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Charleston’s Magnolia Effect

Charleston’s Magnolia Effect
May 2019

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens will bloom in DC this summer

Landscape designer Jeff Minnich’s blueprint is a 340-square foot miniature of Magnolia’s garden and white bridge.

This summer, more than a half-million people will admire Magnolia Plantation and Gardens’ Long White Bridge, arcing over a blackwater pond beneath Spanish moss-laden live oaks. They might spy herons and an alligator amidst a scene lush with oleanders and gardenias, magnolias and palmetto palms.

But here’s the thing: those visitors won’t be making the scenic drive down Ashley River Road. They’ll pay admission to the United States Botanic Garden (USBG) in Washington, DC, where a “Gardens Across America” exhibit is highlighting 20 public green spaces, including Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware and Bookworm Gardens in Wisconsin, from May 24 to October 1.

“We selected Magnolia not only for its plant collections but for its history and focus on storytelling,” says USBG’s public affairs and exhibits specialist Devin Dotson.

Tapped by Magnolia director of gardens Tom Johnson, Virginia-based landscape designer Jeff Minnich created the 340-square-foot display. While the fauna is made of metal, the flora is very much alive, delivering the sights and scents of the Lowcountry. Interpretive panels discuss the gardens, as well as the Drayton family, and acknowledge the vital role that enslaved West Africans played in their history.

“It is a privilege to be involved in this project and to share Magnolia’s romantic garden style with people who have not had the opportunity to visit for themselves,” says Minnich.

Secret Gardens: Find exhibit details at


Photographs (blueprint) courtesy of Jeff Minnich