Edgefield County Historical Society 



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The Town of Edgefield is the location of some of the oldest gardens in the state of South Carolina. The camellia has been the favorite of Edgefieldians since the early 1800's when the first specimens were brought to Edgefield. Camellias were introduced into the state from England in the mid 1800's and lovingly cultivated by the avid gardeners of the time .  A number of prominent Edgefieldians are responsible for their stewardship and spread in the early days of the Village.

As you drive around Edgefield in winter and early spring today, you can witness the  results of a century of plantings.  Although some of the most magnificent specimens have beed moved or destroyed during the growth of the village, there are many outstanding examples still present as a witness to the camellia's preeminence among gardeners.


"Edgewood" built around 1836 was the home of Francis W. Pickens (1805-1869) and Lucy Holcombe Pickens whose hospitality was well known at this Edgefield plantation, the best known of the antebellum plantations of the Edgefield District. According to Eulalie Salley, "...Upon completion of the house, an English landscape gardener was employed to lay out extensive gardens. Many rare plants were imported from England. Among them, boxwoods, camellias and gardenias. The boxwood hedges bordering the formal garden were flourishing a hundred years afterward and the fertility of the rich clay land made the camellias wonderful specimens."


 In 1929, "Edgewood", the backcountry-style plantation house of Francis Pickens in Edgefield,  was carefully moved to Aiken by Eulalie Salley where it was reassembled. The largest of the specimen Camellias was also transported 20 miles away by wagon to the town of Aiken. Later, the home was moved  to the University of South Carolina’s campus in Aiken. 


J. Rainsford Cantelou was a great lover of camellias and an avid cultivator of japonicas at his home in Edgefield. He propagated and named a number of new varieties after his friends in Edgefield.  In 1934, he named a camellia after  Edwin Folk,  registered as the “Edwin H. Folk”  and gave it to Tea Gardens nursery to be propagated.


Edwin H. Folk (1863-1940) is credited with bringing one of the oldest camellias to Edgefield with the transfer of a 27 year old  pink and white camellia called  Lilyi from his grandmother’s property in Batesburg. Folk graduated from UVA in law and established a practice in Edgefield with his brother in 1890. In 1895, Folk purchased property on Buncombe Street in Edgefield and married Mrs.Kate Frazier Speights who may have brought some camellias from Charleston as well. Early in his marriage, he grew  a camellia (Tricolor Seibold) outside the  bedroom window so that he could pick a flower for his bride. Many parties were hosted at the Folk residence and in 1922, the Edgefield Chronicle stated that shell pink japonicas from the garden were displayed at Mrs. Edwin Folk’s Party. Lovely displays of flowers are prominent each winter along Buncombe Street.


Joe Holland (1884-55) and Chrissie Tompkins Holland (1888-1961) are fondly remembered for their lavish hosting of the “Camellia Tea”  at their lovely home, “Camellia Hall”  on Columbia Road in Edgefield.  The event was meticulously prepared for with lavish assortments of food on silver trays and displays of a variety of camellias.  In addition, a local artist, Lil Welling, hand painted camellia blooms for  the tables. In the mid 1900’s it became the custom to give a camellia print to brides, so loved was this flower. Joe Holland widely wrote and lectured about camellias and became very well known in Florida and throughout the South for his very informative articles. He and  Cantelou were also active in the formation of the S.C. Camellia Society and served as officers in that organization as well as nationally.


In February 2008, The Edgefield Camellia Society reinstated the fine tradition started by the Hollands with the hosting of "The Camellia Tea"
at Magnolia Dale, the Headquarters of the Edgefield  County Historical Society. Home made sweets and tea sandwiches fill the table of the large Dining Room and beautifully appointed tea tables, fine linens and silver tea services add to the elegance of  the event.  Many of the patrons don lavish hats decorated with camellia blossoms and hundreds of varieties are on display  in glass vases throughout the mansion. The event ,which is open to the public, has become an annual feature sponsored by  the Society.

For more information on the Camellia Gardens, The Camellia Tea and Projects in Edgefield, please contact  Henrietta Humphreys at 803.637.2370 ; or, if you prefer email, henrihumphreys@yahoo.com