Brookgreen Gardens is the creation of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington who first purchased the old Brookgreen rice plantation in 1929. They were captivated by its beauty and planned to design and build a winter home. It didn’t take long however for Anna to see the ultimate potential in the property and her vision for a sculpture garden within a natural setting quickly took shape. In recent years, the Huntington’s vision has been fully recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
Within its more than 9,000 acres are the Lowcountry and Wildlife Preserve, the Huntington Sculpture Garden many by Anna Huntington herself, and the Center for American Sculpture. The preserve is rich with evidence of the native plants and animals of the South Carolina Lowcountry as well as the great rice plantations of the 1800’s. Today, these places are easily explored by walking the lowcountry trail or by taking an excursion by boat or overland vehicle deep into the preserve.
Depending on the season, you may see rice, cotton, indigo, tobacco and “heirloom” fruits and vegetables…and herbs that were used as seasonings and medicines. A boardwalk through live oak trees leads to the Ricefield Overlook and stunning vistas across Brookgreen Main, the major rice field on Brookgreen Plantation. Slaves once looked after this field and the entire process of growing rice is explained on exhibit panels nearby.
Never far from the plantation were the native animals that lived in the woods, swamps and waters of the low country. Today, the naturalistic habitats feature non-releasable animals and include a waterfowl aviary built over a tidal swamp. River otter and alligator habitats line the creek and upland locations for birds of prey such as owls, hawks and eagles can be seen in the distance. Foxes and deer are part of the landscape too but it takes a good eye to spot them as their natural camouflage allows them certain invisibility. Domestic animals were also an important part of every plantation; they provided food, clothing, transportation and power. The animals in this exhibit are considered “rare breeds” and are much more like the animals of the 1800’s than the hybrid animals of today.
But it is the Sculpture Garden that stands brilliantly in the winter sun. Some 900 works of American figurative sculpture adorn the garden…from the early 1800’s to the present, created by the greatest names in American sculpture…past and present. The placement in more than 50 acres of beautifully landscaped settings creates an extraordinary blending of art and nature. During the winter months, the topography of the land is more revealed, creating yet another sculpted element to the garden. There are also two indoor sculpture exhibition galleries to enjoy. Brookgreen’s dynamic collection is recognized as the finest outdoor presentation of American figurative sculpture anywhere in the world!
There’s no excuse for being bored in the wintertime…plan on spending a day at Brookgreen Gardens, then return once more during the summer months to see a more resplendent display. And you must remember, there’s Huntington Beach State Park, the Battleship North Carolina, Barefoot Landing and so much more! Sure its winter time but that only means it’s easier to get around…not quite so many people in your way and everything is still going full tilt! There’s no such thing as a “dark” theater in these parts…check out the House of Blues or Carolina Opry for the best in good ole Southern music. Legends in Concert is worth several trips and the Palace Theater features the best of touring Broadway…exciting shows like “Wicked” or “Rent,” to name just a few. If you’re in the mood for a LOT of action… Medieval Times will make your heart beat faster with its “derring-do!” Point is…there’s plenty of action waiting on the Beach, including a shag with your favorite partner. Winter in Myrtle Beach is kinda cool in more ways than one! Way cool!