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  • Dana Tutela

8 Essential Features of a Charleston Garden

Updated: Jan 29

woman in front of pink Charleston single

Sit back, sip some sweet tea and scroll through what makes a Charleston garden so special!

Over twenty years ago, we moved to Charleston and discovered a city filled with history, incredible food, palm trees and salty air. Life here is slower. People take the time to chat in the grocery line. If you’re walking a dog, be prepared to stop and meet the next person walking by with a pup, too. It’s such a special town, and it broke my heart to leave. Imagine how excited I was when our youngest daughter chose to attend College of Charleston after high school! I love visiting our old roots and rediscovering this beautiful southern gem we were fortunate enough to call home for a while.

brick wall in Charleston garden

On my most recent trip, I explored the secret gardens of Charleston with Olivia and her eldest sister, Victoria. The historic homes and gardens here are exquisite and have graced the covers of magazines for decades. Let me share with you the eight essential features of a truly southern Charleston garden as seen through the lens of my daughter, Victoria. She captured exactly what this ginger in Charleston wanted to show you! Check out her website

#1: Live Oak Trees

You will find these southern beauties throughout the south, and they are magnificent. With draping moss and wide low lying branches, they are the grandmothers of the gardens with arms outstretched to wrap around you.

horse drawn carriage under oak tree

live oak tree and red brick road

live oak tree Charleston South Carolina

#2: Stone Paths

Charleston gardens usually have structured paths that are brick, cobblestone, or crushed stone. You will also see stone curbs or bricks for edging. Along the garden paths, look for secret benches and statues tucked away.

checkerboard patio Charleston South Carolina

concrete angel statue in garden

garden statue

Charleston single house with path

#3: Boxwoods

Typically along these charming paths are manicured boxwoods. Their evergreen leaves and various shapes are the foundation of many Charleston gardens. You will also find them in containers as a year round centerpiece.

planter with boxwood centerpiece

Charleston garden with palm tree and blue bench

Camelias and boxwoods in Charleston South Carolina

Charleston single with palm tree and brick pillars

#4: Wrought Iron Fences and Gates

A classic detail of historic Charleston homes and gardens is the wrought iron elements. You can find original hand forged railings adorning many houses’ windows. There are also original wrought iron gates at the College of Charleston and numerous churches from the 18th and 19th centuries. We found plenty during our secret garden adventure!

wrought iron gate scrollwork

wrought iron gate with brick pavers

wrought iron fence and gate Charleston South Carolina

wrought iron railing under window Charleston South Carolina

tree bark twisted in wrought iron fence

#5: Water Fountains

Another classic feature of Charleston gardens and parks is the water fountain. From the classic Pineapple Fountain at the Riley Waterfront Park to the simple wall fountains in the secret courtyard gardens, this feature is here to stay in Charleston.

three lion heads water feature

stone water fountain

Charleston garden with water feature

Charleston  garden with water feature and brick path

#6: Palms

Take a look at the trees lining King Street and you will see the South Carolina State Tree: the Sabal Palm. They evoke the charm of the Lowcountry and its beaches while standing tall and strong against countless storms. In addition to the Sabal, you will find other palms in landscaping like the Pindo Palm and various types of Fan Palms.

palm tree in front of Charleston single

palm tree in front of Charleston single

several palm trees in front of Charleston single

#7: Climbers

Traditional Charleston gardens will have climbers such as Creeping Jenny, Confederate Jasmine and Lady Banks Rose. Confederate Jasmine, aka Star Jasmine, is a fragrant white flowering vine found in many gardens in Charleston. I’ve grown it at every home we’ve owned since moving to South Carolina. It’s simply delightful and easy to grow. Interesting note: the name refers to an asian confederacy where it originated, not the US.

Confederate jasmine and lady banks rose on doorway

lemon tree next to vine covered steps

grey gate with vine covered walls

#8: Window Boxes

It’s always been a dream of mine to make a beautiful coffee table book depicting all of the stunning window boxes in Charleston. The colors of the houses on Rainbow Row set the perfect backdrop for the container arrangements found up and down the streets of the peninsula.

Charleston window box

Charleston window box

Charleston window box

Charleston window box

Charleston window box

This ginger is feeling nostalgic for her roots in Charleston right now. I better add some of these elements to my garden here in the Upstate! I’m thinking a water fountain…no maybe a bench…hmmm where can I add some wrought iron fencing?

I hope this inspires you to visit Charleston, South Carolina and explore the beauty of her gardens!

redhead looking at window box in Charleston, SC

Looking for a Place to Stay in Charleston?

As a former local turned visitor, I cover my favorite places to stay in Charleston and nearby beach resorts in A Ginger with Roots Stays in Charleston.

montage of Charleston hotels

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Nov 20, 2023

Awesome post! I love the photos.



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