Arts & Culture, Discovery, Featured

Spring Blooms in Charleston

When the sun begins to cast warm rays on the city’s historic buildings and backyard gardens blossom vibrant splashes of color, you know spring is finally here. Charleston is known for its quiet and charming secret gardens, Palmetto trees and local flowers sprinkled throughout the city. While the Holy City has a long list of reasons for travelers to explore, spring brings a variety of floral delights; the most breathtaking regional flowers including Azaleas, Wisteria, Tea Olive, Magnolia Trees and Camellias.
Wherever you turn in Charleston, you will surely see Azaleas blooming in hues of pronounced pinks, brilliant reds and warm purples, adding sweet, rich pigment to secret gardens and public parks. Azaleas, also called “the royalty of the garden,” are from the rhododendron family and one of the most sought-after shrubs locally, producing brilliant full color.
While its arrival is shortlived, Wisteria, a wispy, willowing vine that climbs and wraps around historic stone buildings and arching iron gates, welcomes visitors with it’s pretty purple color and slightly sweet scent. The curious vines of a wisteria can reach as high as 65 feet above the ground and spread out 32 feet wide.
The fragrant Tea Olive’s dark glossy, green leaves and dense foliage can be discovered all throughout Charleston in the form of well-manicured hedges providing shade and privacy. These sweet shrubs bloom tiny but amazingly fragrant, creamy white flowers which give gardens a crisp and fresh aesthetic.
Jasmine, an evergreen that climbs walls, posts, arbors and more, signals the start of warmer weather ahead. It’s rich, intoxicating scent envelopes the city each spring, a true favorite of locals and visitors alike.
You can also find beautifully strong and tall Saucer Magnolia Trees blooming light pink flowers. Part of the Magnolia family, these can grow as tall as 80 feet at full maturity. Often selected for their joyful robust tulip-looking blooms, the tree also provides cool shade for Charlestonians on warm spring days.
Camellias, another Southern favorite, come in many different shapes and sizes, yielding hues of red with colors ranging from stark white to rich pink ombré. These gorgeous trees, growing up to 65 feet tall, can be seen at Middleton Place, which is home to the oldest Camellias in North America. Charleston Place is currently offering an exclusive, behind-the-scenes experience at Middleton Place, home of the oldest formal gardens in America.

Floral insights were provided by Bloom at Charleston Place. Utilizing local product as much as possible, Bloom provides stunning floral arrangements for weddings and events, creating some of the most breathtaking arrangements inspired by the city of Charleston itself.

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Arts & Culture, Discovery

My Sparkly Valentine

As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, thoughts of enchantment and romance swirl about. Flowers, quiet dinners and jewelry are all popular and beloved and cherished. We interviewed Rhett Outten of Croghan’s Jewel Box , the oldest family owned jewelry store in town, for the inside scoop on sparkly gifts to give your Valentine this year.

Croghan’s Jewel Box has such a storied legacy. Please tell us about the history of the store. 

My grandfather, William Croghan, started Croghan’s Jewel Box just before World War I and when the War broke out, he closed up shop to be a foot solider! He was trained at the Philadelphia School of Horology as a hand engraver and apprenticed in jewelry repair and bench manufacturing. The beginning of Croghan’s consisted mostly of my grandfather taking in and performing jobs at his bench. My mother graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Journalism and wanted to be a writer. my grandfather asked her to come help a little bit in the store after graduation and she never left. She created the atmosphere that exists today with an interesting collection of jewelry, estate finds and gifts. We are still known for our hand engraving and have four bench jewelers in a studio on the second floor where we do repairs and create custom made pieces by hand. My sister, Mariana and I are the third generation to operate the store and my nieces, Kathleen and Mariana (Mini) have just joined the business. It is so thrilling to have youth, enthusiasm and knowledge that the fourth generation brings to the table!

Croghan’s has been in business for more than 100 years. What do you think endears shoppers to your store?

We are truly a family business. We grew up with our customers as my mother and grandfather did. Back in the day, Papa used to close up for 2:00 dinner and as he left the shop he would take whoever was there home for a proper lunch a few blocks away on Church Street (think postman, customer, visitor to Charleston, salesman!). Our mother taught us how important it is to contribute to this community that we love so much. We are deeply involved in many city activities and non-profit organizations. With the surge of visitors to Charleston, we find ourselves often playing the part of concierge , as advice of a local is cherished. We have made restaurant reservations, booked tours and even given people rides back to their hotel if their bags are too big to carry or if its raining! We truly want people visiting to love Charleston as much as we do. We feel lucky to have grown up in this magical place and we like to share that with people.

The Jewelers Circular Keystone Magazine reports that over 981 jewelry stores nationwide closed in 2016. So often visitors do not have a family owned store in their hometown where an owner is present and has a passion for their graft. 48 percent of our business consists of out of town customers. We find that exciting! We get to be a part of the most meaningful events in people’s lives… engagements, weddings, christenings, graduations, anniversaries! It’s an honor to have served four generations during such occasions. Of course a Social Media presence and website have brought us into this century and make it easy to stay in touch with customers.

You are known for your estate collection. What makes it special and how do you curate it?

We love estate jewelry and silver. We like to say it has a soul. It is special because so often the techniques used to create it are no longer used in the industry. Like diamonds are no longer cut by hand ad rarely do you see hand filigree work on the inside of a ring. Plique de jour is a French application that looks like colorful class but there are very few people in the world who can create this now. We have each piece of estate jewelry examined by one of our four gemologists on staff before it goes in the case! We literally shop the world for our inventory. We have wonderful contacts in London, the far east and all over the country that we have partnered with for generations.

It seems that estate and vintage pieces are very much in demand – why? And what should a buyer look for?

Estate Jewelry is very often one of a kind! It is for the person who wants a special piece of jewelry that they will not see on anyone else! It is also for the sentimental customer who has happy memories of seeing antique jewelry on their grandmother or the history buff who has a thirst for everything Georgian. Antique jewelry is unique, and it is fun to sell in a jewelry store that is more than 100 years old and set in a 1790’s Charleston building. People who visit here usually love history and the charm of estate jewelry is usually appealing. In terms of what to look for you have to be careful because this jewelry has usually been worn and “loved” as we like to say. So you need to be sure that clasps work properly and prongs have been checked so that stones stay secure.

Every day you help select gifts for special occasions. Which piece or pieces would you recommend for Valentine’s Day?

Anything engraved on Valentine’s Day make a gift extra special! And of course we have beautiful heart lockets and charms as well as crystal amulets by Temple St. Clair.

What items or collections are you most excited about right now?

We have just refilled our estate case after the holiday season. Our selection of antique diamond rings is fabulous and includes lots of enameling and filigree settings. We also have a whole new lot of estate gold lockets that are unusual. These start as low as $200.00! Also… our Goldbug collection is so fun and exciting! My niece’s collection of gilded palmetto bugs has taken us all by storm!

What is your ideal romantic evening in Charleston?

I like things pretty simple! After all of the parties and hard work involved over the holidays at Croghan’s, a quiet easy dinner at home, or if its good weather, something grilled outside in the courtyard sounds ideal to me! I just helped a client plan a 30th wedding anniversary dinner though, which included a horse drawn carriage ride to champagne awaiting them in a cupola atop one of our beautiful historic buildings at sunset and a dinner at one of our wonderful restaurants… which happens to be in a courtyard as well. There is something about hidden spots in Charleston behind historic brick walls and iron gates that is so very romantic! Don’t you think?

Learn more of our exclusive Valentine’s package that will bring the bling.

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Sip & Savor

Finding the perfect spot in Charleston this Valentine’s Day

In a city as quaint and charming as Charleston, romantic spots are a dime a dozen. It’s one of the reasons brides and grooms and honeymooners routinely select Charleston. And why the city frequently finds itself on lists touting the most romantic cities. If your plans land you in Charleston this Valentine’s Day, consider yourself lucky. This city is packed with tucked away restaurants, secret gardens and indulgent adventures to enjoy with your loved one on this special day.

If cooking isn’t your strong suit, here are a few suggestions for a romantic dinner around town:To assist in planning, we asked our staff to share their ideas on the most romantic ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Charleston. So ladies, forward this post to your man. And gentlemen listen up—this is pure gold. Skip the chocolates and flowers this year, and earn a few points with these stellar tips.
• Start the evening with cocktails. Try the bar at Husk, then move to McCrady’s Restaurant—listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Landmarks and features the cooking of Chef Sean Brock. After dinner, enjoy a short walk over to to Kaminsky’s for coffee and something sweet.
EXTRA POINTS: Book reservations at McCrady’s ahead of time and score a cozy table near the fireplace.
• Located in the heart of a quiet residential neighborhood, it’s hard to find a spot more charming than Trattoria Lucca.  It’s a small intimate setting, where Chef Ken Vedrinski takes you on a trip through Tuscany with his cuisine. Settle into a table for two, or the bar that sits only six, with your loved one on Valentines Day!
EXTRA POINTS: If your significant other is a pure foodie, this is your place.
• Valentine’s Day is about love and appreciation. Of course, there’s no better way to show it than to strip away all the grand gestures and just get to it. Head on over to The Wreck overlooking Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant. This is the perfect spot to “just be” with your beloved. It gets you out and away from all the hustle of downtown and places you right in the moment. It’s local food served right off the dock and is a favorite spot of Charlestonians.

EXTRA POINTS: After dinner, stroll hand-in-hand around the Old Village—a lovely little neighborhood in Mt. Pleasant.

• Tucked on a quiet side street off upper King Street, check out Pane E Vino. This place literally glows with charm on a chilly night. What could be better than warming up with a bottle of wine, delicious Italian fare and your sweetie in one of the coziest restaurants in town?

EXTRA POINTS: C’mon, we can’t tell you everything. The simple fact you found this place was enough.
• Looking for the quintessential “date night?” Charleston Grill is the best in town.  Once you’re settled in with a drink, prepare to have your senses delighted. Chef Michelle Weaver’s tasting menu will keep you guessing while you two are immersed in the smooth jazz. To top off the night, Maitre D’ Mickey Bakst sends every woman home with a red rose.
EXTRA POINTS: According to Mickey, table 41 is the restaurant’s most romantic table. Hint hint. Wink wink.
If your M.O. is to avoid crowded restaurants and plan a more private affair, here are a few options that’ll be sure to keep you in the good graces.
• Sometimes the most simple (and last minute), yet thoughtful plans create the best memories. Skip the forced sit-down dinner and stop by Caviar & Bananas for a bottle of wine and a cheese board. Then head on down to the Battery or Mt. Pleasant’s Waterfront Park for a quiet evening picnic together.
• What better way to say “I love you” than with the gift of relaxation and rejuvenation. The Spa at Charleston Place offers a romantic couples massage, complete with champagne and chocolate covered strawberries.
• Grab a bottle of champagne, or one of these Valentine’s Day themed wine suggestions, and head to Palmetto Islands County Park. In the very back near the docks, there’s a lone swinging bench overlooking the marsh. The rest is up to you.
What do you think? Any other ideas that will take the stress out of planning and help ensure the perfect evening?

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