Arts & Culture

Charleston Blooms and Glows

Magnolia gardens’ first ever nighttime illumination dazzles

photo: Jacqueline Stofsick


Magnolia Plantation—established along Charleston’s Ashley River in 1676—has long been recognized as home to one of the nation’s most beguiling gardens. Guests wander fields of daffodils, meander along azalea-lined paths, and marvel at the twenty thousand camellias that bloom pink, white, and red each November through April. So what could possibly make this “earthly paradise,” as its nineteenth-century owner John Grimke Drayton called it, any more spectacular? 

photo: Jacqueline Stofsick

Colorful glass shines on a bright dragon.

Try hundreds of Chinese lanterns—and the garden’s first-ever nighttime illumination spectacle. Lights of Magnolia: Reflections of a Cultural Exchange (November 15–March 15) is a partnership between Magnolia and Zigong Lantern Group, the largest Chinese lantern festival operator in the world. 

photo: Jacqueline Stofsick

Radiating lanterns.

For the past year, more than a hundred artisans have been building lanterns with waterproof and fireproof silk spread across steel frames, fusing historic Chinese symbols with images of Magnolia’s flora and fauna. “Since the garden is so beautiful, we have created a natural theme,” says Meng Liu, one of the lantern group’s executive directors. Among the highlights: A 200-foot-long Chinese dragon lantern winds beneath the live oaks and Spanish moss. Lights of Magnolia is open now through March 15, 2020.

photo: Jacqueline Stofsick

The massive winding dragon.


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