What is Hortitopia?

Is Hortitopia a geographic region?

Yes. Hortitopia is the portion of the Appalachian Piedmont known as “The Upstate” of South Carolina. Its epicenter (for me) is Greenville, a city with a metropolitan population of about 600,000 situated equidistant between the Southern megalopolises of Atlanta and Charlotte.

Master Naturalists at Jumping Off Rock

Master Naturalists at Jumping Off Rock

More important than these details, however, is its abundance of plant and animal species. A place like no other, the region is described by experts as “a biological hotspot of natural diversity that harbors some of the rarest plants and animals in the world.”

In terms of what I know best—gardening—the Upstate is not just a hotspot but also a sweet spot. It’s suited for cultivation of an extremely wide range of plants, from Southern favorites like gardenias and camellias to those beloved plants that typically flourish in more northerly climates such as lilacs and peonies.

Is Hortitopia a garden?

Yes. Hortitopia is my garden along the banks of the Reedy River just a few miles downstream from Falls Park in Greenville. It too is unique.

House and garden perched above the Reedy River

House and garden perched above the Reedy River

The property, nearly an acre in size, comprises intensely cultivated spaces around a 1950’s home and a woodland area that reaches down to the river in a series of terraces. In the two years I’ve lived here, I’ve worked to renew the cultivated landscape and, with my husband’s help, to restore the natural area by removing invasive plants such as English ivy and Japanese knotweed.

The woodland’s north-facing slope, known by field botanists as “rich cove forest,” is home to some of the Piedmont’s most enchanting native plants such as Carolina silverbell, wild hydrangea, sweetshrub, Solomon’s seal, mayapple, trillium, bloodroot, and a vast array of ferns.

Is Hortitopia a frame of mind?

Yes. Hortitopia is the happiness I experience when I work in my garden or visit other carefully-tended landscapes. Gardening and garden touring are my yoga, my spa, my prayer, my remedy, and my renewal.

A moment of bliss at Great Comp Garden, Kent, England

A moment of bliss at Great Comp Garden, Kent, England

Hortitopia —the region, the garden, and the frame of mind—is what I plan to write about here. It’s the topic of this blog.

23 thoughts on “What is Hortitopia?

    1. Marguerite P. Warren


      Congratulations! I certainly look forward to reading your blog weekly. Your column in the Greenville Newspaper is the true reason for my subscription. Thanks so much for sharing and teaching.

  1. Ruth and Durden Collins

    Marian . . . your blog is a fabulous idea. My husband and I have our permanent home in Greer, but we are currently expats living in Surrey in the UK for a while. We have been reading your column in the G’ville News for years. In fact we log in to the digital issue daily over here. Our yard,or as the Brits call it “garden,” is much like you have described yours . . . on a creek bank with banks of sweet shrub, mountain laurel, Carolina silverbells, ferns, hollies, etc. We have worked with both Rick Huffman and Dabney Peebles to create a natural woodland garden on 1.3 acres. We chose our house in England largely because the back garden reminds us so much of home. We are absolutely overrun with Rhododendron and ferns, conifers and camelias. We look forward to following your progress in your own garden. In the meantime, we are taking advantage of visiting the magnificent gardens of England.

    1. marianstclair Post author

      Lucky you! I adore Surrey, but then, I haven’t visited an area of England I did’t like. To stay for more than two weeks at a time would be heaven for me. I hope you will visit Great Comp, which is a great favorite of mine, and not too far distant from you. I’ve seen it in June and July and it was stunning, though I barely caught the end of the bloom of the rhododendrons, which are a feature. I would love to hear more about the gardens you are visiting. Contact me here or via email at marian.stclair@gmail.com.

      Both Dabney and Rick have visited the new garden on the Reedy and offered advice, and Dabney had a significant influence on my previous Upstate garden. My husband, Tim, and I are still clearing the woodland of invasives, so I’ve been holding back on plants and design. Its been amazing to see what is happening on its own. Ferns were popping up everywhere last summer and fall and we had a magnificant show of jewel weed along the river in September. I hope we will have equal success with wildflowers this spring.

      Thanks for visiting Hortitopia; I hope you’ll stay in touch. It’s great to meet you!

  2. indygardener

    Is it really fair for you to be able to grow gardenias and camellias along with peonies and lilacs? Your climate sounds like heaven to this gardener whose garden is currently somewhere under nearly a foot of snow. I’ve subscribed. Love the look of your blog so far and can’t wait to read more.

  3. Janet, The Queen of Seaford

    Hi Marian, nice to see another Upstate Garden Blogger. I look forward to reading more posts. I have taken off the last couple weeks for Christmas — time to get back to blogging. I met you at the Greenwood Garden Club luncheon this past year. Looking forward to getting to know you better via your blog.

  4. Pam Beck

    Marian, Can’t wait to follow beautiful you, your travels, garden musings, and your inspirational garden this year. Congratulations on taking this step. Big hugs, Pam

  5. Joyce Moore

    Congratulation on this new adventure! I know it will be a great success and just enhance all your other gardening talents. Looking forward to hearing about your garden tours!

  6. Cory Tanner

    Great Idea Marian! I look forward to all that your new blog will offer. Thanks for being an inspiration to each of us!

  7. Perrin Coxe Kreidler

    What a lovely site! Your photographs are beautiful, and the information you share is useful and inspiring. I’ve always enjoyed your newspaper column; so glad to find this extra treat!


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