April showers bring May flowers! Or so the saying goes. For all those who come to the Upcountry looking for the best places to view blooms in the spring into early summer, we’ve cultivated a great list for all you flower finders. From great hiking trails to gardens to you-pick farms, there’s something for everyone!
Botanical Gardens (Late March/early April):
One of the best places to check out a wide variety of flora and fauna is the SC Botanical Garden. One of Clemson University’s pride and joy (besides its sports teams) is its agricultural program. It takes great pride in creating a multitude of different habitats for plants, flowers, and wildlife to thrive all year round. From a camellia garden, butterfly garden, perennial garden, dwarf conifer garden, and more, all kinds of flowers can be seen throughout the 300-acre campus, which is free to visit.
Hatcher Garden in Spartanburg, SC, similar to the Clemson Botanical Garden, is broken into sections with similar plant groupings in each part you walk through. A portion of the garden that blooms best in the spring is the Walter Soderberg Ericaceous Garden, filled with a colorful multitude of azaleas and rhododendrons. The Thomas W. Bartram Trail features plant specimens identified by famed revolutionary-era botanist, John Bartram, and his son, William. Many Bartram trails have been established throughout the Southeast, and the Hatcher Garden features a variety of native plants for all to enjoy. A new woodland path was laid down off of this trail with the addition of granite legacy benches to invite more visitors to this beautiful garden. Take a seat, smell the flowers, and enjoy this spot!
For more of a walk in the park, look no further than downtown Greenville’s Falls Park, which also blooms in late April to early May. From gorgeous flowering trees to the cascading flowers in the rock gardens that line the stone steps leading you up and down the park near the Liberty Bridge, there’s always something in bloom here! Check out this interactive map of where to find flower beds and landmarks in Falls Park.
Wildflowers (Late March/early April):
For one of two great state parks with hiking trails and local flowers in the Upcountry, check out Devils Fork State Park. One of South Carolina’s earliest wildflowers, the Oconee Bell, can be seen blooming during early spring along the Oconee Bell Nature Trail. Starting in the parking lot near the rear of the Ranger Station, this trail winds through a predominantly hardwood forest. The trail follows a creek that provides surreal sounds which adds to its charm, where the majority of the endangered Oconee Bell wildflowers blossom. During your hike, you will find many other blossoming flowers and trees to view along the way, including magnolias, rhododendrons, and more! There is also a festival held here every year in honor of the Oconee Bells called Bellfest, which celebrates the flowers that bloom here. View the park map on how to get to the trail.
The other trails not to be missed can be found at the Oconee Station State Historic Site, found at Oconee State Park. Originally a military compound and later a trading post, Oconee Station State Historic Site offers both recreational opportunities and a unique look at 18th and 19th-century South Carolina. Two miles of nature trails wind through wildflowers and upcountry wilderness here, offering views of ponds, waterfalls, and an amazing array of wildflowers, including pink lady’s slipper orchids, trillium, bloodroot, and redbud. For more information on South Carolina state park wildflowers across the Upcountry, check out the link from SC State Parks.
You Pick Flowers (Late Spring/Summer):
For those flower finders that like to go out into the wilderness and pick their own bunch from the fields, we have just the group for you!
Starting with a family-owned farm, Wild Orchard Flowers in Travelers Rest, the Nigh family converted a 50 yr old horse farm into a thriving homestead for people to learn and grow gardening and homesteading skills. They offer a u-pick style flower farm with a bring-your-own mason jar + snips or a buy-by-the-bucket style. This year, they’ll also offer weekly bouquet pickups along with floral arranging “field to vase” classes and workshops throughout the summer. One of the classes is a private “sip and snip” class, you-pick flowers while you enjoy a bottle of wine and charcuterie. Some of the flowers they grow include zinnias, snapdragons, bachelor buttons, calendula, dahlias, heirloom mums, sunflowers, sweet William, amaranth, and nigella.
For fans of sunflowers, Denver Downs Farm in Anderson, SC is the place to be! They’ve been hosting an Annual Sunflower Festival for years, and the ticket prices (two levels) include you-pick. They plant acres and acres of sunflowers — dozens of gorgeous varieties! Stroll through the fields to look, pick or photograph. Plus, family fun with 30+ attractions, activities, yard games, and meeting friendly farm animals at the barn. There’s lots to eat and drink, and lively toe-tapping live music daily. This festival typically runs from the end of June through the first week into July, and tickets can be purchased online or at the gate.
To pick your own rainbow bouquet, Sassafras Flowers in Easley, SC is the place for you! This farm opens in May seasonally, with pick-your-own flowers (public events – tickets run ~$18 for 3 hours of picking), yoga events amongst the flowers, kid’s events, and more! They are one of the first and oldest pick-your-own flower farms (according to their website), and have a specific set of rules to follow when picking. Bring Your Own – clippers/scissors and vessels (a jar, vase, or bucket). They do not supply these items and do not have them available for sale at public events. Check in at the Pavilion – where their staff will help you with any questions and guide you to fresh water for your vessel and the best fields to find your favorite flowers. This is where you pay for your flowers afterward, based upon vessel size/stem limit: $15 “Happy Handful” (15 stems), $35 “Vase” (25 stems), $75 ~”10L Bucket” (65 stems). Purchase you-pick tickets in advance or view their monthly events.
Last, but not least, it’s purple flower power time with Twin Creeks Lavender Farm! Lavender typically blooms May 26th through July 4th yearly, with the farm’s hours from 9 am-2 pm each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Children 5 years and under and adults 65 years and older get in free! Walk-up admission is $6 and is subject to availability so reserving your tickets online is recommended. U-pick days include lavender picking, shopping for handmade products, and picnics as well. The lavender you pick is charged in increments of $5, $10, and $15 (1-inch bouquets, 1.5-inch, or 2-inch bouquets) and is not included in the ticket/admission price. Twin Creeks currently grow seven varieties of lavender to choose from Grosso, Provence, Violet Intrigue, Gros Bleu, Melissa, Super, and Royal Velvet. Upon arrival, you will be given information and instructions for picking. The farm will provide rubber bands and scissors for you to harvest and collect your bouquets. For the safety of their plants, please do not bring or use your own. Once you have finished picking, please proceed to the large tent or barn where your lavender will be measured and/or banded for you. All varieties will be marked so you know what you’re picking. Here, you can purchase tickets for the 2023 You-Pick Season.
Make sure to check out our article on Gardens in the Upcountry for more information on the best places to find flora and fauna.