and appreciate their cultural diversity, history and horticultural wonder.
We believe that the state of South Carolina is made richer by those presently involved and those who will join in the future.
Members of this group represent some of the oldest gardens with significant plant, animal and sculptural collections in the country—if not the world. The group also includes one of the country’s newest public gardens which has just recently reopened after a destructive hurricane closed it several years ago.
Members in the national public garden network strive to present the science of ornamental horticulture in displays including introductions of new genera, species and cultivars for gardeners to incorporate in their home landscapes. Children are encouraged to ‘get out and play in the dirt!’ through the educational exhibits in numerous gardens, many special events and nature displays that liberally adorn all these natural spaces: Butterfly trails, Lady Bug releases, Strawberry Festivals, Halloween Nights, Christmas Days and many more child-themed weekends abound.
These gardens are instrumental in growing vacation destinations by entertaining with outstanding international collections of native plants, local handicrafts, seasonal garden events, zoological exhibits, and theme park attractions. Visually they are world-famous as the iconic sites in feature films, travel videos, lifestyle magazine layouts, and the imaginations of thousands of couples dreaming of the perfect destination wedding.
All the seven Charter Gardens are open to the public with weekly, monthly, and annual schedules of open hours with regular tours, events, and membership packages. Two of the gardens are still privately owned. Five are non-profit corporations of one form or another. One of those is the South Carolina Botanical Garden. These gardens from around the state are actively engaged in interpreting the social, cultural and horticultural history of the state and the nation.
DEFINING THE IMPACT DATA
The Charter Gardens have agreed to provide a snapshot of the impact that public horticulture has on the State of South Carolina. Through this loose collaboration, the gardens have collected the first-ever state-wide totals of financial results, labor totals, infrastructural improvements and tourist impact. The following results illustrate this collaboration.
Not all gardens responded to all questions. These results have not been audited and reflect only a broad overview. The totals may therefore be lower than experienced. The Charter Gardens hope to encourage additional members to help refine the data and correct any inaccuracies at this earliest point of view. The members’ hope is that more data will significantly impact the overall visibility and meaning of the information.
Several noteworthy contributions should be announced with this study:
More than 800 schools sent 60,000 students to these gardens for diverse educational programs. More than 500 programs were given by garden staff members to off-site meetings including schools, libraries, garden clubs, Master Gardeners’ programs, community social organizations, horticultural and historical societies, conferences and conventions. Within the gardens, staff planned 150 full-day educational/themed programs, 20 conferences, 50 public programs, 20 festivals, 10 public plant sales, 5 holiday displays, and hundreds of individual lectures for regular business days on dozens of diverse topics throughout any calendar year.
In sum, more than 900 planned educational events drew more than 100,000 people from across the state and the nation. Some of the successful themes include: Rabbit Festival, Day of the Dead, Earth Day, Celebration, Alice in the Garden, Pirates and Mermaids, Butterfly Bash and Lady Bug Release, Slavery to Freedom Weekend, Reconstruction, Halloween, Santa, Fossil Festival and Flower Show, Night Lights, Boo, and Dinosaurs Around the World.
Last year, more than 2.5 million people passed the gates at the seven Charter Gardens.
These guests spent more than $50,000,000.00 over several categories (in order of amount):
- General Admission
- Rides and Attractions
- Educational Events
- Plant Sales
Capital investment in these properties topped $10,000,000.00. This money flowed into the local, regional and state economies through all the contractors employed to complete the work. Projects include:
- New Buildings
- Historic fences and entry gates
- Road improvement
- New exhibits
- Agricultural displays
- Water gardens
- Additional security
Employment over the seven gardens includes more than 450 full-time and 500 part-time employees. A dedicated corps of more than 1000 volunteers contribute an additional total of more than 63,000 hours in a twelve-month period.
AWARDS AND RECOGNITION
Each garden in the collection has received numerous accolades and awards at every level of recognition. Horticulture, history, family fun, cultural significance, and resource management are many sides of the same reason for more people to enjoy the natural benefits of visiting a public garden within the Discover South Carolina Gardens alliance.