Gorgeous Greens

The Village of Harleston was created asa suburb of #Charleston in the 1770’s, the name coming from the large tract of high land that bordered the Ashley River, known as Harleston Green. A handful of homes were erected in the late 18th century by planters who wanted to escape the summer sizzle, but the open breezy meadows were largely used for recreation by a large contingent of Scottish merchant immigrants, who brought with them the new game called golf. Whacking away with odd-shaped clubs with names like the niblick, they swatted balls made of sheep and goat skin into appointed holes. And thus the first golf association in America was formed by 1786 as the Harleston Green Golf Club. Today, the green spaces in what’s now called Harleston Village are as beckoning, but the only thing that swings these days are the gates to the garden areas that replaced former fairway. <img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”Harleston Green”

Callimachus’ Contribution

The Acanthus Mollis is a common sight in #Charleston #gardens in the Summer. This non-native perennial comes from the Middle East, and the name comes from Greek, meaning “soft thorns” referring to the tiny thorns in its sepals. The most interesting visual aspect of the acanthus is its drooping flowers in combinations of purple and white on vertical stalks. According to the ancient architectural historian Vitruvius, it was the beauty of these flowers rising around a woman’s grave that inspired Greek sculptor Callimachus (circa 5th century BC) to create what is now considered the highest order of column capitals – the Corinthian Order. <img.src=”Charleston Gardens” alt=”Acanthus Mollis

Spectacular Spectrum

Historic #Charleston is a photographer’s delight, with an abundance of classic architectural shapes, statuesque trees, glistening iron gates, manicured gardens and everywhere, dazzling colors made by man and nature. The exotic plants that have been introduced to Charleston over the centuries from around the world offer rich hues of brilliant blooms. The storied buildings are a visual marvel as well, with exterior walls splashed in shades of orange, raspberry, lime, indigo, canary, mustard and plum. In the city;s heyday after the American Revolution, pigmentation of buildings became a source of pride and an indication of wealth, with vivid colors created from minerals and compounds that were initially added to layers of wet stucco and brushed over bricks. Today, many of those historic colors have been reproduced in latex, making the application a much easier and lasting process and a look that visitors will not soon forget. <img.src=”Charleston SC” alt=”Colors

Mystical Mimosas

The stunning flower of this summer-blooming tree was    first introduced to #Charleston in 1785, with the arrival of French botanist Andre Michaux, who brought a number of exotic species to America, including the Crepe Myrtle and Camellia. Although not a true Mimosa, the name adds flair to a tree which is actually related to soybeans, chickpeas, and peanuts, and who scientific name is a mouthful – Albizia Julibrissin. Michaux was royal gardener under Louis XVI, but instead of losing his head to the guillotine as did his former employer, he was sent by the French Revolutionary government to America as an naturalist emissary, and would find a home in Charleston for more than ten years, exploring the Southeast for other species, such as the one from the mountains he named the Rhododendron. <img.src=”Charleston Gardens” alt=”Mimosa Tree”

Scenic Streets

Orange Street gets its name from an 18th century Orange Grove that existed there, and from which oranges were grown for export until a hard winter in the 1740’s killed most of  the trees and the land was sold as lots where houses are now. The well-drained, sand and clay soil is still ideal for growing, and the street is typical of #HistoricCharleston with his palate of colors from a variety of native and imported plants and trees.<img src=”Orange Street” alt=”Charleston Gardens”>

Spiral Stair Mystery

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Some nice folks on my tour told me about the Loretto Chapel in Sante Fe that is built in the similar cantilevered style of the famous staircase at the #Nathaniel Russell House at 51 Meeting Street. The Loretto chapel was built in 1878, after Catholic nuns asked for help in building a passageway from their chapel to a choir area 22 feet above. They apparently prayed for help to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, and had their prayer answered by an anonymous builder, who fashioned the magnificent staircase to spiral upward in elliptical shape without any supporting wall.

How interesting that the 3-story staircase at the Russell house also goes up without any support, and the carpenter is also unknown. Even more intriguing is that the Russell house also became home to nuns in 1870, when the Sisters of Charity of Our lady of Mercy moved in and turned the house into a convent school.<img src=”Russell House” alt=”Historic Charleston”>

We Worship Washington

IMG_2485The shadow of George Washington still looms in grand fashion over historic   Charleston. The first Washington presence in the city was actually George’s cousin William, who came to South Carolina to fight the British during the Revolution. William was crucial to the victory here, and fell in love with Charlestonian Jane Elliott, who he married and lived here happily after the war. George made his visit here in May of 1791, on his tour of Southern states after his election. Charleston adored George, but George was less impressed with Charleston’s streets, and mentioned in his diary that the thoroughfares here were “like sand”. Washington was feted at the Old Exchange, where he was seated between local ladies known for their whit and good looks, and apparently the father of our country held his own with charm and intelligence to match his military record.

Today, we have #Washington Square, aka Washington Park, which the statue in the picture dominates. We also have a Washington Street near the waterfront, and the Village of Washington, a post-Revolutionary suburb near Hampton Park. One of Charleston’s most fabled organizations is the Washington Light Infantry, a military unit established in 1807, which has fought with distinction both for and against the United States, and whose towering obelisk is the central focus of Washington Square.

On President’s day here in Charleston, we tend to favor the great George, a fellow-Southerner who won our respect and our hearts, as well as helping win our liberty. <img src=”Statue George Washington” alt=” Charleston SC”>

Poinsettia A Charleston Name

IMG_2330The #Poinsettia that is such a Christmas tradition gets its name from a Charlestonian – Joel Robert Poinsett. He was a Charleston attorney who was very fond of plants and trees, and created a massive garden in the upper peninsula that became known as Poinsett’s Grove. He was apparently a brilliant man who enjoyed the company of great thinkers, and was known for hosting breakfasts, at which ideas were offered and discussed with great scholarly detail. With a reputation as a scholar, a jurist, an elected congressman, and fluent in various languages, Poinsett became a trusted diplomat, and was appointed by President John Quicy Adams as ambassador to the newly-independent Mexico in 1825.

Poinsett was as interested in Mexican plants as politics, and became enamored of the fiery-red blooming shrub known as Flor de Noche Buena, or the Christmas Eve Flower. He brought the plant back to his grove and cultivated it as a Christmas ornamental flower, and by the 1840’s, it became known as the Poinsettia. It is pronounced “poyn-Setta” for the benefit those TV football commentators who pronounce the Poinsettia Bowl game with an “eeah”.<img src=”Charleston Gardens” alt=”Historic Charleston”>