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Miles Beach Brings Magnolia Gardens to Edgefield

Miles Beach

Miles Beach

On Wednesday, noon, Camellia Club members heard from Miles Beach, Director of the Camellia Collection of Magnolia Gardens in Charleston, S.C.

Magnolia Gardens, “the last Romantic Garden in the United States,” turned to the camellia in the early 90s, after Hurricane Hugo, to restore that part of this special place in S.C., called by Charles Kuralt, “my greatest Charleston pleasure.”

Miles Beach, whose father was active in caring for the Collection portion of this Mecca for garden aficionados, took on the restoration of the Camellia Collection by request from the owners (Hastie family, a history of passionate interest in the camellia).  Beach had worked among the camellias with his father from the time he was 14 years old.

Now a great authority on camellias (which he pronounces ca- mee-lias, with the accent on the “mee” long e), Beach brought a slide show to the group showing blooms while telling stories of their “forebears” (those who may have propagated them or given them names) and giving incentive to the audience for adding to their gardens and giving names to what they have.  There was a “Joe Holland” flower among those he showed; Holland was the camellia lover who brought attention to the camellia in Edgefield in the 40s, became president of the Camellia Society, and forever gave Edgefield an identity with the flower.  It is that identity that has been reclaimed under the direction of Henrietta Humphreys and her development of the Edgefield Camellia Club and the annual Camellia Tea. The Town of Edgefield has now been included in the Great Gardens of America Alliance.

One of the stories was connected to the “Captain Martin’s Favorite” bloom that is large, pink and white striped.  It grew near the water where a Captain Martin docked his boat and the family noticed all the flowers would be gone soon after its blooming.  This was in the era when even boat captains wore top hats.  The captain was walking up a path when one of the family members – a daughter, in fact – was coming by.  He had to tip his hat; custom dictated it.  And when he did so, to the lady, numerous blooms fell onto the ground. The family mystery was solved.

The club members heard that one should plant camellias eight feet apart.  However, Beach admitted that in his home garden, he will often have plants in those 8-feet spaces. (Passionate gardeners could understand that.)

The Camellia Collection of Magnolia Gardens covers 15 acres, and they are adding another 5, presently.

In the business portion of the meeting, the club talked of wanting to add to their programs, next year, what the schools call “field trips.”  And so they will.  Miles Beach planted the idea of one of the trips being to Magnolia Gardens for a first hand look at what he is directing, to the delight of over 200,000 visitors each year.

2 Responses to Miles Beach Brings Magnolia Gardens to Edgefield

  1. Henri

    March 16, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Suzanne,

    You did a great job in capturing the essence (and more) of the gathering! Many thanks…H.

    Am passing it on to Miles and others.

  2. Laurel Blossom

    March 16, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Suzanne (and Henrietta) – I had never been to a Camellia Club meeting before, and found it fascinating! So many varieties! So enterprising of the Edgefield Club to be trying to identify all the varieties in our area, and to restore ancient varieties that have been lost! I was very impressed with Miles Beech, as well. He was very personable, and I think a field trip to Magnolia Plantation is a must! He said the best time to come is in February, for the camellias at least. By the way, we pronounced it ca-mee-lias too, in Cleveland where I grew up! L