Swan Lake and Iris Gardens

 

While I don’t like working in gardens, I do enjoy visiting them, and photographing the flowers. That’s part of what brought me to Swan Lake and Iris Gardens in Sumter. The Iris bloom from around mid-to-late May until early June. Not a large window to partake of them, so timing is crucial. If you miss them, no worries, there are blooms to see throughout the year and there are the swans. If you’re really into irises, the annual Iris festival is every Memorial Day weekend. On my visit, I timed my trip to avoid the crowds.

I went mid-May and wasn’t sure the flowers would be blooming, but some were. It’d probably be better to go later in the month. It’d be nice if it said on the website when they were actively blooming, especially with spring coming early some years. Despite that, I had a good time. It wasn’t just the flowers I wanted to see, but the swans as well. This is the only public park in the entire United States with all eight swan species of the world represented.

And that’s not all to see in these 150 acres. In the playground is a Seagrave Firetruck for kids (little and grown up kids) to climb into. Sculptures dot the dot the grounds. Three of my favorite were the Untitled Boy Sculpture, the Recovery Sculpture, and the Flying Swans in Bland Garden across the street. Besides the Japanese Irises, there’s the Chocolate Garden, Butterfly Garden and a Braille Garden.

The Butterfly Garden is self-explanatory, the flowers attract butterflies, but the Chocolate and Braille Gardens are quite unique. In the former, the plants are brown like chocolate or smell like chocolate. I have to take their word for it because I didn’t smell that, but maybe because not many were blooming. The Braille Garden has signs in Braille and those who are visually impaired can smell and touch the plants. A really cool idea.

It’s interesting note: the garden is the result of a mistake. This was once a private fishing place owned by Hamilton Carr Bland, a local businessman. When the Japanese irises didn’t grow after being planted, Carr told the gardener to dig them up and toss the bulbs into the swamp. The next year, the iris burst into bloom.

Today one can wander around the two gardens, one on either side of West Liberty St. Both have irises and swans. The Heath Garden is the one with the lake and playground. Bland Garden features a boardwalk through cypress trees. An elevated crosswalk connects the two and there’s an elevator for those who can’t utilize the stairs.

The garden is open 7:30 to dusk every day except for during the Iris Festival. There’s a visitor center which is open Monday through Friday 8:30 to 5.

 

How to Get There:

822 West Liberty Street/SC763  in Sumter

Links

http://www.sumtersc.gov/swan-lake-iris-gardens

What’s Close By:

Downtown Sumter with Opera House

Poinsett S.P.

Statesburg

Manchester State Forest

Advertisements

Main Street

Main Street. Where all the action is. Or used to be. Or where it’s at again. It all depends on where you are. Driving around, you’ll never know what kind of Main Street you’ll find and how you’ll find it. Maybe there’s not much left, physically, but the memories are still there and there’s always something interesting. If you’re lucky you’ll bump into someone who remembers what it used to be, bad or good.

According to the Municipal Association of South Carolina, there are 270 towns and cities with a population of 50 and higher. 270 main streets, they maybe called something other than ‘Main’ Street. 270 downtowns. Somehow I thought there’d be more.

Big or small, I like to take a walk around Main Street, time willing. Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, etc, all have bustling downtowns. In the smaller places, the sidewalks might roll in after six p.m. leaving you amazed the store’s closed so early. It happened to me. Here are a few downtowns, Main Streets, I’ve taken pictures of. Enjoy.

Sumter with Opera House

North

Newberry with their opera house

Mullins

Georgetown                                                    Cheraw

Great Falls

Chester                                                  Olar

 

Libraries

sumter-sumter-downtown-25-carnegie-library

Sumter Carnegie Library

Libraries might not be what one might think of when sightseeing. I can even image groans coming from this suggestion. Being a librarian though I like to swing by, see the architecture of the place, and even go in and visit. They may surprise you.

union-union-27-carnegie-library

Union Carnegie Library

The Carnegie Libraries are interesting for their architecture and history. Built in the early 1900’s with grants from the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. I believe there are about seventeen public and academic libraries built with those funds. There’s one in Union that’s still a library and one in Sumter, which sits sad and empty.

greenwood-ninety-six-library-mural-02

Ninety-Six Library

The main branch of the Richland County Public Library has a nice mural of the Wild Things in its children section. The library in Ninety Six has a nice mural in it too, painted by a local artist. I’ve shown a picture of it already I believe. In Chester they had a section where you could purchase used books. I did not walk away from there empty handed.

Libraries are great places to get information. In Union, you can get a map of the city to take the tour. In Greenwood I visited their new library in order to find a place I wanted to visit. The librarians are always eager to help.

newberry-newberry-49-old-post-office chesterfield-mcbee-02-old-train-depot-library

Newberry – former post office now library

McBee – former train depot now library