When it comes to South Carolina trees, the native sabal palmetto tree commands most of the attention. The tree has been on the state seal since 1777 and the state flag since 1860. It was also declared the official tree of the state in 1939. The sabal palmetto has become one of the most iconic images of South Carolina, its people, and its culture.
But there are other sometimes-overlooked trees that also fill the state with natural beauty, including cherry trees. Gorgeous cherry blossoms color the South Carolina landscape with pastels of pink and white each spring. Here are some key tips on where and when to view some of the prettiest cherry blossoms in the Palmetto State.
Charleston is a gem of the American south, with flora that blooms year-round. While the city’s collection of cherry blossoms isn’t necessarily large, it is quite lovely when in full bloom.
Take a stroll down historic Lower King Street. Or visit Hampton Park, featuring the largest floral display in the city.
When the cherry blossoms are in peak bloom, the Holy City sparkles even brighter.
Orangeburg’s floral notoriety usually centers on the city’s roses. The Orangeburg Festival of Roses is held the weekend prior to Mother’s Day each May.
Edisto Memorial Gardens in Orangeburg has nearly 5,000 roses in bloom each spring, featuring well over 100 varieties from miniatures to Old Garden Roses.
But before the roses bloom in mid-April, there is an earlier spring arrival that shouldn’t be overlooked. Azaleas, dogwoods, and, of course, cherry blossoms adorn the park beginning in mid-March. These blooms generally don’t receive the same publicity as the roses, but they invite visitors to come and enjoy the park at a slower, more tranquil pace before the throngs of rose enthusiasts arrive.
Swan Lake Iris Gardens
This park in Sumter is known primarily for its swans (hence the park’s name). Swan Lake Iris Gardens is currently the only public park in the U.S. where you can view all eight species of swans. Royal white mutes, Black Necks, Coscorobas, Whoopers, Black Australians, Whistlers, Bewicks, and Trumpeters all call the park home.
The garden that surrounds the famous black water of Swan Lake features countless varieties of flowers and trees. The iris bloom in early summer is the most well-known, but don’t skip over the spring flowers, including the magnificent cherry blossoms.
There is also a boardwalk system where visitors can walk through a small southern swamp and experience all the wildlife that inhabits the wetland, including turtles, snakes, and herons.
Admission is free of charge, which seems too good to be true for a place as spectacular as this, but it is true nonetheless. Make time to visit Sumter and the Swan Lake Iris Gardens next spring!
This delightful garden is in Rock Hill in northern South Carolina. The garden was the inspiration for Rock Hill’s famous Come-See-Me Festival, which is held for ten days every April.
The mild climate of the region allows different varieties of blooms to flourish in Glencairn Garden throughout the year. In the spring, the garden explodes with colorful blooms when the azaleas, pansies, and wisteria are all on full display. Standing as a backdrop to the entire spring scene are blooming Yoshino and Kwanzan cherry trees.
There is no admission fee for entrance to the garden, though some special events may have an entry fee.
Located near Moncks Corner, the Nancy Bryan Luce Gardens at Mepkin Abbey is one of the loveliest (and lesser-known) places in the Palmetto State.
The Mepkin Plantation is home to a community of Roman Catholic monks who tend the grounds. The property has a history dating back to 1681, but it was donated to the Trappist Monks by Mrs. Luce in 1949. The monastery in its current form has operated on this site since the 1960s.
The monks of Mepkin Plantation extend a warm welcome to visitors who can enjoy strolling the grounds, which feature a wonderful botanical garden. A wide variety of flora bloom throughout the year, including the cherry blossoms in early spring.
If you’re looking for a peaceful getaway to enjoy springtime in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, you’ll want to stop by for an uplifting visit to the gardens of Mepkin Abbey.
A short 20-minute drive from downtown Columbia will bring you to the small town of Irmo. This hidden South Carolina gem features the annual Irmo Cherry Blossom Festival which is held at Irmo Town Park.
In 2001, Yoshino cherry trees were planted in the park. Since then, this festival has become an annual tradition of picnicking, blossom-viewing, local artisan displays, and much more.
The festival reflects the Japanese tradition of hanami, a word that literally means “flower viewing.”
In the cherry tree’s native Japan, celebrating the annual appearance of the cherry blossoms is a national tradition.
Japanese meteorologists publish charts that predict when peak bloom will occur throughout the nation. Major news networks display bright pink maps to show where and when the bloom is peaking.
When the cherry blossoms reach their peak bloom, the people of Japan celebrate the occasion with picnics, strolls, and unhurried time enjoying the all-too-brief spring spectacle.
The annual cherry blossom festival in Irmo, South Carolina recognizes and reflects this tradition with traditional Japanese food and drink. It also features an annual kimono stroll and samurai performances, as well as anime, manga, and cosplay events.
Best Time to See the Blooms
Now that you know where to go for cherry blossom viewing, the next question is, when do you go? This is a lot trickier. The “where” doesn’t change from year to year, but the “when” certainly does.
Generally speaking, cherry blossoms flower in early spring. But with South Carolina’s warm climate, the bloom can be pushed even earlier. Peak bloom for South Carolina’s cherry blossoms can be as late as mid-March, or as early as January.
And, along with being unpredictable, the blooming season is quite short. The blooms stay at peak for a week, on average. In cool, calm weather, they may hang on a little longer. Rain and strong winds can also bring the bloom to an abrupt early end.
Monitor the conditions in your region and listen closely to local horticulture experts. They will give you the most accurate timeframe for cherry blossoms each year.
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