Azaleas in bloom at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina
© Joanne Wells/Danita Delimon
Pretty in pink, and purple, and red…
Azaleas are in peak bloom during March at the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens near Charleston, South Carolina. Each year a vibrant forest blooms with hundreds of native and hybrid varieties, including 15 azaleas once thought to be extinct.
Founded in 1676 as a rice plantation, Magnolia introduced an extensive network of dams and dikes built along the Ashley River for irrigating fields for rice cultivation. These earthworks were created by African slaves from rice-growing regions of West Africa and their descendants. The plantation's historical use of slave labor is something that Magnolia's staff members today try to address through education programs.
Botanical gardens were an early feature of the plantation; some sections of Magnolia's gardens date back 325 years. In the 1840s, the owner was the first in the US to try planting azaleas outdoors, bringing them south from Philadelphia greenhouses.