Several hundred garden lovers and schoolchildren are expected to visit Magnolia Plantation and Gardens on May 11 as part of the fourth annual National Public Gardens Day.

The American Public Gardens Association has designated that day as a time to raise awareness nationwide on the important role public gardens play in promoting environmental stewardship and plant and water conservation.

The association’s mem-bership includes some of the nation’s most prestigious gardens, such as the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University and Callaway Gardens at Pine Mountain, Ga.

Magnolia, one of the oldest gardens in the United States, is a member of the association and the only garden in South Carolina participating in the observance.

Tom Johnson, Magnolia’s director of gardens, said, “This is the second year that Magnolia has participated. Being among some of the nation’s best gardens that open their doors to allow Americans to experience a public garden comes at a special time for Magnolia.

“Recently we were selected as a Garden of Excellence by the International Camellia Society. This international award coincides with an expanded summer garden for our guests,” Johnson said.

“The educational programs we are offering have been designed to match the standards being taught in social studies and science,” he added.

“This is our contribution to education at a time when the demands on teachers and budget cuts force educators to look for other ways to enhance the educational experience for our students.”

The free educational program for schoolchildren will include demonstrations with small animals, guided tours that discuss the role African-Americans played at Magnolia and a discussion about plants that are native to the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Students, teachers and chaperons from James Simons and Sanders-Clyde Elementary schools, Charleston Development Academy and Midland Park Primary School have been invited to participate in the four-hour field day, starting at 9:30 a.m.

To enhance the education program, Magnolia has invited other groups and companies to set up booths during the day.

For information about National Public Gardens Day, visit www.nationalpublic