What do you get when you throw yard debris into a nearby swamp? Hamilton Carr Bland got Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter, one of the country’s finest botanical gardens and the only public park in the United States with all eight species of swan.
In 1927 Bland began developing 30 acres of land. He wanted to create a garden but had no luck cultivating irises. Eventually, he and his gardener dug up the plantings and tossed them into the swamp. By springtime, an abundance of irises adorned the swamp’s banks, and Bland Gardens were born.
Bland was well known for his landscaping talents, and in 1938 A.T. Heath, Sr., insisted that Bland design his land, Heath Gardens, before donating it to the city as a public park. In 1949 Bland also deeded his gardens to the city, and together they became known as Swan Lake Iris Gardens.
The park includes a Braille Trail for the sight-impaired, a Butterfly Garden, and a Chocolate Garden, which is as savory as it sounds. Comprised of chocolate-hued edible flora, the Chocolate Garden teaches visitors that flowers can appeal to more than just the eye.
More Pictures of Swan Lake Iris Gardens