Callawassie Island, Monet, and the Gardens of Knowledge

Callawassie Island Garden Club members embrace a 360-degree relationship with knowledge and awareness. They arrive with what they knew from home, and they share that knowledge with others all while learning about the differences in our sub-tropical paradise as they grow in appreciation of what’s possible here.

Even beyond that, the Garden Club is committed to education in some unexpected ways, too. It seems that growing things has more of a universal meaning among the members of the Club. By pursuing that meaning, their experience and joy is shared beyond our shored, simultaneously enriching the beauty we enjoy here on Callawassie Island.



The Thrill of the New

For most of us, moving to Callawassie Island represents the opening of a new chapter in life. We’ve chosen this incomparable place as the setting for living out a vision. Much of that vision is new and different from the worlds we departed from in order to be here. For experienced gardeners, nothing works exactly the same in the Lowcountry. For those taking up the practice of gardening anew, we’re privileged to be starting out with some unusual advantages.

 There’s much to learn, and for Callawassie Island Garden Club members, there is much to share. The Club plays a welcoming role among residents who like to get their own hands on the natural beauty that abounds on Callawassie Island. Some gardeners come here ready-made and some find their joy in gardening after seeing the bounty and variety that grows here naturally. Even experienced gardeners arrive on Callawassie Island and find the array of plant life in our coastal, subtropical environment an entirely new chapter for their interests. However, flowers are only the beginning. The long Lowcountry tradition of herbs as a part of life comes to light uniquely within the Garden Club, and a fuller knowledge of the trees on our island leads to an even greater appreciation.



Art and Nature at Okatie Elementary


Monet’s Garden is the illustrative name given to a special project conducted each year by Garden Club members. Named for the artist who awakened the freedom of color and the play of light at the dawn of French impressionist painting, Monet’s Garden seeks to do the same in our neighborhood, as it engages second-graders in nearby Okatie Elementary School. In a project that immerses them in what it takes to bring a garden to life and provide for the health of flowers, soil, and themselves, the students build appreciation for nature, beauty, knowledge – and each other.

The project began when visiting Garden Club members noticed that Okatie Elementary had a patch of fallow, unkempt land alongside the school grounds. Though the lot had not been maintained in some time, our members saw in it the potential for a thriving, attractive garden and they stepped forward to offer their services. Now, each second-grade class at Okatie Elementary gets regular, “hands in” instruction and experience, from preparing and maintaining Monet’s Garden.

The gratitude that gardeners feel when they see their work come to life is imparted to Okatie Elementary students by aiming their efforts toward an annual “Teacher’s Tea.” With guidance from Garden Club members – on hospitality as well as horticulture – the student’s host a tea for their teachers in the garden they’ve grown. They make gifts for their teachers embodying their gratitude and serve as a reminder of it. Pressed-flower bookmarks are among the recent examples. With so many kinds of goodness radiating from one project, the concept of Monet’s Garden is as beautiful to contemplate as the garden itself.


Reverence and Inspiration

Even the name of the project feels inspiring. When Claude Monet settled with his family in Giverny, in Normandy, in 1883, he saw far more potential for beauty in their stone-wall-bound yard than the existing orchard and pine trees. Here, Monet mixed clumps of the simplest flowers, like daisies and poppies, with rare varieties that formed different heights and perspectives. Roses and long-stemmed hollyhocks bordered the delicate pastels, and at the end of the summer, nasturtiums arose along the central walkway.

The clos Normand he created there is preserved for posterity in Monet’s ground-breaking paintings. Inspired by their beauty, the flowers of Monet’s garden served to refocus the attention of the art world from depicting objects themselves to bestowing the feelings that they impart. Change, growth and harmony with nature are, similarly, the heart of the Garden Club’s volunteer work at Okatie Elementary School.


Connecting Education with Service

In addition to serving with students, Garden Club programs educate members by sharing the knowledge that already exists within the Club, and occasionally with guest presentations from subject experts each month. A recent example of such a subject is the “rain garden.” As a way of conserving soil and controlling watershed, rain gardens keep runoff to a manageable speed and control its flow, preventing pooling and erosion. A Garden Club rain garden is one of the features of the landscaping provided for our new River Club grounds.

When Garden Club members, other volunteers, and our faithful Callawassie Island staff recently pitched in to refresh the Butterfly Garden recently, they went to the extra effort to label each and every plant, to enable residents to transfer idea to their own yards and gardens.

Special service opportunities are observed each year by the Garden Club. The Festival of Trees in nearby historic Beaufort where the Club provides landscaping and a decorated Christmas tree for the Port Royal Maritime Center, and for fundraising at Carolina Hospice.


What We Know and What We Share

This fun and educating service has been going on so long that the Callawassie Island Garden Club has a hard time pointing to its exact origin. Getting together over the satisfactions of gardening has been going on as long as residents can remember.

Whether they arrived with the experience and passion of an established gardener, or were in awe by the beauty of subtropical flora that was assumed only existed in the movies before they crossed the causeway, the Island has inspired a club that makes gardening a source for enjoyment, learning, teaching, and community service here at Callawassie.

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