Charleston is a spectacular place to visit in the spring. The weather is mild, and the blooming flowers paint the city’s historic architecture in gorgeous pink and purple hues. Magnolia Plantation and Middleton Place are well known for their large, magnificent gardens. What’s more fascinating is that there are a handful of secret gardens in Charleston that no one told you about before.
But did you know that there are secret gardens and courtyards all around the Charleston peninsula?
Although these gardens are small, they are as enchanting as any large plantation. However, they are unknown to most visitors. Some of Charleston’s gardens are available to the public. But, a few can only be seen through the bars of a wrought-iron gate.
Are you ready to be enchanted by Charleston’s most secret gardens? So, keep your eye out for these hidden gems:
The Gateway Walk
A great way to discover Charleston’s hidden gardens and courtyards are certainly Gateway Walk. A serene walking path that spans three blocks in downtown Charleston. The Garden Club of Charleston created and maintained the Gateway Walk. Moreover, it is named for the ten wrought-iron gates featured along the route.
The beginning of Gateway Walk is marked by a plaque near the gates of St. John’s Lutheran Church. If you wander along this scenic pathway and you will find evidently historic graveyards and gardens. Though some of which are manicured and some which are left to their wild, natural beauty.
Moreover, the flora and fauna abound on Gateway Walk are quite inviting. Additionally, it creates a quiet and lovely escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The walk comes to an end at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church.
If you want to see more of the hidden gardens and courtyards, consider visiting Charleston during the Annual Festival of Houses & Gardens. This unique tour provides a glimpse into the private houses and gardens of some of the most beautiful homes in the country.
Lenhardt Garden at the Gibbes Museum of Art
Lenhardt Garden is a classically landscaped garden. It is a part of the Gateway Walk. With magnificent fountains and planted urns on large pedestals, it is one of the beautiful secret gardens in Charleston. Located behind the Gibbes Museum of Art, the garden is open to the public and can be accessed either through the museum or a walkway. It is located on the north side of the building.
The Gibbes Museum encourages visitors to stroll through Lenhardt Garden after touring the museum to reflect upon the art. But you don’t need to visit the museum to enjoy this beautiful garden. Many people bypass the museum and take a casual stroll under the live oak trees. A few prefer to sit on one of the benches to admire its serene beauty.
Philip Simmons Memorial Garden
Behind St. John’s Reformed Church on Anson Street is a beautifully landscaped garden dedicated to Philip Simmons, a wrought-iron artist who was known as “Keeper of the Gate.”
This commemorative garden is filled with topiary plants designed by famed gardener Pearl Fryar. Philip Simmons Memorial Garden is known as the “heart garden”. Not only because it’s located in the heart of the city, but also for its heart paving stones, heart-shaped plants, and the stunning heart design of the garden’s wrought-iron gate. It was designed by Simmons, of course.
With its intimate atmosphere and quiet beauty, Philip Simmons Memorial Garden is the perfect place to take a romantic stroll. Take time wandering through the garden, examining the legendary blacksmith’s work in all its glory.
Private Homes and Gardens
Some of the most secret gardens in Charleston are private and can only be viewed through wrought-iron gates. Despite limited access to these gardens, discovering the hidden gems throughout the city is a fun pastime for many.
Most of these secret gardens can be found in Charleston’s historic neighborhoods on its most famous streets. One such street is Church Street, which features several charming gardens and is often called “the most romantic street in America.”
Another street to stroll down is Legare Street, where some of the finest mansions in Charleston residing. Some of these private residences feature beautiful gardens, where passersby can glimpse a stunning variety of flowers, magnificent doorways, and garden gates.
For other hidden gems, be sure to explore the following streets: Anson, Broad, Charlotte, East Battery, King, Meeting, Rutledge Avenue, South Battery, Tradd, and Wentworth Street.
House Museums with Public Gardens
If gazing at gardens through a gate isn’t appealing to you, then consider visiting one of Charleston’s historic house museums that are open to the public. Many of these historic homes have stunning gardens and courtyards which offer a glimpse into the history and culture of their previous owners.
Stop by the Nathaniel Russell House on 51 Meeting Street for a tour of the beautifully restored home and expansive garden. With its cobblestones and blooming flowers all around, these lovely gardens are the perfect place to rest after a long day.
Another house museum with a stunning garden is the John Blake House. Built by John Blake in the late 1700s, this fine Georgian house is one of many historic homes situated along the waterfront on South Battery.
If you haven’t had your fill of gardens and history after visiting the John Blake House, consider venturing on to White Point Gardens. The flowers in this beautiful park will be in full bloom, adding bursts of color around the park’s many commemorative statues.
Lush gardens and beautiful courtyards are everywhere in Charleston, but most go unnoticed by the public. Hidden behind buildings or wrought-iron gates, these small gardens provide their own unique charm and beauty.
Take advantage of the mild spring weather and explore downtown Charleston’s nooks and crannies. Stumbling across these charming spaces might be the highlight of your trip.
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