Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter, SC

August 9, 2012 at 2:20 pm EST

PHOTO CREDIT: Todd Bennett

Swan Lake Iris Gardens is a 120-acre park that began as an accidental garden.

In 1927, local businessman Hamilton Carr Bland was landscaping the grounds of his home with irises, but the plants failed to bloom. He ordered all the bulbs dug up and dumped into a swamp. The next spring, they burst into bloom, creating what Southern Living magazine called “a lovely mistake.” Bland imported Australian Black and English Royal Mute swans in the early 1930s, and today the park has all eight swan species. The park is the setting for the Sumter Iris Festival, which began in 1940 and is South Carolina's oldest continuing festival. Swan Lake is also routinely used as a wedding venue.

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