A look around the Garden City is proof that Jay Hiers, Orangeburg superintendent of parks, was on target with his prediction that the first week of spring would bring a burst of blooms in the Garden City.
Azaleas, dogwoods, wisteria, cherry trees and more are putting on a show of color, and despite the colder temperatures of recent days, the show will get better. There is nowhere better to see it than Edisto Memorial Gardens.
The gardens, owned and operated by the City of Orangeburg, are a gift to the community that keeps on giving. More than 600,000 people a year enjoy the gardens, where admission has been and remains free.
The gardens were the brainchild of City Councilman John M. Sifly, who was responsible for Orangeburg’s parks and streets.
He, Mayor Robert H. Jennings Sr. and Councilman A.C. Watson voted at a city council meeting on Jan. 16, 1926, to establish the site.
The first area developed was the five acres where the current azalea garden is located.
For the first five or six years, the gardens were known as the Orangeburg Botanical Gardens.
By the mid-1930s, the city fathers realized that the services of a professional horticulturist were needed.
In 1937, horticulturist and landscape designer Andrew Dibble was hired by council to plan and direct the destiny of the gardens. His first goal was to draw up a master plan and design for all future endeavors.
When Dibble began managing the gardens, the only resources he had were four men, a mule and a dump cart.
Shortly thereafter the levee, or dike, along the river was raised to prevent flooding of the gardens. This project was done without the benefit of modern machines.
In 1939, the lake area was developed. More than 1,600 iris bulbs were installed around this lake and water lilies and lotuses were set in specially prepared beds within the lake.
The next development of this master plan was the “Hillside Garden,” which is now the area of Garden Drive and Centennial Park.
Improvements and additions continue to this day.
Annually, Edisto Gardens gets a lot of attention during the Orangeburg Festival of Roses in early May. Its nearly 5,000 rose plants representing at least 120 varieties are quite a sight to see. And during December, the light show Children’s Garden Christmas turns the gardens into a holiday wonderland.
But on this day, as spring continues to unfold, Orangeburg can be thankful for Edisto Gardens even before the rose show and months before the yuletide décor goes up. The continuing beauty of Edisto Memorial Gardens is a tribute to those who made it possible and those continuing the tradition through the decades and into the future.
The newspaper headline on an Aug. 2, 1927, article by C.C. Berry, was prophetic: “Botanical Gardens Will Some Day Be Famous Beauty Spot.”