Gardens don’t need to be gigantic to be grand. Tiny Theodora Park in the Ansonborough neighborhood of Charleston, South Carolina, is a tucked-away public treasure inside a city known for friendly people but very private gardens.
Covering just 4,200 square feet at the corner of Anson and George Streets, Theodora Park packs punchy Southern details among its hardscapes. For the calming pool that runs down the middle of the park, the ceramic artist Paul Heroux drew inspiration from Charleston gardens—formal boxwood hedges and Italian tiles that decorate outdoor spaces. An abstract veined leaf pattern on the tiles comes into focus when visitors approach the pool.
The wrought iron gate created by the Charleston ironworker and artist Philip Simmons (1912-2009) stands as a reminder of the importance of art in the community—Simmons created more than five hundred ornamental wrought iron gates, fences, window grills, and balconies around Charleston, including the gate and fence just across from Theodora Park at St. John’s Reformed Episcopal Church. Other pieces of his work can be found in the collections of the National Museum of American History and Smithsonian Institution.
Theodora Park celebrated its one-year anniversary this summer, and its creator David Rawle says he’s enjoyed watching the space mature. “Well-planned gardens and parks only get better in time,” he says. “Keeping the landscape design simple enables it to maintain its integrity. So over time you have a profusion, not a confusion.” If you visit this fall, you’ll notice the Japanese maples in full splendor, the blooming sasanqua camellias, and the hollies setting their berries.
Rawle worked with the City of Charleston, Charleston Parks Conservancy, designers, and artists to create the park in honor of his mother, Theodora C. Rawle, herself an avid gardener. “She loved [her garden’s] diversity, its surprise, its beauty, and its authenticity,” he says. No doubt, she would have loved the same things here in her namesake garden, too.