Edisto Memorial Gardens in Orangeburg is an exquisite road trip destination for any South Carolinian all year round. When the gardens were first established in the 1920s, azaleas were planted on just five acres of land. Since then the gardens have blossomed to encompass 175 acres and showcase azaleas, camellias, roses, and centuries-old cypress trees.
Located at the site of a confrontation between the Confederate and Union armies that took place towards the end of the Civil War, Edisto Memorial Gardens – named for the Edisto River that runs alongside it – added its now-famous roses in 1951.
The rose garden became an All-American Rose Selections test garden in 1973 and features new varieties and award-winning roses. The Orangeburg Festival of Roses is held here in May of each year. Admission is free and the gardens are open seven days a week.
The sculpture pictured below depicts a child handing a rose to a woman. Titled Power of a Rose by Zan Wells, it was added to the rose garden in 2006.
Horne Wetlands Park
In 1992 Edisto Memorial Gardens added a feature allowing visitors to walk through the idyllic wetlands of the Edisto River by constructing a 2,600-foot-long boardwalk and an educational center, together called the Horne Wetlands Park.
A boat dock allows visitors to experience the river itself, and a gazebo provides shade and a place to observe the wildlife that calls the river home.
The old River Pavilion, now known as the Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center, is home to the Art Council of Orangeburg County. The center offers a wealth of cultural and artistic activities for the public to enjoy, including theatrical performances and classes in visual, performance, and literary arts.
Edisto River Waterwheel
This unique waterwheel was added in 1941 by Orangeburg Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Andrew Dibble. Over the decades, the 4,000-pound wheel has become a favorite fixture for many of the park’s more frequent visitors. The waterwheel is dependent on neither electricity nor the level of the river, and it once provided fresh water to the gardens. Since then, pumps have been added, but the waterwheel still serves as a functional and fascinating backup. In June of 2012 a tree fell and crushed the waterwheel; however, after three months of repairs, the idyllic icon was returned to its original spot.
Photographer Ginger Parker shares her memories of swimming near this spot as a child: “The cold dark Edisto River. When we were young in the ’60s and ’70s this is where we swam. Most everyone took swimming lessons from Mrs. Skip Mutch. We had to jump off the dock and swim across the river. Her most famous line was,”jump, I won’t let you drown”. Some of us still think that part of the river should be named for her.”
This fountain stands at the entrance to Edisto Memorial Gardens where it honors the soldiers who died in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Originally located in Orangeburg’s Memorial Plaza, it was moved here in 1950. This same year the gardens changed its name from Edisto Gardens to Edisto Memorial Gardens.
Veterans Memorial Park
The Veterans Memorial Park, dedicated on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2009, is the most recent addition to this ever-evolving urban garden. This monument memorializes all those from South Carolina who have served in the military.