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The South Carolina Botanical Gardens have succeeded in maintaining a historical nature culture that is evident as you walk through the gardens. The gardens have many monuments, memorials, and manmade structures that preserve culture without invading the space nature needs to flourish. A push for historical preservation is displayed throughout the SCBG, with many objects and educational signs on display. Historical culture is quite evident as you venture throughout the gardens, with many important and educational structures littered among the space. The seemingly natural progression of age and natural growth in the forest-like gardens also becomes evident as you’re engulfed within them. Each plant, whether rare or abundant, invites you to come farther and farther into the plant life’s permanent home.

While on our silent walk through the gardens, I was able to actively observe small details of the gardens. Applying a rhetorical listening space within the gardens made me take a step back and take in my surroundings. I often thought about what the gardens would look like if they were completely untouched by mankind. I was able to gather a deeper understanding of nature and see why the SC Botanical Gardens prides itself on being a place where nature and culture come together. The gardens put an emphasis on South Carolina’s cultural history on a smaller scale and provide educational value to its visitors in the form of nature-based sculptures, events, and signage.

As we walked, I searched for details and tried to contemplate the importance of each monument, animal, plant, and unique features left behind by people. Among the abundant plant life, there were countless monuments, memorials, and other cultural displays. One feature that jumped out at me was the Crucible. The Crucible, or the “cave”, is a manmade dome-like structure composed of stone and has a small opening in the front serving as a door, and on the top where light shines through. It was surreal to enter the Crucible because it blocked off all life surrounding you. Everything was silent, and it brought upon a realization of how loud the world surrounding us was. I was able to reflect upon my surroundings in the cave and observe the small insects residing there. Often, we separate ourselves from nature and all non-domesticated forms of life. We pass through the world with only a simple glance, or in some cases a grimace, and move on. My group was lucky enough to encounter a frog that was passing through the Crucible in a bit of water at the bottom of the structure. Seeing animals interact with man-made structures will make you think deeply about nature and your own place within it. Although nature is a thing of a seemingly different world, humankind will always have its place within it.

This seemingly simple architecture is credited to the nature-based sculpting program at Clemson. The crucible, along with the other works left by the program, was, “designed on-site by international artists and built by local volunteers and students within one month.” The work was constructed and left to return to nature and blend in with its surroundings disguising itself within the plant life, giving the impression that it was always there. According to the South Carolina Botanical Gardens website, all works of art through the program are nature-based, which means sculptures are made from either natural materials collected from the site of the work, or materials that are indigenous to the region. This method supports the nature culture of the gardens, blending manmade creations with nature. Many people pour their hearts into these structures to create a glimpse of the culture represented in the gardens.

A more obvious form of culture displayed in the gardens is the flyers that hang outside the community bathrooms. These flyers give a human-friendly atmosphere and invite people to come back, promoting current social and cultural events. Opportunities for people to come together at festivals, activities, and events are all displayed on these pieces of paper hanging inside the glass case made specifically for them. These flyers represent everything that mankind is right in the middle of the gardens. Almost all these small pieces of paper have one thing in common, they promote events. These events can include children’s programs, adult education classes, nature walks, festivals, and more. The choice to include flyers about the gardens’ features and events shows that the South Carolina Botanical Gardens puts value in human attendance and wants to share the educational factors of the park.

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While these events are open to the public, you can also host your open private events within the gardens. Examples of private events include concerts, weddings, receptions, meetings, and more. The choice to hold important events and cultural receptions within the gardens is the perfect way for nature and culture to meet. A couple can share one of the most important days of their lives right in the heart of the garden. People can sit in the amphitheater and enjoy a concert. A group of colleagues can listen to the wonderous sounds of nature and take in the fresh air whilst listening in on their meetings. The South Carolina Botanical Gardens can become home for some guests’ fondest memories.

Educational signs can be found throughout the gardens in front of different plants, structures, and ecosystems, showing the educational value that is stressed throughout the gardens. Most signs describe what the guest is directly looking at and take the opportunity to shed knowledge on the natural and historical value of the landscape or structure. The choice to display knowledge right in front of the subject makes it easier for guests to have a visual and to take an interest in the subject. Descriptions of spaces in the gardens give specific values to the landscapes and inform people of important topics such as history, conservation, types of plant life, and more. Guests can leave the gardens fully informed about what kind of landscapes are in the gardens, what life inhabits the space, and how we as humans can do our part to make the earth a better place for nature and culture to coexist.

If a guest is eager to learn more than what the signs provide, the signs often include helpful links that lead a guest to the South Carolina Botanical Gardens website. Here, guests can read online about the historical values of the homes, structures, and ecosystems that make up the gardens and produce nature culture. Visitors can also sign up for adult education classes held within the gardens such as horticulture, garden-to-table cooking, botanical arts, and more. Youth and family programs are also offered, including investigative science and nature-based exploration. Most of these educational classes are held within the Natural Heritage Garden, due to its endless learning possibilities and attractiveness to guests.

The Natural Heritage Garden provides a space that allows an individual to explore the entirety of South Carolina’s various regions without ever leaving Clemson. The space allows one to see 5,000-year-old shell rings, Piedmont granite flat rocks, and various different carnivorous plants. The website encourages visitors to “Travel back in time 300 years to visit a remnant of the vast savannas and prairies that dotted the Midlands and Upstate and then continue into the cool ravines of the Jocassee Gorges.” The layout of the Natural Heritage Garden is truly an innovative way to embody all of South Carolina’s interesting regions along with the history and culture that accompanies them.

The South Carolina Botanical Gardens are known to pride themselves as being “a place where nature and culture meet.” After one silent walk through the gardens, while applying a rhetorical listening space, I was able to gather confirmation for their claim.

Nature culture is often described as the opportunity for nature and culture to converge as one. The two are inseparable and affect one another in various ways. The gardens have done a good job of achieving culture due to their value in plants, animals, education, history, and people. The gardens ensure a captivating experience that includes educational benefits while simultaneously providing an observable home for plants and small animals. Although nature is a thing of a seemingly different world, humankind will always have its place within it. The gardens are co-created by nature and culture and simply could not exist without one of the two. There would be nothing for the people to see if there was no nature, and the gardens would not be appealing if culture was not applied. Whether it be through man-made structures, flyers for upcoming events, or signs that give useful information, the gardens provide the opportunity to interact with nature in a unique way that promotes culture, all the while showing a way to coexist with nature in a new way. Humans have a place in nature, and the South Carolina Botanical Gardens reveal this to us every day.

Work Cited

    1. Clemson University. South Carolina Botanical Garden, 2019, www.clemson.edu/public/scbg/about-us/index.html.

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