Fran Hanson Discovery Center
Fran Hanson Discovery Center

South Carolina Botanical Gardens

IrisAre located at Clemson University in Clemson and open—and free—to the public year ‘round. The gardens are a joyous combination of flowers, plants, garden rooms and structures and walkways that provide something to enjoy in every season.

Lily Pads with FlowerThe garden is a wonderful place to learn about what grows well in this area and what needs special attention. Or just come to enjoy the beauty and tranquility.

The gardens encompass almost 300 acres and have both formal and informal gardens, woodlands, ponds, walking trails and Trail with fall leavesgarden structures such as the nature based sculpture program. We suggest new visitors pick up a map at the Fran Hanson Discover Center to help guide you through the gardens.

In the mid ‘90s, the South Carolina Botanical Gardens (SCBG) began a visiting artist program where sculptors were invited to create sculpture out of natural material available in the garden. The sculptures are allowed to exist in nature and last as long as nature allows. Natural Sculpture

The most recent sculpture is still standing in good health and a delight to see. The play of light and the plantings around the sculpture all add to the enjoyment of the peaceful setting of this work of art.


Hosta Garden

A particular crowd-pleaser is the Hosta Garden nestled under trees, above a brick wall and close to a stream crossed by an arching bridge. In the summer, it is a cooling oasis and in the winter, the “bones of the garden” as they say—the wall, bridge and stream stand out in comfortable contrast to the quiet earth.

Fran Hanson Discovery Center

Stone and wood arborThe walking paths take you from one garden room or vista on through the trees to another. In season, there are lovely flowers to be enjoyed along the way. Several of the garden rooms or structures are what SCBG call Heritage Gardens celebrating Clemson University and its history. Two of these gardens were donated by senior classes: the Caboose Class of ’39 Caboose Garden and the Class of ’42 Golden Tigers Cadet Life Garden.

The SCBG celebrates its 50th birthday in 2008 on land that started out as the University dump. The area was reclaimed when Memorial Stadium was built because a gentleman doing research on camellias found there were several important species that would be destroyed in building the Stadium. The University cleaned up the dump, built a pond for irrigation and moved the camellias to what is now the SCBG. Gradually more acres were added and in 1992, all the bits of land – turf plots, gardens, etc. were combined into 295 acres and dedicated to the SCBG.
Map of SC Botanical Gardens

Old saw mill shed
A reminder of the varied background of the gardens is seen in parts of the old saw mill that still stands. It comes from the days when the Forestry Department ran the arboretum and as trees were cut, they were planed into lumber and sold.

One of Clemson University’s missions is community outreach. And next to the draw of the football stadium, the SCBG have probably touched more people than any other single program. In addition to over 100,000 visitors each year and around 7,500 school children coming through on tours, there are weddings held in the garden, rotating art shows and countless other activities.

There’s the Bob Campbell Geology Museum showcasing gems and minerals from around the world and the fossil display is truly amazing. The gift shop is worth seeing with hand-crafted jewelry and other items for sale.

Geology Museum Interior
Bob Campbell Geology Museum

There’s the 60-acres, 1,00- tree Roland Schoenike Arboretum with examples of mature trees that are important to SE horticulture and timber industry; the Camellia collection with more than 300 varieties Decortive Grass producing flowers from fall through spring in various colors, sizes and types; The Fran Hanson Discovery Center with a gift shop, rotating art exhibits and a reference library.

The list goes on and on. It’s best if you visit the SCBG to discover for yourself all there is to see and enjoy. It’s a great place to picnic or take your daily walk or share with friends who come to visit. It’s high on our list of favorite places and we think it will be one of yours too! 

Map of SC Botanical Gardens

South Carolina Botanical Gardens Web Site