MURRELLS INLET, S.C. - Thousands of statues and an endless collection of beautiful flowers greet visitors in this massive botanical garden just a few miles south of Myrtle Beach. The Brookgreen Gardens are an impressive and unique attraction in a region where go-karts, amusement parks and beaches rule. My girlfriend, Tiffany, and I traveled to the gardens last weekend on a day when dark rain clouds dampened a day at the beach. Volunteers hand you a map that hardly gives new visitors an inkling of what they'll see. The plan on which gardens to visit quickly collapsed and we just walked wherever the path led us.
After more than an hour, we had seen enough statues to satisfy a lifetime, so we went to the historical section of the park - a walking tour of the four plantations that once dotted Brookgreen. Eleven stations along the Lowcountry Trail allowed a recorded voice to explain the lives of the plantation owners, overseers and slaves who used these swampy fields fed by the Waccamaw River to harvest rice.
It began raining halfway through the tour, but it made me think about the the ugly conditions these Africans faced more than 200 years ago. We took shelter under the drooping trees and eventually continued the tour. Platforms overlooking the rice patties allowed us a glimpse into the slaves' lives. But we weren't down in that muck and the water.
We came for the gardens, but found more than just flowers and statues.
(Photos by Tiffany Wheatley)
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