“A Floral Wonderland”
The beautiful black waters of Swan Lake form the setting for the spectacular Iris Gardens. The lake is dotted with colorful islands, and wildlife is abundant. The only public park in the United States to feature all eight swan species, Swan Lake-Iris Gardens is also home to some of the nation's most intensive plantings of Japanese iris, which bloom yearly in mid to late May and last until the beginning of June. The garden also boasts many other floral attractions, including colorful camellias, azaleas, day lilies, and Japanese magnolias. A Braille Trail enables the sight-impaired to enjoy the scents and sensations of the gardens, and a Butterfly Garden and Chocolate Garden both delight the senses. The gardens come alive with color during the Christmas season with the nighttime Fantasy of Lights display, featuring more than 1,000,000 varicolored sparkling lights in an array of colors and shapes. Swan Lake-Iris Gardens began in 1927 as a private fishing retreat for Hamilton Carr Bland, a local businessman. At the same time he was developing the 30 acres of swamp on what is now the north side of West Liberty Street, he was landscaping the grounds of his home with Japanese iris. They failed miserably, and after consulting expert horticulturists from as far away as New York, he ordered his gardener to dig up the bulbs and dump them at the swamp. The following spring, they burst into bloom. The accidental garden, referred to by Southern Living magazine a "lovely mistake," has since been developed into one of the finest botanical gardens in the United States.
The park is two city blocks, separated by a major thoroughfare but joined by an elevated walkway (handicap access by elevators at each end). Except for the road noise, it's a fabulous place. The lake in the southern half is large and beautiful, surrounded by cypress forest; the stream in the northern half is equally attractive. And throughout the park are swans. Swans, swans, swans. Had no idea there were so many different kinds of swans.
It's a very gorgeous little spot to visit. There are a number of different plants and swans living there. It's always very clean and well maintained.
Website says open 'til dusk, but the park was closed at 6:30 when we tried to go...sunset wasn't 'til after 8:30.
I got to visit in the early winter and it was still very pretty not too cold and the sun was out
I used to live in Sumter and I loved coming here to let my little one play in some grass and let him observe some wildlife local to the area (with the exception of the beautiful collection of swans). We even saw a beaver one time. TONS of turtles and lots of ducks/geese/swans. My only advice is to avoid summer time around the main pond, as the heat makes the smell too much for some people with sensitive noses. But fall and spring are my favorite times to go. Beautiful and great spots for pictures, and even weddings. Free any time of the year and sometimes, if you can beat out a crowd by going during the week and during normal work/school hours, incredibly tranquil. The plants are amazing subjects of drawing, and they have quite a collection. The chocolate garden is also a wonder to the senses. If you are ever in Sumter, this is definitely a place to go.
A nice stop. There are lots of little informational stops where recorded voices tell you about the foliage and vegetation. Tons of ducks and swans. Our time was cut short by a thunderstorm but I was impressed at how nice the place was. Free of charge as well, if you want to just wander around the lake.
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Swan Lake Iris Gardens
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