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Still Hopes Retirement Community residents have a lifetime of fascinating tales to share - and its longest-standing community member was no different. The red oak that stood for decades outside of the historic Guignard Mansion was cut down a few months ago, and was recently replaced with an equally beautiful ginkgo tree. The old oak had begun to rot, and it was only a matter of time before it started to drop some minaciously large limbs. But in the oak’s absence, it has many residents and staff wondering about its personal stories.

Starting with its age. No one is really sure if it was standing when the Mansion’s foundation was first laid, or if it was planted after. In fact, it’s become a contest of sorts… as the tree’s rings are being dated at a local sawmill, the staff have put out a “ballot” box so residents can slip in their guesses. But regardless of its exact age, there is no question that the old sentinel had Still Hopes’ respect.

In the meantime, residents are enjoying the ginkgo… grown in a field for about 15 years and transplanted just last week. This native to Japan is already 14-feet tall, but its “roots” go back 270 million years. These ancient trees are known survivors. In fact, a half dozen ginkgos survived the Hiroshima blast and are still thriving today.

The red oak and the ginkgo are vastly different - and their contrast serves as a perfect example of the range of flora that can be spotted throughout the Still Hopes campus.

“The ‘plant power’ of what we can do in Columbia, South Carolina is immense,” said Chris Spearen, Still Hopes Landscape Supervisor. “We use an extensive variety of plants and trees with different blooming cycles.”

Spearen developed a love of landscaping from his father, a lifelong gardener. He was offered a position after college at the Riverbanks Zoo Botanical Garden, working his way up from intern to senior horticulturist. Three years ago, Chris joined the Still Hopes family. He carefully considers each addition to the gardens across the 44-acre senior living community.

“I think about what types of trees and plants would be suitable for that space. I focus on the colors and textures of the plant itself, and not just the flowers,” said Spearen. 

Residents can enjoy a captivating display year round that stimulates all the senses. In addition to the newly planted ginkgo tree outside of the Guinard Mansion, fragrant tea olive shrubs are found throughout the campus.  Bright green tropical palms and near everblooming perennials are interspersed throughout the gardens leading into the McDowell independent living apartments. And Greenway Supportive Living residents can enjoy azaleas and camellias throughout the year, just outside their windows.

To learn more about our beautiful and spacious senior living community in West Columbia, SC, click on our Virtual Visit to explore.