Linda Shelbourne: A faithful host, gardener
Linda Shelbourne points out the ginger lilies in her garden. They have the sweetest scent, she says, pulling the slender stalk forward to enjoy the fragrance.
Gardening is her passion and it shows in the property surrounding her home. The gardens – there are gardens within the larger garden – are filled with interesting plantings huddled in small corners, bordering walkways or soaring next to vine-covered arches.
Shelbourne was born in Pennsylvania and married to Peter in the United Kingdom in 1961. Linwood Bed & Breakfast became their home in 1979. It’s at Linwood where Shelbourne’s gardens and her special talent for dispensing hospitality come together.
“What makes Linwood what it is, is the hospitality,” she says. “The root word is “host” and while we are hosting these people we want them to be enriched, inspired and to enjoy themselves.”
Today Linwood is one of the Top 10 Bed and Breakfasts in the world by www.bedandbreakfasts.com.
The house used to shelter their three sons: Brandt, Matthew and Courtney. They grew older, got married, had children of their own but never strayed far from home.
Before that she studied at La Chatelainie in Neuchatel, Switzerland, Le Sorbonne and University of Paris in France, the Triangle School of Business in London, and became a master gardener through Clemson University.
“She is welcoming and has a real gift of hospitality,” said Pam, Linda’s daughter-in-law. “She brings a lot of tourists into Summerville. She brings people from Charleston and is a big draw on the Sweet Tea Tour.”
Shelbourne has a strong faith, praying for guests and with them. There are devotions each morning at the house. She said it is a good way to relate to guests she is meeting for the first time.
“Christians are always looking for Jesus in another person. No matter your ethnic background, social rank or whatever, we’re all brothers and sisters of one father.”
Another important part of the experience at Linwood is communication between guests. Shelbourne said they like to create rooms with lots of seating facing a center point to allow for lots of communication.
“People want relationships and we work on an environment where they can do that,” she said. “Hearing our guests interacting at the breakfast table or out in the gardens, that’s one of our favorite things and that’s why people go.”
The gardens are world-renowned and were the products of students from the University of Georgia and University South Carolina along with the Shelbournes and their friends. They extend from the front driveway at the old horse stable around the cottages to the “secret garden.”
In the expected fashion from a mother, she claims she doesn’t have a favorite. She said they are all soothing.
“That root word ‘host’ is in hospital, hospice, and so on. It’s about people getting better. Here we are creating a place for people to get better.”
Her son Brandt talked about her large numbers of repeat visitors. One couple in particular from Glasgow, Scotland visits for weeks at a time every year. They have a specific room request each trip, the Barn, one of the quaint, back cottages.
Both speak to Linda and Peter like old friends, because they are. That is how it feels when you meet Linda, she welcomes you to into their home and you experience why people don’t just come to see the gardens but to see Linda too.
“We’re addicted to our guests, we have hearts for hospitality,” she said. “Hospitality in the deepest and broadest sense of the word, that’s what it’s about and what we’re all about.”