Located in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina on a former 19th century plantation, Kalmia Gardens is a 35-acre public botanical garden and historic house open to the public. The Thomas E. Hart House, built in 1820 with timber cut from the property, and surrounding gardens are on the National Register of Historic Places. Kalmia Gardens boasts a wide array of rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, tea-olives, dogwood and the Gardens’ namesake — Kalmia latifolia, the Mountain Laurel. Kalmia Gardens is part of the scenic S.C. Cotton Trail and is the gateway to the 796-acre Segars-McKinnon Heritage Preserve.
Kalmia Gardens of Coker University has been open to the public since 1935 and includes many exotic ornamentals planted by Mrs. David Robert Coker, the garden’s founder. When the Coker family acquired the land in 1932, “Miss May” began transforming what was then a desolate area into a place of tranquility and beauty, creating many trails that lead down to Black Creek. She gave Kalmia Gardens to Coker College in 1965 as a memorial to her late husband. In 2002, her daughter established the Joslin Education Center at the Gardens.
From the Hart House and formal gardens there is a 60-ft drop in elevation to the Black Creek floodplain where trails and boardwalks guide you through laurel thickets, pine-oak-holly uplands and a beech bluff. The unusual terrain is responsible for creating Kalmia’s unique and diverse plant and animal life. The contrast between the formal house and gardens and the cypress swamp below makes for a distinctly enjoyable experience.
Kalmia Gardens is open 365 days a year from dawn to dusk.