Behind the Garden Gate allows us to be voyeurs into peninsula gardens 

Peeping Toms

We’re all guilty of it. Stopping to peer into a stranger’s backyard, trying to catch a glimpse of that person’s life — or garden. And on Saturday, the Charleston Horticultural Society along with The Garden Conservancy and Spoleto Festival USA allowed us to go behind the garden gate to see some of the prettiest and well-designed gardens on the peninsula.

Visiting nine gardens south of Calhoun, event-goers were able to pick the pace and order of the tour themselves, following a map they received with descriptions of the gardens and directions. We heard a few people complaining about parking and finding the houses, making our decision to bike the tour seem like the best way to get around.

At each house there were Horticultural Society volunteers to let you know the rules of that particular garden — a few didn’t allow pictures — and some things to look for, but then we were on our own. We heard many people asking questions about particular plants that were answered about half of the time. At a few gardens, the owners were there letting people know about the upkeep, design or history of the space.

What shocked us the most were the number of pools that were tucked away. There must be some epic pool parties going on in this town. We also couldn’t get over how many perfectly manicured hedges that lined rows and rows of space.

Another surprise was the sheer size of the garden at 52 East Bay St. It seemed to never end, with tall hedges introducing garden room after garden room. Just a few doors down was the exact opposite. While it wasn’t a small garden, it was finite, you walked in and saw the wall where it ended. And this one didn’t have many plants; it was more of a piazza with beautiful crepe myrtles acting as the focal points. We would have loved to spend nights out there with a bottle of wine.

Other favorites included 72 Anson St. and 64 South Battery.

While touring these spaces, there was a sense of separation. Not 500 feet from a main road, we were transformed into a quiet, peaceful haven. Each with their own character and design, it really was like looking at nine different works of art. Next weekend’s tour includes some gardens in the Old Village of Mt. Pleasant as well as stops on the peninsular.

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