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More than 120 labeled varieties of roses are on display at Edisto Memorial Gardens.

“Botanical Gardens Will Some Day Be Famous Beauty Spot.”

So read the headline of a newspaper article by C.C. Berry on Aug. 2, 1927, in the early days of Edisto Memorial Gardens.

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 the 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 along Garden Drive.

The gardens, owned and maintained by the City of Orangeburg, have continued to grow over the years.

Today, there are several dozen beds of roses ranging from miniatures to grandiflora to climbers.

The gardens have award-winning roses from All-America Rose Selections and some 4,800 plants representing at least 120 labeled varieties of roses are always on display. The site is also one of the official test gardens in the United Sates sanctioned by All-America Rose Selections Inc.

Last year, the gardens became home to the first American Rose Society Chinese Species Rose Garden in the United States.

The garden will be used for the preservation of the rose, for the establishment of the Chinese Species Garden and for the continued education of the public.

The Orangeburg Festival of Roses, one of the Southeastern Tourism Society’s top 20 events, is held in Orangeburg in early May to celebrate the blooming of the city’s roses.

Edisto Memorial Gardens are open seven days a week from dawn to dusk. Admission is free to the public.

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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