Spartanburg is a good 45-minute drive from Greenville (up to an hour when driving in traffic); we usually opt to spend that hour driving into the foothills and mountains instead of east. However, we’ve discovered several good reasons to drive I-85, including the International Festival in Barnet Park, Croft State Park, Walnut Grove Plantation and most recently, Hatcher Garden!
|a view over the perennial beds|
The Hatchers retired to Spartanburg in 1969 from Indiana, where they had lived for over thirty years. From their small lot on the west side of town they had a view of a wooded area; although once home to cotton fields and badly eroded, by the 1970s it had seemingly recovered under a mature pine & hardwood canopy. Harold Hatcher purchased three more acres, and soon the pair was spending all their free time filling in eroded gullies, amending soil, building paths and ponds, and planting over 10,000 trees, shrubs and flowers to fully realize the potential of their little piece of the Upstate.
|lilies blooming in the conifer collection|
The gardens soon attracted the attention of various garden and community organizations, and volunteers were instrumental in the next phase of the garden’s development after the Hatchers added an adjacent parcel; together they built trails, a series of ponds, planted trees and added a gazebo, wildflower garden and new flower beds.
|strolling the Bartram Trail|
The garden became a destination for local citizens in the 1980s, and in 1987 ownership was transferred to the Spartanburg County Foundation to give the garden permanent protection from development. At this point it was officially named Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve, and when Josephine Hatcher passed away in 1999 and Harold in 2003, both of their ashes were scattered in the gardens to which they had dedicated three decades of work.
The love that has been poured into the gardens over the last forty years was obvious on our visit; from the blooms in the water wise demonstration garden to the beautiful bridges, observation decks and gazebos, the acreage is packed with interesting plants and trees, beautiful flowers and shrubs and endless corners and trails to explore. Despite the timing of our visit coinciding with the hottest part of the day, the shaded forest trails were alive with insects, animals and the sound of the creek as it cascaded down the waterfall and through the woods.
A paved path leads visitors down into the garden, passing first the perennial beds, then the Dr. Sam Orr Black, Jr. Medicinal Garden and the Conifer Collection. From here it loops around, passing the bald cypress pond, the Robert Lawrence Odom Hosta Friendship Garden, the Women Giving for Spartanburg Garden of Hope & Healing, and the Josephine Hatcher Woodland Garden Room. The Bartram Trail (also paved) is an additional loop, curving around the lower pond & Altrusa Native Plant Garden, and through the Walter Soderberg Ericaceous Collection. Finally, a dozen woodland paths crisscross the property leading to additional gems such as the Butterfly Garden by the Spartanburg Garden Club, and to the Garden of Hope & Healing Pavilion.
Our favorite spots were the children’s sand garden at the pavilion, and the waterfall underneath Corrie’s Bridge. If the mosquitoes hadn’t been out in force we would have lingered at both; instead we stayed on the move, winding our way through the preserve with no particular route in mind.
The Hatcher Garden website is a wealth of information, with highlights of visiting during all four seasons, plant descriptions of all nine gardens, a kids corner and a garden map. The gardens can be rented as a venue and scheduled for professional photography sessions, and group tours are available for nominal fees. Unguided tours of the garden are free during daylight hours; see website for more information. For on-site information visit the office & gift shop, and make sure to nursery and greenhouse for seasonal plant sales. Finally, bring a picnic; in addition to the Jess Taylor pavilion near the main parking lot, there are multiple benches, overlooks and patios, and finally the John A. Nevison Teaching Amphitheater which are ideal for a quiet moment of contemplation.