Parts of the S.C. Botanical Garden remain closed two days after heavy rains and flooding shut down the park for the first time in its history, according to a release from Clemson University.
The 295-acre garden closed on Saturday afternoon and Sunday once the scope of the damage was realized. While sections are now open again on Monday, the Natural Heritage Garden, as well as the Children’s Garden and Butterfly Garden, remain closed.
The garden’s director Patrick McMillan says heavy rain in the Pendleton area early Saturday caused over $200,000 in damage to trails, bridges, and other infrastructure. But he says it’s hard to account for the damage to the garden’s collection of rare plants.
“We lost things that aren’t easily assessed as to its value,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “A trillium that’s been in that garden that’s the largest of its type and has been growing for 54 years is gone… we don’t even know where it’s at.”
McMillan said more than 11 inches of rain in 10 hours caused the water in Duck Pond to spill over the dam. The mountain meadow below the dam, including the new Natural Heritage Garden trail and all of the plantings, was flooded by water. Meanwhile, the matting on the Geogrid trail was lifted from the ground and washed down a slope. Several small trees and bushes were also washed out of the ground.
Scouring from the floodwater began compromising the foundation of the garden’s Hunt Cabin. After consulting with the Clemson Fire Department and the university, the garden’s staff said they agreed to move some boulders marking the trail in an effort to redirect the water away from the cabin.
McMillan said most of the damage in the Children’s and Butterfly gardens were to a brick path. He said officials hope to reopen that area by the end of the week.
However, he says the entire route of the Natural Heritage Garden has also been damaged and will not open until at least next spring. Five of the six bridges are no longer structurally sound, the director said.
“A few of them we can’t even find. They just washed away,” he said.
The garden’s entire irrigation system was also destroyed. Most of the topsoil has been removed, along with the plantings, and some areas have many inches of sand or gravel covering key collections. The reflection pond— which was recently dredged as part of an Eagle Scout project— is now filled with sediment. The dam was undermined on one end and the school states it will likely need to be removed.
However, McMillan says the damage is not covered by Clemson University’s flood insurance policy because the damage did not occur in a floodplain.
In the meantime, he is asking the public for donations to help repairs get underway. Anyone who wishes to help out can donate to Friends of the Garden at https://cualumni.clemson.edu/give/scbg.