Southern Agenda

Under Glass

Illustration: Tim Bower

It’s a rare gift to witness a historic garden take shape from the ground up, but that’s exactly what’s happening inside the new Boyd Foundation Horticultural Center at the Hampton-Preston Mansion in Columbia. Modeled on the estate’s original mid-nineteenth-century glass house that resembled an Old Patent Office garden building in Washington, D.C., the capacious greenhouse features propagation and interpretive sections as well as a central area for gatherings. It is also beginning to sprout an impressive historical collection of plants, including passion vine, which will, according to director of grounds Keith Mearns, “climb every available wall and railing to envelop the space.” Horticulturist Rebecca Townsend says that the team consulted 1860s records when deciding what to grow, and visitors can see fragile and rare plants such as Venus flytraps and fragrant geraniums. “This winter, the geranium scent will surround you the instant you step into the warmth from outside,” she says. “You can come by to watch us propagate perennials, woody plants, and annuals, and in the spring, we’ll bed the annuals outside, another first for us.”