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Garden Club of Charleston celebrates 100 years

By Charleston Mercury Staff

Garden Club Photography Chair Elizabeth Gay and President Joan MacDonald in the garden of the Confederate Home with a stunning arrangement of Joan’s home-grown flowers. Photo by Kathleen Buckley.

The Charleston Garden Club is celebrating its centennial year, which began with a celebration at the Gibbes Museum on Thursday, March 24, to kick off its 86th Annual House and Garden Tour.

From its first meeting in May of 1922 to its current day membership of more than 400, the Charleston Garden Club has had a banner century. Among the eight historical gardens its members have restored and continue to preserve are the Heyward-Washington Garden, which was designed by famed landscape artist Loutrel Briggs; the Manigault House Garden and Temple Gate at the Joseph Manigault House; the Laura Bragg Boardroom Courtyard and the Legare Waring Garden.

1. Mrs. Jane Davis and Mrs. Nancy Feinberg, members of The Joseph Manigault House garden committee, working in the garden. Photo courtesy of The Garden Club of Charleston, Inc. 2. Mrs. Mary Osusky, Member Volunteer, working in the Heyward Washington House Garden. Photo courtesy of The Garden Club of Charleston, Inc. 3. Ms. Angelique Clarke and Mrs. Janet Smith Coyne of The Garden Club of Charleston, Inc. working in The Gateway Walk. Photo by Elizabeth Gay.

The Garden Club Works as a beautifying and benevolent force in the community. Its goals include preserving the natural splendor of Charleston and conserving native natural resources and wildlife, as well as community service that includes plantings for Arbor Day, the decoration of the Blue Star Marker on Veteran’s Day and volunteer decorating at facilities like Ansonborough House and MUSC Children’s Hospital. In addition they hold annual events to bring the community together to enjoy and become educated about horticulture: the Christmas Tea held at the Manigault House, the spring House and Garden Tour and the Plant Sale.

Tickets were sold out to the 86th Annual House and Garden Tour and centennial celebration. The 100th Anniversary Plant Sale will be held at the Saturday, April 9, 2022, from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. at the Joseph Manigault House Garden, Temple Gate Entrance, Ashmead Place. Garden Club members either donate the more than 3,000 plants available for sale or cultivate them themselves. Native Charlestonians may remember that this annual sale used to be held on the lawn of the old Charleston Museum.

The Garden Club of Charleston, Inc. installed the Blue Star Marker in 2012 and ensures it is decorated each Veterans Day. Pictured: Mrs. Betty Floyd, Mrs. Terry Ritchen (deceased), Mrs. Rue Lucas, Mrs.. Anne Poole. Mrs. Ritchen was instrumental in the installation prior to her passing and was a past President of The Garden Club of Charleston, Inc. Photo courtesy of The Garden Club of Charleston, Inc.

The Garden Club is invested in the education and edification of South Carolina youth as well. It sponsors and provides scholarships to Camp Wildwood, an environmental camp co-sponsored by the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, the Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund, and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. Other scholarships offered by the club students seeking degrees in gardening or environmental fields.

One of the benefits of membership is access to special workshops, such as the upcoming series held in the Philip Simmons Garden, which features a 1997 Spoleto installation by Pearl Fryar, a renowned topiary artist from Bishopville, S.C. Fryar’s protégé, Mike Gibson, recently featured on Martha Stewart’s show “Clipped” and in Garden and Gun magazine, will be coming to Charleston to train volunteers in caring for this piece of living art.

“It needs a touch up over time,” says Joan McDonald, current Garden Club president. “It’s almost like taking care of an organic art piece; it’s constantly changing, it’s not static, so having Pearl’s expert come in and help us continue to care for and restore that garden is huge.”

As the organization approaches 100 years, Joan says she is proud of its longevity. “I’m really proud that we’re still here and still helping the community. We’re still furthering horticultural education and conservation and civic beautification and after 100 years. I think the pandemic only brings that to the forefront of my mind. We lost our fundraiser, as many nonprofits did during that time, and we’re still here. I’m humbled and grateful and excited to be here and celebrate 100 years.”

If you are interested in becoming a member, donor or sponsor of the Garden Club of Charleston, visit


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