You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
Early in the blooming season - a semi-botanical Botanical Garden
We're visiting Mark and Nancy in Upcountry South Carolina, near Anderson in the northwest, piedmonty corner of the state, and on 6 May we decided to find out whether the flowers are seriously in season yet.
We're visiting the 'South Carolina Botanical Garden at Clemson University', and we're determined not to do any illicit congregating.
Here we are at the famous Class of '39 Caboose Garden, one of the first of the Heritage Gardens intended to provide 'a visual display of some of the important aspects of [Clemson University's] history and traditions' -- it was 'completed in 1996 with funds and gifts in kind from the class members' [source].
Apparently, this caboose was a very important part of the traditions of the Clemson class of '39. The actual botanical things are a little underwhelming at the moment, though.
Our path leads us farther down this attractive promenade of trellises, full of stony symmetries, towards . . .
. . . the Cadet Life Garden, a very nice shriney sort of thing with an historical bell in it, encircled by a bunch of bas-relief plaques depicting 'those features of Cadet Life, during Clemson's first sixty years, that were different from student life today here and elsewhere'. It was completed in 1999 with funding from the Golden Tigers (i.e., alumni who'd graduated 50 or more years earlier), chiefly the classes of 1939, 1942, and 1955.
Amongst other fond memories of their college days that the alumni treasure are those involving 'discipline' -- 'Freshmen were assigned to upperclassmen to serve as orderlies throughout their first year. This daily service included cleaning rooms, making beds, and running errands of all kinds. Inadequate attention to these duties resulted in discipline -- usually, as here, administered with a broom or paddle.' [One might be inclined to call that simple assault.]
'Several times during the year, the entire Corps of Cadets assembled on the quadrangles and marched to Bowman Field for a formal full-dress parade and/or inspection.' (What some people won't do for fun.) The people in the cars are gathered to watch the flawless formations of stiff-backed young men on the field.
And of course, always the Corps. University was way different not so many years later, as one recalls. The lady in the foreground was apparently chosen at the Military Ball to act as the Honorary Colonel, like a prom queen.
Simple, and dignified, very nice
We're proceeding along the paved walkway, looking for the Natural Heritage Trail, which runs some 900 meters the length of the gardens, illustrating some ten biome types (maritime forest, piedmont prairie, mountain bog, longleaf pine savanna, &c.) seriatim, with explanatory texts for each.
That's evidently either the President's Plaza or the Founders Garden -- the signage isn't too clear and we were rocketing past looking for flowers, etc., and didn't pause. The brochure says that it's awaiting further fundraising in any case.
National and state flags, more tastefully displayed than many we've seen on this trip.
A fine new little amphitheatre -- one day, when the covid's gone away and the flowers are blooming, this would be a good place to hang out for a while.
We've found the Natural Heritage Trail and mistakenly crossed it into the Piedmont Woodlands, where we wander about for a while looking for a way out of it.
We've been reliably informed that that is a Red-shouldered Hawk, taking a short break from hunting down the cute little mammals of the forest.
It's not clear what that thing is -- an unnecessarily complicated outdoor grill, perhaps -- but we've learnt that the Garden hosts a 'Nature-Based Sculpture Program' in which international artists and local volunteers create 'extended-ephemeral pieces' that begin to return to nature soon after completion, such that some of them have already disappeared entirely. Perhaps Nature's BBQ is one of them.
Or perhaps it's meant to be a Throne. Or an Uneasy Chair.
Presently we're crossing a little creek on a useful bridge, which (if we are where we believed ourselves to be) shouldn't be here.
But this is a Rumsfeldian 'Known Known' -- it's one of the 'extended-ephemeral pieces', called 'Natural Dialogue', attributed to Alfio Bonanno, 1997, and not likely to be going anywhere soon.
Oh good, another little bridge -- we'll scramble up this little hill towards daylight.
We're saved, topping out on the little open ridge and staring at the Fran Hanson Visitor's Center at the far end of the Natural Heritage Trail, which, if we're not actually on it, we're nearby. Round the little fence in the foreground is evidently the sandy, peaty bog called a 'pocosin' type, and at the moment we're standing on the . . .
. . . Piedmont Prairie. Fair enough. We're imagining enormous herds of bison and elk, pursued by wolves, but we need to see if the rest rooms in the Visitor's Centre are open despite the covid.
This is the region of the Carnivorous Plants, and in fact . . .
. . . one of them has been spotted, evidently the nastiest of them all . . .
. . . the Venus Flytrap (the orange-green little thing in the centre, looking all innocent). They'll rise up and grab your ankle as you walk by. (They're 'native to the East Coast of the United States in North Carolina and South Carolina'. Like rattlesnakes.)
We continue along the helpful boardwalk, pausing only to contemplate an actual, real-life . . .
. . . Palmetto!
So that's a Palmetto, eh? According to the info plaque, raccoons love them. [All I knew about palmettos was the very underrated Woody Harrelson film, 1998, a kind of Body Heat knockoff, but I think that was actually referring to palmetto bugs, i.e. southern cockroaches.]
Approaching the Visitor's Centre -- no long lines waiting to get in. Unfortunately.
These are pretty much our first blooming botanical specimens; we did see some different kinds of grass a ways back.
And now some more; strange ones.
All closed up. Covid. Come back later, y'all.
Here we have, half-circled round the Visitor's Centre, a very nice 'garden garden'. Just behind the building, there is also a Jurassic Garden and a Desert Garden.
Pretty, very well-manicured
Actual colorful botanical blooms
The Jurassic Garden ('When dinosaurs walked the earth . . .')
Just outside the Centre, there's this authentic, antique something.
And, adjacent, the fabled Geology Museum (closed; covid)
We're back on the Natural Heritage Trail, and keeping on it this time, right to the far end (at the Duck Pond).
That is called the Carolina Bay. The Cadet Life stuff is up on the far side.
The ornithological possibilities -- we scored the Red-shouldered Hawk, anyway, though we missed the 'distinctive kee-aah'.
This is one of our Extended-Ephemeral Pieces, called 'The Crucible', by Herb Parker in 1995. It appears to be a kind of oven or kiln -- the light inside is sunlight though a hole in the roof.
This is labeled the Mountain Bog and is about 4 metres by 4 metres in extent.
Very pretty; restful. Tinkling waterfalls, burbling brook, and the temperature is perfect today.
This is the Hunt Cabin, i.e. it was built by Mr & Mrs Hunt in 1826, in Seneca SC just west of Clemson. Scheduled for demolition in 1915, it was bought by the Clemson class of that year (for $35) and apparently moved here to the Gardens in 1955. Mr & Mrs Hunt seem to have brought apple trees to the area and were famously hospitable, entertaining passing travelers. One such traveler later given hospitality in the cabin, according to a legend, was Gen. Wm Tecumseh Sherman, who spent a night here and liked it so much that he didn't burn it to the ground along with everything else in the region.
The Duck Pond, and more than a million sunning turtles!
The dedicated turtle-viewing platform
Look at them, thousands, or at least hundreds of them -- inspiring to look at, but if they should ever get organized, look out.
However long we stand here, taking the same photos over and over, not one of them will have moved.
Still more of them over on the farther bank -- we're lucky to find four in a week at the lake in Wisconsin, and those might actually all be the same one.
We've been noticed -- they're coming for food. Sorreee.