BERKELEY HALL PLANTS SEEDS FOR GARDEN’S SUCCESS
As an experienced and visionary horticulturist, Kayne Hoecht sees the beauty and vitality in flowers, plants, shrubs and trees. His green thumb can be observed and appreciated throughout Berkeley Hall Club in Bluffton, especially when members and guests come upon the magnificent 1-acre Savannah Gardens.
It’s the 980-acre property’s signature showpiece.
“It’s the first thing you see when you come in through the main gate: A stunning view of the Savannah Gardens and beyond,” said Anne Feldman, communications director at Berkeley Hall Club. “People enjoy strolling through there. It’s a beautiful backdrop, and it draws its name from the historical reflection on the traditional architecture and the formal gardens that Savannah is known for.
Hoecht, director of community services and grounds, and his full-time staff of 14 groom the English-influenced garden with daily precision.
They tend to the long tea olive hedges, white azaleas, boxwood hedges, white crepe myrtles, Asiatic jasmine border plantings, and 42 other flower gardens throughout the property. Twenty 30-year-old live oak trees embrace the Savannah Gardens, while stepped terraces lead down to the reflection pond and a majestic fountain.
Four raised Corinthian urns of Savannah brick frame the site, and brick pathways lead the way. White trellised swing benches provide a comfortable perch for admiring the Lowcountry landscape.
I TRY NOT TO STICK TO THE SAME THEME OR COLOR SCHEME
- KAYNE HOECHT
It all comes down to a blend of science and creativity, Hoecht said — a recipe he’s perfected over his 12 years at Berkeley Hall.
“I’ll do lab tests on soils, lab tests on plants, so I know how to make them optimal…I diversify,” said Hoecht, who also has worked at a botanical garden in Georgia and in Colorado. “New technology and plants change rapidly.”
There’s a science to the garden’s design, too, Hoecht said.
“I like there to be a flow with the annual flower plantings as you come in through the main gate and enter the property,” he said. “You can look at some color schemes — for instance, reds, yellows, oranges — and they are really hot to the eye in mid-July. But if you go a little more with the pinks, blues, whites, silvers, it has a more cooling image. Based on the season, I try to adjust accordingly.”
Hoecht and his team plant 24,000 annual flowers in the spring and fall, all custom-ordered from a grower in the Palmetto State. The Savannah Garden itself regenerates with 7,000 new plantings annually.
“I give them an order that allows them to grow any given plant to a custom size,” Hoecht said. “Being specific on the plant allows me to be different from other properties in our area. Ordering custom-grown plants opens the door to thousands of variable combinations that are limited by the imagination.”
He also scours the country and looks at other places that have a climate similar to the Lowcountry’s for “fresh ideas,” he said. He wants the gardens at Berkeley Hall to be unique to the area in their flower variety, size, visual impact and compatibility with other plantings in the vast collection.
But he’s adamant about one basic philosophy: “I try not to stick to the same theme or color scheme; I pride myself on doing something new every year. A lot of our gardens are seen from a distance, so a lot of the time we need to have a bright color from afar or in the shade.”
When Hoecht joined the Berkeley Hall team in 2007, the “very well-designed and pretty-well maintained property” had what he described as a solid “backbone.”
“My focus when I came here was to guide the landscape into the future,” he said. “We did a lot of pruning with the future in mind.”