Thursday, October 15, 2009

Botany Bay Plantation, Edisto, S.C. Part III

Entrance Let’s step back again onto the grounds of enchanting Botany Bay Plantation. This is the third and final post in this series. If you missed earlier posts,

Click here for Part I

Click here for Part II

Or, just scroll down this page for more photos and text. The photos all are from February 2009. The first visit, hopefully, of many. There’s just so much to experience within those 4,000 acres. 

In the last post I mentioned Botany Bay’s formal Japanese garden. And the Asian gardener, “Oqui,” who created it for plantation owner John F. Townsend. Well, learning more about the illusive “Oqui” has become a minor obsession.

Mr. Oqui may well have created the first formal Japanese garden in the United States. At Botany Bay Plantation, Edisto Island, South Carolina! We need to know more about him. And about his garden.

It seems unlikely that he was Japanese. Travel abroad for most Japanese subjects during the Late Tokugawa era was still a capital crime. But who knows? He may have crept aboard one of Perry’s ships without permission of the government authorities. Or, he may have joined the expedition in Okinawa, or in some other place in Asia. I’ll let you know what I can find out. 

Next week, during a stay at South Carolina’s Hunting Island State Park, I hope to visit the main branch of the Beaufort County Library to look through their materials. And to talk with Dennis Adams, a senior reference librarian. He wrote the piece on “tabby” I referenced in an earlier post. So watch this site for possible updates.

Barn After looking around the site of Oqui’s garden, now overgrown beyond recognition, walk across the road to have a closer look at the tabby walls of the barn you see in the photo above.

Inside Barn All that remains are the four walls, and what looks like experimental garden plots inside. The roof is gone now. Time for another! The roof of that barn likely was replaced more than once since it was built.

Tabby Wall Detail But the remaining walls give a good idea of what the barn must have looked like while Mr. Oqui was across the road, creating and then maintaining, his formal Japanese garden. Oqui may have stored new shrubs, flowers, or trees he was introducing to Botany Bay in this barn before planting. That, of course, is pure speculation.

Though the walls of that old barn promote just that sort of speculation. The whole place does! Throughout the plantation there’s a strong sense of the people who lived their lives in this very spot. South Carolinians, fortunately, have respect for family strong enough to encourage preservation of records of the past. Let’s hope some of those records are available for public examination.

View Across Marsh Drive on down the road a ways, past the fields, and the hedgerows that separate them. Both worthy of individual study. You can learn a lot from hedgerows. But they’ll have to wait for the next visit. Soon you’ll see the creek pictured above through the marsh.

Moss Draped Live Oak And along the road example after example of the incredibly beautiful live oaks I mentioned in the last post. Each tree with its own characteristics, yet each a very natural part of the whole scene.

Live Oak at Creek These trees are remarkable plants. It would be interesting to know just how old they are. What they’ve been through. What they’ve witnessed, if that doesn’t sound too strange. More on them during the next visit.

Bleak Hall Fence One final point of special interest before leaving Botany Bay Plantation this time. The ruins of Bleak Hall. Here you see all that remains of that impressive plantation home. The bricks of the foundation. Protected now by an out-of-place, but necessary, chain link fence, painted green.

Bleak Hall Latter Day Here’s my photo of the enlargement of an old photograph of the house as it appeared in its later days. The one displayed in the ice house mentioned earlier. Hardly an architect’s crowning achievement, as it appears in the photo. But certainly impressive.

Bleak Hall Bricks The bricks of the foundation are tumbled around the site just as they lay after fire destroyed the old house they supported for so long.

Bleak Hall Walls Here and there, whole sections of wall remain as they originally stood.

Bleak Hall Arch And even a couple of arches. Idle now after holding up the grand old house for so many decades. I walked round and round that perimeter fence, looking at the bricks and mortar of this foundation from various angles. Talk about objects having stories to tell!

Bleak Hall TreeAnd here, the trunk of an ancient tree. Left standing just beyond that surrounding fence. A fitting expression of the passage of time. Of interest now only to grubs, woodpeckers, and those who think too much about the past.

There’s much more to see, and to learn, at Botany Bay Plantation. Thanks to the efforts of South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources, and those of many volunteer organizations and individuals, it remains open and accessible. Not tarted up for commercial purposes, like so many historical sites these days. Have a look for yourself if your travels take you near Edisto Island. Your investment of time is certain to return high dividends.

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