Thursday, January 23, 2014

Homes and Gardens in Charleson

Historic Charleston gives much to fall in love with for those who love historic homes of the south. It would be fun to return this year for the 67th Annual Festival of Houses and Gardens, but I doubt there will be time for that. We didn't know much about it last year when we visited, but still enjoyed the trip a great deal. I would like to return because I feel like we would get more out of our time there, having a better idea of the city now.

One of the founding members of the Historic Charleston Foundation was Ben Scott Whaley, an attorney. His wife would become well-known in her own right by founding the Cotillion in Charleston. Emily Whaley was also known for having one of the most visited gardens in the city, and I so enjoyed reading Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden that I received as a gift this past Christmas. I want to keep the book close by when planning the landscaping for our new home.

We won't have much of a yard, so every space counts. Charleston, SC and The Woodlands, TX are in the same planting zone, 8b, so much can be learned from Emily Whaley's gardening tips. I only wish I had realized I should keep my notebook handy as I read her book. Oh, snap! I just might have to read it again to take notes on plants I want to include and those I want to avoid. ;-)

The garden that Mrs. Whaley planted at 58 Church Street is still being visited by those who are fortunate to be included in a tour of private gardens, such as the tour by The Garden Club of America who held their 2012 Annual Meeting in Charleston. When she died, Mrs. Whaley was remembered as a "South Carolina woman with a green thumb and such an eye for color that she helped show flowering Charleston there was bloom beyond azaleas and camellias."  When we moved to the Houston area I was spell-bound by the azaleas. But maybe it's time to venture out and try new things.

When in Charleston, we were fortunate to have a docent on our Morning History Walk who had been in the Cotillion under Emily Whaley. The stories she shared brought Charleston history to life.  She was the one who introduced us to Emily Whaley and her two books.

The houses "South of Battery" (Charleston) are so unique to my view of homes. Most are "single-homes" that are one room wide, built on zero lot lines with your neighbor's house providing the edge of your garden. This became the pattern for a street of homes in my hometown. Take a look at an example of one of the homes in Charleston and it's reproduction. 

Charleston, SC home


Ben Scott and Emily Whaley lived in a much less assuming home, with a narrow entrance between their home and the one next door. Her garden was mostly behind the house. Mrs. Whaley shared a story about Ben Scott being in poor health before his death, yet he still had a love for visiting with other people. For years prior, Mr. Whaley had wanted a bench on the sidewalk in front of their home. But since there was no yard to sit this bench in, his wife was worried that someone would trip on the bench which would have to be placed on the sidewalk next to the front of their home. When Ben Scott became ill late in his life, they finally put that bench on the sidewalk so he and their Jack Russell terrier could sit out there every day he felt well enough to visit with people. He would chat with visitors who were strolling down the street, and would usually invite them to take a tour of the garden, making sure they knew to go all the way to the back of the lot.

I have so much to learn from Mrs. Whaley and from my friends who have a gift of hospitality and from those who love to garden. It's time for me to start paying attention and learn new lessons as I begin this new chapter.

June 6, 2014 - Building Home & Garden has an interesting article describing the Charleston Single House.

July 11, 2016 - We were able to take a second trip to Charleston and got to walk through Emily Whaley's garden. 

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