By Buddy Blouin
The Swan Lake Iris Gardens is one of the most beautiful places in all of South Carolina and features some of the most unique features of any public park in America. Located only about 20 minutes from Shaw AFB, it’s a great place to enjoy nature, people-watch, and unwind. There’s beautiful foliage, breathtaking art, and events all year long that keep visitors coming back for new, entertaining experiences. Whether you're looking to go for a stroll, sit back and relax, or are searching for something new to do, here's everything you need to know before visiting Swan Lake in Sumter, South Carolina.

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Swan Lake Iris Gardens Has Award-Winning Features

There are many different Swan Lake gardens throughout the city park, including the Braille Garden, Butterfly Garden, Chocolate Garden, and the Loving Trees. Each is a wonderful sight in its own right, but the Swan Lake Iris Gardens offers its own unique ambiance and features:
  • All eight species of swan call the garden home. This is the only such park in the U.S. to feature these amazing animals. You’ll also find Canadian geese, egrets, wood ducks, muscovies, and more!
  • Japanese Iris isn’t hard to find here, nor are any other varietals. The Swan Lake Iris Gardens is home to more than 120 varieties of iris. Spring is a great time to watch them bloom.
  • Beyond the irises, plenty of flowers can be found, including azaleas, camellias, daylilies, and Japanese magnolias.
  • More than 100 different species of trees and a total of 172 plants can be found throughout the 150-acre property.
  • Scents and sensations in the gardens can be detected by the sight-impaired on the Sensory Trail, while a talking tree trail tells stories about the past and present.
  • The garden is open every day except for days with inclement weather from 7:30 a.m. until dusk. Times may also vary during the Sumter, SC, Iris Festival.
  • Admission and parking are free for visitors. You can even use the park for photography.
It’s easy to see how this Level II Arboretum is an award-winning feature for the city. Local artwork helps further highlight this beautiful space, featuring sculptures for visitors to explore and find throughout the ground from the likes of Grainger McKoy and Zan Lee Wells. The Iris Gardens are a great place for all ages to enjoy.

Enjoy Fun Events All Year Long at the Gardens

The people of Sumter, SC, don’t have to go far to find various fun festivals to celebrate. People from far and wide come to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and festivities at the many celebrations held at Swan Lake Iris Gardens.
  • Home of South Carolina’s oldest festival, the Iris Festival, Swan Lake Iris Gardens continues its tradition every Memorial Day weekend.
  • The Earth Day Celebration celebrates our planet with arts and festive fare during the annual holiday.
  • The annual Easter Egg Hunt is a fun tradition for the community.
  • Taste of the Gardens is the most delicious festival around, featuring some of the city’s best restauranteurs and caterers as guests dine on delectable fares and enjoy live music.
  • Throughout the month of December, Fantasy of Lights celebrates the holiday spirit with the community. The Swan Lake Iris Gardens Christmas Lights features over 1 million lights, including the popular floating Christmas tree from The Pilot Club.
Additional events happen throughout the year, making the Iris Gardens a great place to enjoy no matter what day it is. You’ll soon find that there is more and more to discover with every passing visit.

Swan Lake Iris Gardens, a Gift to Sumter That Keeps on Giving

What began as a private fishing oasis for local businessman Hamilton Carr Bland in 1927 has since become a pillar of the community. Given to the city of Sumter, South Carolina, in 1949 by the Bland and Heath families, the Swan Lake Iris Gardens have stood the test of time. Residents continue to enjoy this wonderful piece of art and recreation to enjoy nature and a sense of community.

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outdoor recreation
public park
shaw afb
sumter south carolina
swan lake iris gardens

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