Since azaleas were introduced to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, their springtime explosion has given way to boundless wonder.
The oldest collection of Southern Indica azaleas in the Americas, the flowers were first planted by Reverend John Grimké-Drayton when he inherited his family’s circa-1676 property on the Ashley River in the early 1840s. Under his care, Magnolia gained national recognition for its acres of blooms, drawing visitors from far and wide by the time it opened to the public in 1850. Today, the plantation continues to cultivate hundreds of varieties of azaleas, including at least 15 believed to be otherwise extinct. This shot of two admirers was captured in the spring of 1901, though a 1906 mention in Lady Baltimore Magazine echoes the sentiments of all who catch a glimpse of the spectacle: “I have seen gardens in England, France, and Italy...but no horticulture that I have seen devised by mortal man approaches the unearthly enchantment of the azaleas at Magnolia.”
Photograph by William Henry Jackson, courtesy of Library of Congress, www.loc.gov