Forty-five minutes west of Greenville is Clemson, home not only to Clemson University, but also to the South Carolina Botanical Garden, a perfect day-trip destination this spring. The colorful spring foliage and cool temperatures will ensure a memorable visit to one of the premiere Gardens of the Upstate! KAG Contributor, Liene, shares all about this beautiful (and free!) destination. See our list of gardens near Greenville for even more beautiful outdoor areas to explore.
At just under 300 acres in size, the South Carolina Botanical Gardens encompass everything from natural landscapes to display gardens, including miles of streams, nature trails and the 70-acre Schoenike Arboretum. Home to over 300 varieties of camellias, the Gardens also have an extensive collection of hollies, hydrangeas, magnolias and native plants. Although there are multiple points of access, parking in the lot off Pearman Blvd. closest to the Heritage Garden will put you in the center of this gorgeous botanical treasure.
Cadet Life Garden
Upon entering visitors will find themselves in is the Cadet Life Garden, a nod to the period in Clemson history during which the University was a military college. Over those sixty years (until 1956), 12,314 students graduated; of those nearly 10,000 became Reserve Officers, about 5,600 saw active military service, and 335 died or were missing in action while fighting for their country. (Source: informational plaques in the Garden).
After trying out one of the swings, follow the shaded pergola to the 1939 Caboose Garden. George Williams, Assistant Vice President and Treasurer of Southern Railway (as well as graduate of class of ’39) donated the caboose to Clemson, after which it was painted red, transported to its current spot, making a perfect playground (and photo op!) for those budding train enthusiasts.
Also, see our list of places to find trains near Greenville for more locations for kids that like trains.
After a meander in the Heritage Garden you’ll emerge near the Children’s Garden. With greenhouses, a “Food for Thought” Garden and several other interesting spaces, the kids will find plenty to explore. The Peter Rabbit Garden features a cute little playhouse, perfect for an imaginary afternoon tea.
Adjacent is the butterfly garden, where you will find quite a few different species of butterflies fluttering about, attracted to the early spring blooms. The bog section has really cool pitcher plants; let the kids check to see if they are digesting any insects!
Duck Pond & Camellia Trail
A loop around Duck Pond on a nice wooded trail takes visitors around to the Camellia Trail. Benches scattered here and there allowed for chances to stop and rest, have a snack and enjoy the view. Hopefully you’ll spot some migrating waterfowl in addition to the frogs, lizards, turtles and even snakes that call this area home.
Flower Display Garden
The Flower Display Garden is also on this end of the garden, and you should definitely stop in to see what is blooming before taking one of the dozens of trails back towards the Heritage Garden. If you continue past the parking area you’ll come to Kelly Meadow and the Meadow Pond, a beautiful panorama with a backdrop of the forest.
In addition to a walk through the gardens, you might also be interested in the following attractions:
Fran Hanson Discovery Center & Gift Shop
On the very west end of the Gardens (past Kelly Meadow) is the Fran Hanson Discovery Center & Gift Shop. Built in 1998 as “The Wren House,” it was the first Southern Living Idea House. The second floor houses an art gallery that showcases local artists.
Campbell Geology Museum
The Campbell Geology Museum offers houses a collection of more than 10,000 minerals, rocks and fossils, a great activity for a rainy autumn day. And admission is free! The museum is open Monday – Sunday 10 am to 5 pm.
The cactus gardens between the gift shop and the Geology Museum are interesting year-round, and the historical mining artifacts mixed in offer kids a fun game of “I Spy.”
The Shoenike Arboretum features the legacy of Dr. Schoenike, who during his career at Clemson planted, cared for, and studied some 2000 trees and shrubs in the arboretum.
Plan your own trip to the SC Botanical Garden
There is always something going on in the garden! From concerts to hikes, homeschool days to wreath-making, there is something for everyone… Check the event calendar for more information.
Truly a state treasure hidden away in a corner of the Upstate, the SC Botanical Gardens are a must-see destination for visitors and residents alike. Spring is a favorite time of year to visit, although autumn also brings cooler temperatures, fewer insects and of course the colorful leaves while summer the gardens are in full bloom. Grab the kids and go explore, you’ll be sure to see something new on each trip!
South Carolina Botanical Garden
150 Discovery Lane
Open daily, dawn to dusk
Admission is free!
View Liene’s original post about the SC Botanical Garden here.
What is your favorite spot in the Gardens?