Conservation // 3 min Read

Historical Garden of the Bluff

Written by Palmetto Bluff

Sep 26, 2016

In the summer of 1838, 25-year-old Henry Hartstene, owner of Palmetto Bluff’s Chinquapin and Greenleaf plantations, set sail with the U. S. Exploring Expedition.

Hartstene had been in the navy for nearly ten years; he enlisted shortly after graduating from the American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy in Middletown, Connecticut in 1828. Other than a few months’ leave in 1836 to marry Martha Ann Roberts in Savannah, he had been at sea for most of those years. The U. S. Exploring Expedition, however, was unlike any of Hartstene’s previous naval assignments. The six ships of the expedition had minimal armaments as their mission was scientific and commercial rather than military. The flotilla was to explore and map the South Pacific and Antarctic Oceans and assess the potential for economic enterprises such as whaling. Nine scientists were to collect specimens and illustrate the flora, fauna and native cultures encountered during the voyage.

By 1842, when the expedition returned, an extraordinary amount of scientific information had been collected. Thousands of observations of temperature, winds, currents and astronomical details would assist navigators for decades. The detailed maps of the islands of the South Pacific would be used by military commanders in World War II. The specimens brought back by the biologists and the ethnographers would become some of the greatest treasures of the collection of the Smithsonian’s natural history museum. But it was the live plants that required an immediate home, and they would become the foundation of the United States Botanic Garden.

The idea of a national botanical garden arrived well before the return of the explorers. In fact, George Washington had proposed including a botanical garden during the planning of the capital. Washington, like Jefferson and other leaders of the young nation, regarded plants as critical to the economic success of the United States. Washington believed that the agricultural and medicinal value of plants from around the world could be investigated at a botanical institution, and he suggested several possible locations in the plans for the District of Columbia. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 1820 that Congress set aside land in the city of Washington for a botanical garden. Despite the initial enthusiasm, financial support proved fleeting, and in 1837, care and maintenance of the garden ended.%GALLERY%The return of the U. S. Exploring Expedition with its thousands of pressed plants, 250 live plants and numerous seeds, reawakened interest in a botanical garden, and the old garden was renovated and expanded, and a new greenhouse was constructed. As other expeditions brought back tropical plants from distant and mysterious locales, new greenhouses were added.

The United States Botanic Garden rapidly became a favorite destination for residents and visitors, and an excursion to view the latest horticultural novelty or resplendent blossom was especially popular. Americans throughout the country were as fascinated by exotic additions to the garden as they were by the expeditions that procured them. A Charleston newspaper in 1857 recommended that “Strangers in Washington as well as our fellow-citizens should visit the conservatories of the general government. The inside of some of these buildings at this time presents the appearance of an immense bouquet of every variety of rich and rare flowers, and the odor which meets one on entering them is exquisitely delicious. In the large building, besides the coffee tree, the tea plant, the cinnamon and clove trees, the visitor will find rare plants and flowers from almost every clime.” (Charleston Mercury, April 3, 1857).

Today, the United States Botanic Garden, open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., welcomes over 750,000 visitors per year. In addition to preserving and propagating rare and endangered plants from around the world, the Botanic Garden’s educational exhibits showcase the earth’s diverse ecosystems as well as new cultivars and innovations in garden design. One display has a special significance to Palmetto Bluff: the sago palm in the Garden Court is the original plant brought back by the U. S. Exploring Expedition, a scientific voyage that included the Bluff’s own Henry Hartstene.

Photography courtesy of the Library of Congress

palmetto bluff real estate

Real Estate / Real Estate Sales Report: Palmetto Bluff’s First Quarter Update

Real Estate in Bluffton SC: Trends, Updates, and Insights Positioned amidst the serene Lowcountry landscape of South Carolina, Palmetto Bluff stands as a beacon of luxury and natural beauty, attracting discerning homebuyers seeking an unparalleled lifestyle. ...

May 2024

Sporting Life / 7 Underrated Fly Fishing Spots in South Carolina

With its abundance of rivers, waterways, and streams, South Carolina is one of the best destinations for fly fishing in the Southeast. Not to mention, its mild weather throughout the year makes it a great place to fish all year round. Whether you are an experi...

May 2024

Real Estate / Real Estate Spotlight: 119 Hunting Lodge Rd, 151 Squash Blossom Ln, and 127 Hunting Lodge Rd

Discover These Cozy Coastal Cottages at Palmetto Bluff The Lowcountry is a place to retreat from reality and fully immerse in the serene atmosphere, which is why so many people are drawn to making it their home. There are a plethora of luxury homes in South C...

May 2024

Artist in Residence / Birds of a Feather

Photographs by Cacky Rivers and Cameron Wilder It is a sunny, cold December morning when we meet in the Conservancy classroom in Moreland Village. Everyone is well-equipped with binoculars and all manner of cameras and giant lenses. Cacky arrives last, in a r...

May 2024

Culture / Striking Gold

Photographs and Story by Joel Caldwell Marion “Rollen” Chalmers has been garnering a lot of well-deserved attention of late. Garden & Gun, the Blue Zones project, and even the TODAY show have made the trip to Rollen’s native Hardeeville, South Carolina, t...

May 2024

Culture / Local Character: Marie McConnell

Marie McConnell Director of Member relations, Palmetto Bluff Club Where are you from and how did you get here? I am from Buffalo, New York—born and raised. Go Bills! My husband and I got married at Sea Pines in Hilton Head in 2012 and fell in love with the ...

Apr 2024

Sporting Life / Saddle Up: Longfield Stables’ Trail Ride Program

Nestled amidst the tranquility of Palmetto Bluff, Longfield Stables stands as a beacon of serenity amid lush green pastures and the gentle presence of grazing horses. Its picturesque setting makes it a haven not only for the esteemed Palmetto Bluff Club Member...

Apr 2024

Conservation / Palmetto Bluff Conservancy 2024 Summer Camps

The Conservancy is looking forward to another summer of fun with our upcoming kid's programs!  Wild Child Camp and Junior Naturalist Camp will have dedicated weeks in June. Registration is $200 per child for the week. To participate, parents must fill out t...

Apr 2024

Culture / Palmetto Bluff Growing Outdoors

Photographs by Summer Pagatpatan Palmetto Bluff is a wilderness playground for families, a gateway to the outdoors, to living life close to nature. Palmetto Bluff Growing Outdoors, or PBGO, encompasses the ethos of this extraordinary place. CampGO is PBGO’...

Apr 2024

Sporting Life / A Comparison of the May River & Crossroads Golf Courses

Discover the May River and Crossroads Golf Courses at Palmetto Bluff Positioned within the enchanting Lowcountry landscape, Palmetto Bluff boasts an array of world-class amenities, with its golf courses standing as a testament to the community's commitment to...

Apr 2024
LIVE
Community Villages
Experience
Palmetto Bluff Club
On The Water
The Arts Initiative
Events
Conserve
About Us