Hello again; I hope you are having a fantastic February! Although February can be a pretty slow month when it comes to your garden and outdoor living spaces, it is a great time to organize your thoughts, make plans and get inspired for the upcoming spring. To that end, I thought I would share some more photographs from my visit this past summer to Charleston, South Carolina. While there, I took a day trip out to Middleton Place, one of the many historic properties in the area. Middleton place was first settled in the late 17th century and encompasses our nation’s oldest landscaped gardens. The estate has remained under the control of the same family for some 320 years and is well worth a visit! The formerly grand main house was burned during the Civil War. This is the principle structure still standing today…one of two accessory dwellings that flanked the main residence. It is filled with historic artifacts and antiques, and as you can see, is surrounded by wonderful, old trees and plantings. This pile of rubble is all that remains of the old main house. A reminder of a dark chapter in America’s history, it is a bit eerie, but also a moving link to our historical past. Another link to the past is this massive tree base. As someone who loves driftwood and the like, I was captivated by its sculptural qualities, and it is fun to imagine it in its former glory, shading the house with its massive branches. As you approach the house, you pass through this charming garden gate. I love gates and try to incorporate them into designs as much as possible. They are an easy and attractive way to create a sense of arrival and coziness in a garden space. This gate, painted in traditional Charleston green, is visually light and airy and gives the path beyond an intriguing, mysterious appeal. Nearby, this bench is nestled against a centuries-old brick wall. Garden benches are another of my favorite design elements, as they can transform just about any spot into a relaxing destination. The low wall is also a noteworthy design tool. Here, it divides a large lawn from a shady pleasure path, giving both areas a sense of definition and purpose. I just love garden ornaments, so I couldn’t resist the remains of this old urn. It presides over the grand lawn that sweeps past twin lakes, known as the Butterfly Lakes because their design was modeled after the wings of a butterfly. Ornaments, such as urns, sculpture and statuary, offer appealing contrast value to natural plantings and are essential additions to any garden or outdoor space. The Butterfly Lakes also frame a stunning view of the Ashley River, which actually served as the primary mode of transportation to Middleton Place back in the day. So, what you see here was basically the outdoor reception hall! Not bad, huh? The precise alignment of this vista with the bend in the river was a deliberate design decision and exemplifies the expert skill and care that was employed in laying out the property. Having a well-designed plan always pays off! Another garden ornament, this sundial joins a glorious Live Oak in stealing the show in one of the formal garden rooms featuring geometrically arranged paths and clipped boxwood hedging. While you may not be able to recreate the shelter of this unbelievable oak tree, this is also another good example of how a simple garden bench can turn a forgotten corner into a place to stop and smell the roses. The lawn in this garden room may be a little worse for the wear, but the combination of a strong, deliberate design, structured evergreen plantings and central ornamentation makes for a great example of what I call a winter-worthy garden. A well-designed garden should be appealing throughout all four seasons, and winter is the perfect time for assessing the worthiness of a particular space. Even covered in snow, the value of the pathways, hedging and birdbath in this garden could still be appreciated. This is a view across the Rice Mill Pond with the mill, itself, in the distance. The pond is and was a source of irrigation for the gardens of Middleton Place and is a beautiful setting for a garden stroll. A pump house near the Rice Mill Pond is nestled among towering oaks dripping in mood-setting Spanish moss. This marble statue serves as a focal point at the termination of this garden path. Framed by hedges, it is another good example of the value of properly placed garden ornaments. Well there you have it…my version of a garden tour at Middleton Place. I strongly encourage you to experience the real deal, if you are able. Or, at least check out their website to learn more about this enchanting piece of southern history and to garner more inspiration for your own springtime gardening projects!
Exterior designer Daniel Keeley is an Arkansas native and founder/principal of DK Design. His work has won numerous awards and accolades and is featured regularly in various publications. For more information visit dkdesignoutdoor.com.