Local Gem In Charleston: Rebecca Wesson Darwin

Gardens, Guns & Gumption

It is no accident that Garden & Gun recently chose to devote several of its pages to Gray Zeitz, the meticulous, cut-from-his-own-cloth proprietor of Kentucky’s Larkspur Press. An artisan in the purest sense, Zeitz is that rare treasure who champions handcrafting, small batching, and the poet, committed to the deceptively simple aim to make things well. This is the kind of piece that encapsulates Garden & Gun’s own deliberate sensibilities. They are a compass, not only in guiding us toward stories that enrich, but as a true north in the endeavor to tell stories that speak to the soul.

At the helm of all this journalistic nobility is native southerner and fearless publisher Rebecca Wesson Darwin whose senses of humor and style imbue her beloved volume with an inimitable, authentic flair. We were lucky to chat Charleston charms, southern libations and the merits of outdoor entertaining with the consummate hostess.

An insider’s Charleston.

Tucked behind a little courtyard off Broad Street, The-Commons is filled to the brim with American-made home goods and decor. Around the corner, Bin 152 stocks an amazing selection of wine, cheese, and charcuterie. A little further up King Street you’ll find George C. Birlant & Co., a third-generation, family-owned antique shop filled with innumerable treasures. For art, stop in Ann Long Fine Art on Broad Street for more traditional art or check out Anne Elkins’ relatively new The George Gallery over on up-and-coming Bogard Street.

Just add water. Or a porch swing.

It’s hard to beat a poolside treatment at the Spa at Belmond Charleston Place, followed by an afternoon cocktail on the bed-size porch swing at Zero George Café (Gather couldn’t agree more). Or a short drive out to the beach at Sullivan’s Island.

The shoe fits, and so does the city.

One of my requirements when I moved to Charleston was that there be a great shoe store and Bob Ellis is it. It’s like the shoe departments of Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Barney’s wrapped into one, but well-edited and pared down to exactly what I want.  For clothes, my two favorites are RTW and Hampden Clothing, both on fashionable King Street.  For antiques, John Pope never disappoints.

Stories, like cocktail parties, should be fun.

It’s our hope that every issue of G&G is like a great cocktail party, full of interesting people and perspectives—and lots of fun. We’re lucky that the South is filled with talented and passionate folks, as well as great characters, and we’re always looking to tell those stories.  Our editors do an excellent job of finding the best of the best and then work with some of the South’s finest writers and photographers to bring those stories to life.

Love letters and wild nights: the origins of Garden & Gun.

Launching a magazine in 2007, right before the great recession, was definitely a challenge.  Somehow we kept it together, although we did have to skip one issue. I still have the letter from a gentleman who wrote to me then: “Dear Heroine:  If you ever let Garden & Gun close, I will hunt you down and shoot you!”  Nothing like fear as a great motivator!

Of course, the name has always been an eyebrow-raiser. Our namesake was a hot nightclub in Charleston during the late seventies and early eighties that was apparently quite the wild scene. I love when “old Charleston” says, “Well, you do know about the Garden & Gun Club, don’t you?” as they roll their eyes. But they usually follow up with: “But we all went there!”

It’s always sunny in Charleston.

Charleston has a winning combination of natural beauty, historical treasures, a vibrant creative scene and, of course, amazing food and drink. It’s hard to go wrong here, whether you’re enjoying oysters out at Bowen’s on the water or soft shell crab at FIG or a concert at Charleston Music Hall. Sitting under the oaks at the Cistern during a Spoleto Festival concert is a pretty magical experience.  I love a short trip just outside of town to visit the great plantations, or even a simple walk at sunset on The Battery.


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Everything’s better outdoors.

With its porches, gardens, sea breezes, and mild year-round temperatures, Charleston is made for outdoor entertaining. Open-air spaces allow for intimacy you don’t always find in the living room—and you don’t have to worry about breaking anything too valuable, which makes it easy to host children and adults at the same party.

Double the parlors, double the fun.

I find that I am better at throwing the larger party than doing an intimate dinner party. So a few years ago I did away with my dining room and opened up my house to double parlors for entertaining.  By opening the piazza doors, guests can spill out onto the porches and out into the lawn. It’s usually a pretty casual feeling – but every little detail has been thought of.

For a good time, just add bourbon (and Willie).

A bottle of Virginia-made Thibaut Janisson sparkling wine, some good Kentucky bourbon, and a playlist of Willie Nelson’s greatest hits are pretty much all you need for a party. Throw in a plate of bacon crackers (we serve these at all of the G&G Back Porch Sessions)  cheese straws, or deviled eggs (we like ours with a little bacon fat in them), and a couple of vases of fresh local flowers—in Charleston, we’re partial to our native Noisette roses—and you’ve got the makings of a great afternoon or evening.

The best gatherings end at 4 AM.

I always say that being at a Garden & Gun event is like being at a family reunion with the family that you picked rather than inherited!  Our gatherings are truly my favorite times be it JUBILEE, one of our Women in the Field events. After a special dinner and intimate concert with the Punch Brothers at Blackberry Farm one year, a small group of us retired to a little side room for after-dinner cocktails.  One by one, the members of the band came over to join us and started playing.  We all sang along. Around 4 in the morning, we closed things down with a poor attempt at remembering the words to “Dixie”!


Our editors are always on the hunt for up-and-coming Southern makers. We discover a lot of them through our annual Made in the South Awards. We stock beautiful vases and planters from North Carolina’s Haand pottery, cheesecake from Belle Chevre, and cocktail mixers from Bittermilk—all past winners—in the G&G Mercantile + Co. shop. Even entrants who didn’t win the awards, such as Leake Furniture Makers’ incredible hand-crafted cellarets, have gone on to be featured in the magazine later.

Looking for more Charleston stories? See the full Gather collection.

© Local Gem Charleston Interview with Garden And Gun Magazine publisher Rebecca Wesson Darwin.