Whether strolling solo outdoors on a pretty day, grabbing the fam for a hands-on history lesson, or making plans for an intimate open-air event, Columbia SC’s gardens offer natural beauty all year long in the heart of South Carolina.
With 70 acres to explore and 4200 species of plants, the Botanical Garden at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden offers year-round beauty and cultivated niche spaces, like the Asian Garden, Old Rose Garden and Walled Garden. Spring and summer are peak times for color and showy blooms, but don’t neglect a winter visit. Catch a glimpse of winter honeysuckle and crocus blooms in January, flowering cherries and winter hazel in February and forsythia as well as daffodils and tulips in March on one of Columbia SC’s mild winter days.
Four individual gardens are included in the South Carolina Governor’s Mansion Complex. The Wedding Garden has a distinctive wall fountain and wrought iron gates. The Memorial Garden is owned by the Garden Club of South Carolina and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Caldwell Boylston Garden has been the site of historic parties since 1830s, and the grand Mansion Mall stretches between the Governor’s Mansion and the Caldwell Boylston and Lace Houses with a scene-stealing Italian marble fountain. The gardens are open to the public weekdays from 9am-5pm except for state holidays or during private events.
And if strolling through these gorgeous spaces has you dreaming of a future outdoor soiree, packages for events (which adhere to the Accelerate SC safety guidelines) can currently be customized for events of up to 250 with event rental of the beautiful Lace House.
Each of the house museums within Historic Columbia’s collection has its own beautifully tended grounds and gardens. The Seibels House Garden includes a blend of heritage plantings and historic elements. The Hampton Preston Mansion and its gardens were restored in 2018 and include a charming garden swing and enchanting gazebo. The gardens at the Robert Mills House were renovated in the spring of 2020 and feature a new pergola and 4,500 Eastern US plants. The Robert Mills House also plays stately host to many Columbia SC festivals and events year-round, including the May 2021 Drink Pink Rose Festival.
If you’re curious about a specific plant, use the Historic Columbia garden database to discover exactly where you can find that flora.
The Historic Columbia Gardens are open to the public during select hours and are available for tours, but the historic house museums’ interiors are currently closed as a safety precaution because of COVID-19.
Also, keep your eye out for these new spaces, which are currently in the works: Sandhill Children’s Garden, the renamed and relocated site for the former Carolina Children’s Garden, is currently under construction. Historic Columbia will also welcome a new custom gate house and state-of-the-art greenhouse to the Hampton Preston Site in 2021. The structures are based on historic buildings that once graced the property and are made possible with support from the Boyd Foundation.