Feed on

by Hilaire Ashworth, PR & Marketing Intern, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden 

Hands show perspective on the seedling size.

Starting from the top clockwise: verbena, snapdragon, leeks, and arugula.

Today volunteers from HandsOn Greater Richmond  helped Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden staff prepare for the spring growing season in the Community Kitchen Garden. Since the weather has been too cold to plant anything outside, volunteers assisted with repotting seedlings in the greenhouse.

There are approximately 3,000 seedlings already started and more to come once the weather permits plants to be moved outside. All of the produce will be harvested in the summer and fall and benefits Central Virginia’s neediest citizens via FeedMore Inc. Among the plants are several varieties of kale, celery, leeks, arugula, and even snapdragons, verbena, and bee balm to attract pollinators. Once temperatures rise and become more stable, volunteers will be working outside to prepare plant beds and eventually place these seedlings in the ground.

It was such a pleasure working with these four wonderful volunteers and Community Kitchen Garden Horticulturalist, Laura Schumm. After getting my hands dirty and speaking with the volunteers, I learned that most of them were relatively new to gardening with the exception of one long-term gardener and plant enthusiast — São Berkowitz. All were eager to learn and contribute.

Volunteers standing in the Massey Greenhouse after completing their work.

From left to right: Laura Schumm, Jahleel Athey, São Berkowitz, Ariel Lawrence, and Edmund Burke.

Personally, I have enjoyed volunteering and learning about gardening from Laura Schumm as a Conservatory volunteer. I was curious to know what made my co-workers-for-the-day decide to volunteer with the Community Kitchen Garden. After a few brief conversations I learned that I was surround by truly amazing people.

Athey aspires to one day complete a degree in botany and eventually create an off-the-grid, sustainable community. By volunteering, he can hone his skills and make his dream a reality. Berkowtiz expressed that she wanted to build new friendships and was enthralled with contributing her time towards “such a great cause.”  Lawrence says she’s interested in exchanging “labor for knowledge.” The Richmond waitress likes to spend her mornings learning all she can about gardening and will soon starting planting in her first vegetable garden. Burke was very expressive about his desire to give back to his community. He is a successful barber shop owner and likes to give his spare time to helping local organizations, such as the Ronald McDonald House in Richmond.

We are so thankful for all of their wonderful help and I personally look forward to working with them in the coming weeks.

by Jonah Holland,  Public Relations & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

We are thrilled to announce that Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will serve as the start venue for Richmond 2015‘s elite men’s and elite women’s team time trial events on September 20, 2015 during the 2015 UCI Road World Championships. The Garden’s involvement is a natural fit.  As you have likely read here before,  the Garden has  rich ties to cycling history.  Historic Bloemendaal House was originally the Lakeside Wheel Club, one of the nation’s first “wheel” or bicycle clubs and the epicenter of early cycling history in Richmond.

We are proud to celebrate cycling and Richmond 2015 at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. In honor of  the race we welcome you for these special events:

Saturday, September 19 through Sunday, September 27, 2015: The Lakeside Wheel Club and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, an exhibit about early cycling history in Richmond. Historic Bloemendaal House. Eight panels address different topics, including “The Cycling Craze at the Turn of the Century,” “Women and Fashion in the Bicycle Boom,” and “The Heyday of the Lakeside Wheel Club.” Included with Garden admission.

Sunday, September 20, 2015: The Garden is the start venue for the elite men’s and women’s team time trial events. FREE Garden admission on Sept. 20, 2015. 

Monday, September 21 through Friday, September 25, 2015: The Garden will have extended hours and live music with dining, beer and wine available for purchase. Included with Garden admission.

Female cyclist in purple outfit in front of the Conservatory

Garden volunteer Sherry Giese wears an 1890s-inspired bike outfit and guides a vintage bicycle from the same era. The costume was sewn from a historical pattern by Garden volunteers Mariette Norbom & Betty Woo.

by Jonah Holland,  Public Relations & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Acer palmatum or Japanese maple 'Sango-Kaku'

Japanese maple ‘Sango-Kaku’ in snow with the Conservatory. Thanks to Facility Maintenance Manager Steve Sawyer for the photo.

Here’s a first look at the Garden after the snow storm. The Garden remains closed today, Feb. 26, 2015, due to snow and ice.

Hilaire Ashworth, PR & Marketing Intern, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden


Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Gold Rush’

Whilst wondering around the Garden last week I came across this beauty, that is budding despite the chilly temperatures.

Edgeworthia chrysantha, commonly known as oriental paperbush, Mitsumata, or simply paperbush comes from south western China, Nepal, and Japan. The plant has been incorporated into traditional Japanese papermaking called Washi, where bark fibers are combined with fibers from the gampi tree and the kozo plant to make this thin, but durable paper. Hence, why this plant is commonly referred to as paperbush.

Here at the Garden we have two of the four cultivars. E. chrysantha ‘Gold Rush’ (Asian Valley, Streb, Lotus Bridge) and  E. chrysantha ‘Snow Queen’ (in front of the Robins Visitor Center).

If you look closely at these little white umbrella-shaped buds you can see their yellow centers emerging. In a few weeks they will be bursting with a vibrant yellow. Not only are these quite lovely to look at but they also smell absolutely wonderful. You’ll can find these beauties nestled between the Robins Tea house and the Garden Café in the upper Asian Valley by the small pond, and in the triangular bed to the right, just before you cross the Lotus Bridge.


E. chrysantha ‘Gold Rush’


( January,2014).Edgeworthia chrysantha (oriental paperbush). Kew. Retrieved January , 2014
from http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/edgeworthia-chrysantha-oriental-paperbush

( January,2014).About Washi. The Japanese Paper Place. Retrieved January , 2014
from http://www.japanesepaperplace.com/abt-japanese-paper/about-washi.htm

darlene nancy penick

Plant sale chairs and volunteers Nancy Penick (left) with Helen Blencowe (center) and Darlene Van Laan.

by Jonah Holland,  Public Relations & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Earlier this month longtime staff member  Darlene Van Laan retired.  Van Laan has been Volunteer Manager at the Garden for 11 years,  and over that time has ushered in hundreds of new volunteers at the Garden and made them feel the love of this place in a way that only she knew how.  I’ve always seen Van Laan as a mamma duck, looking over her flock of volunteers. She has a gift with people, and during her time here we’ve had a backlog of volunteers. That is, so many volunteers that we couldn’t process them all in as timely a fashion as we would like. Never did I think I a non-profit organization would ever exist where they might turn a volunteer away, or tell someone, “We would love to have you volunteer with us, but it might be a few weeks before we can find a spot for you.”  Van Laan has a magical way with people,  a way of letting you know with a look, or a touch that you are valued, and you are loved.

So you can see why her retirement was a bittersweet occasion. She of course didn’t want us to make a fuss over her leaving, and actually, I had a bit of trouble finding out when her last day was, because she wanted it all to be low-key. But we want to honor her and her commitment to the volunteers  and to the Garden over all these years.  We asked a few longtime volunteers to say a few words about her and what she’s meant to the Garden Volunteers.

“Darlene has a way of making each volunteer feel special and important to the garden. Darlene really makes each volunteer feel that their time given to the garden is important and appreciated. ” ~Nancy Penick,  head of the volunteer plant sale committee.

“She truly cares about all volunteers and if they were ill or going through challenges, she was right there. She would visit you in hospital and you would end up with some food, not just her famous brownies. Of course, Darlene is one special person and will be missed by many, not just the volunteers.  She enjoyed the plant sales and it was a joy to see her working away on labels and culture information while wearing a special plant sale hat.” ~Julie Abbott, Garden Volunteer for 29 years.

As for me, I remember they day I met Darlene (over 7 years ago) like it was yesterday. She was assisting volunteers who were serving rose-flavored ice-cream during our October Rose Fest. I’d been on staff a mere 3 weeks, and was thrilled that not only did she know who I was but was ecstatic to see me.  Many volunteers consider Van Laan  like family, and I am one of them.

Van Laan’s quiet retirement meant she sent this message to staff and volunteers after her departure. It’s beautiful and we’ll like to share it with you:

“Small words for large feelings” ….. The Garden is special for me because of you, my friends.  I am overwhelmed as I think of the variety of experiences shared and friendships we have made.  It is not possible to capture or to meaningfully celebrate the last 11 years – especially to say goodbye to them. The words are so small – thank you for your support and kindnesses to me and for your dedicated service to the Garden. You have made this experience the best part of my journey!  So goodbye to this Volunteer Manager position only – I will see you in the Garden!


Volunteers looking at gift book

Volunteers looking at the “Plant sale book” made by Nancy Penick in Darlene’s honor.

nancy penick and darlene

Can you feel the love?

Happy Snow Day!

by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

snow on frogs in fountain

At the start of the snowstorm, frogs in the fountain. Photo by Laura Flournoy

We got a bit of snow last night, considerably more than is in this photo.  Visitor Service staffer Laura Flournoy took this image just before the Garden closed, about 4:30 p.m.  Six to 8 inches later,  with temperatures around 20 degrees, and with the Garden and paths covered, we will remain closed to visitors today, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015 and Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015. Enjoy the snow day and stay safe! We’ll reopen as soon as paths are clear and it is safe to do so.

steve sawyer snow

The Conservatory at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden after the snow.


Here are our first photos of the Conservatory after the snow storm. Thanks to Facility Maintenance Manager Steve Sawyer who braved the snow to take this photo (and to Visitor Services Coordinator Robin Gregson for sending it along).

by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Richmond Cycling Corps, Richmond Area Bicycling Association and the Central Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association are making a difference in Richmond.  Richmond Cycling Corps created a place where teens can be fast, wild and free — on their bikes. They can make friends,  set goals, challenge their bodies in a ways that they never thought they could, set personal goals, and achieve them.  These kids can be mentored not just technically, but for real by some the best cyclists in Richmond. And soon they will be able to do it in a beautiful space with the shade of 41 beautiful trees — oaks, pines, black gum, and cherry trees.

Diamond Womack on the Armstrong bike skills course.

Diamond Womack on the Armstrong bike skills course.

Last summer this year RCC converted the 10-acre abandoned field next to Armstrong High School, in Fairfield Court public housing, into the Armstrong High School Bike Park, a 1.5 mile trail with 22 skills features. Now they are bringing beauty and shade to the nation’s first and only inner-city mountain bike park, a point of entry into mountain biking for inner-city area youth and Richmond Public School students

What I’ve learned is that this project is truly a grass-roots community effort from those with a love of cycling, youth, and of course TREES.  CVNLA vice president, and Colesville Nursery Tree Buyer, Warner Winthrop, explained that he got involved because he’s been a mountain biker for years. “I was pretty excited to hear that there is a high school mountain bike team  in the city of Richmond.” He says he’s really pleased most of all to see how well everything is coming together.  There are always complications when you take on a project like this, and the one at the top of his mind was getting water to the trees after they are planted.  Renew Richmond is bringing 10 Armstrong High School students to help with the planting and the hope is that they will be able to help water the trees this summer when they will need it most.

rcc logo

Want to help? Join in the tree planting effort on Saturday, February 21, 9 a.m. CVNLA welcomes other volunteers to join the work party.  If you’d like to learn more contact warner [at] colesvillenursery.com or call 804-798-5472 ex. 104.

Kid on training wheels on Armstrong bike course.

Child on training wheels on Armstrong bike course.

Matt Crane, Director of Development for RCC, says, “The field where the park sits was once home to little more than a rusted and broken solitary football goal post. Now, there is a totally unique resource for the community where youth can ride mountain bikes after school and on the weekends. The community where the bike park sits has nothing close to this kind of resource, and it is extremely significant that these Richmond organizations have pulled together to help Richmond Cycling Corps develop the bike park and the area surrounding Armstrong High School. The planting of trees will go a long way toward making this space a green area the community can really enjoy and be proud of. Upkeep of the park will be overseen by RCC staff, along with youth from Armstrong High School. Richmond Cycling Corps is currently fundraising to hire a full time staff member to work with youth and oversee maintenance of the park.”

The tree planting at Armstrong Bike park is just one example of how Richmonders are working to create a more Beautiful RVA.  If you’d like to learn more about greening the community, be sure to attend our next meeting Thursday, February 26, 5-7 p.m. at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden as we unpack our work-in-progress Community Greening ToolKit.

Please note, this is not a Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden event, but we think it’s cool, so we are sharing it.

by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Interesting ragged tree bark in sunlight

Bark of the Chamaecyparis obtusa  or Japanese cypress in sunlight. Look closely to see the Slow Dance sculpture in the background.

by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Natural Connections brochure and schedule of events.  Website has full details.


Do you think students learn best when teachers blend science, social studies, language arts, and mathematics standards for authentic learning experiences?  If you are an educator you can learn how to further integrate these best practices into your curriculum at our 2015 Educators’ Conference: Natural Connections — Interdisciplinary Strategies for Teaching and Learning.  This three-day collaborative conference provides valuable professional development opportunities for pre-k  through 6th grade educators, administrators, and pre-service teachers.  If you are a parent of a child in grade pre-k through 6th,  encourage your child’s teacher to attend or share this information with your child’s teachers and principal.  Together we can engage Virginia’s students in the best kind of learning.

Natural Connections: Interdisciplinary Strategies for Teaching and Learning is brought to  you in collaboration with our partners: The Virginia Department of Education’s Division of Instruction, the Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement, and the Virginia Resource Use Education Council.

Photos and text by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

A winter walk in the Garden with our friends witch hazel and winter jasmine might just be the thing  you need to make this a great weekend. Half price admission continues through the end of February. See you soon!

Hamamelis x intermedia

Jelena witch hazel; Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Jelena’

unfurling witch hazel

Pink witch hazel

Winter Jasmine blooms and buds

Winter Jasmine blooms and buds

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