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Sunflowers & the Conservatory photo by Cathy Hoyt

Sunflowers & the Conservatory photo by Cathy Hoyt

Cathy Hoyt, Guest Blogger & Member, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

September was my first anniversary as a Member of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. I was a bit hesitant at first. Should I join? Should I wait a bit longer?? Will I use it?? I just wanted to post that my membership has been of the best gifts I have ever given myself. The Garden has been a classroom of sorts where I have learned so much about about the cycles of nature, wildlife and of course the never ending variety of flowers, trees and foliage that is ever present and ever changing. It has presented me with so many beautiful moments to capture with my camera…and offered me a “learning ground” for photography. Most of all it is my No. 1 stress reducer!! Ahh, tough day? I just drive over for an hour and relax. Thank you Lewis Ginter and to all the wonderful staff that makes this Garden the best!

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

Turtle water lily best

Just hanging out with the water lilies!


by Alex Arzt, Exhibit Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

In conjunction with Every Tree Tells a Story, the photography exhibit in the Kelly Education Center’s Ginter Gallery II, we’re  highlighting a few special trees in the Garden. One of my favorite trees here is the Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) in the Margaret Streb Conifer Garden.

the sycamore in streb garden

The sycamore in Streb Garden, at the north end of Lake Sydnor, before it was Streb Garden.

Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin B. White, Jr. donated this garden in memory of Mrs. White’s mother, Margaret Streb. The garden was designed and installed by the garden staff in 1996. It is located at the far end of the lake, under the spreading branches of this elegant old sycamore. Though the garden was planted almost 20 years ago, the sycamore has stood on the property for much longer.

This photograph from our archives was taken in 1995 on the edge of Sydnor Lake before the conifer garden was planted. This sycamore has seen a lot! In its time here, the landscape has evolved, and this tree  is a living reminder of the vast histories enclosed within our ever-resilient trees. This photograph for me represents the transformational power of gardening and also how much Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has grown in its relatively short history of 30 years. Compare this photo to one of the Streb Garden today:

streb garden in 2014

The Streb Garden today.

The sycamore is easy to spot among the conifers because of its large canopy and its characteristic white crown, which is most visible in the fall and winter. The distinguishing feature of this tree is its mottled exfoliating bark which flakes off in irregular sheets leaving the surface with patterns like pieces of a puzzle.

In May the sycamore bears small flowers in dense heads and after fertilization the fruits grow into one-inch balls. They hang from stringy stalks which dangle from the tree all winter then fall apart in early spring to disperse the seeds. The oldest known sycamores reach 400 years old. We can only hope this one will still be standing in 2350.

And don’t forget, our #TREEstory Instagram contest continues until Nov. 2, 2014.  Whether it’s right here in the garden or in your neighborhood, every tree tells its own story and we’d love to see and read about your tree story in our contest.

The Every Tree Tells a Story exhibition at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is on loan from The Cultural Landscape Foundation, and has been made possible with generous support from presenting sponsor, The Davey Tree Expert Company.

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

Next week’s Making Beauty Sustainable: The Charles F. Gillette Forum  opens up some great questions about how, as a community, we will design our gardens for the future. As part of this discussion, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is  bringing in four experts, with different ideas about how to tackle these big real world issues: balancing the desire for native plantings, non-natives that have graced our landscapes for years, and the uncertainty of the future climate.

By examining the critical processes of plant ecology and applying them to landscape and planting design, we hope to inspire a dialogue about how to responsibly design, install, and manage our green spaces to mitigate climate change.

This is a topic that’s important in large-scale commercial design, but as Doug Tallamy  and others have pointed out, it’s just as important in the hundreds of thousands of backyards in this world. So whether you are a commercial landscape designer or a avid backyard gardener, we welcome you to join the conversation with the experts next Thursday evening and all day on Friday. The conversation will be lively,  and we promise you will learn something too!

Speakers include Sheila Brady, principal, Oehme van Sweden and Associates, Inc., Travis Beck, author of Principles of Ecological Design and Director of Horticulture, Mt. Cuba Center Inc., landscape designer, teacher, GroundedDesign blogger Thomas Rainer, and  Adrian Higgins, garden writer and editor at The Washington Post.

Here are a few excerpts from our featured speakers to get you thinking about sustainable design and the future of gardening.

Sheila Brady  Portrait

Sheila Brady

On Sheila Brady’s work:  The garden [New York Botanical Garden’s new native plant garden] rejects a conventional idea of presenting native flora as replicated eco-systems and instead gathers American plants with a gardener’s eye for color, texture, combinations, seasonal peaks and other aesthetic ambitions. The planting schemes are complex, and besides the mind-boggling number of plants involved — 90,000 perennials, grasses, bulbs, shrubs and trees in a 31 / 2-acre area — Brady and her collaborators have used varieties bred for improved garden performance.

Adrian Higgins  photo by Deb Lindsey Photography.

Adrian Higgins, photo by Deb Lindsey Photography.

From Adrian Higgins: 

In an age of environmental woe — climate change, habitat loss, threats to beloved pollinators — should we change the role and the look of our gardens?

and this on dry gardens: 

One of the most beautifully planted and instructive dry gardens remains the Gravel Garden at Chanticleer Garden in Wayne, Pa. Here a whole hillside has been converted into a series of landings through a sea of perennials, herbs and grasses. Dry gardens come into their own in late summer. At Chanticleer that has meant a September when the feather reed grass is a rich wheat color against the repeated drifts of the purple aster variety called October Skies. These are just two of dozens of herbaceous plants that carry special appeal in late season, including the wispy grass called nassella, goldenrods, other asters, yuccas, salvias and perhaps some lingering hardy ice plant varieties…..

The other great aspect of the dry garden is that bulbs love it; they get the baking they need during summer dormancy to flourish and multiply. This mimics the conditions of their arid, upland habitats of Asia Minor.

T Beck

Travis Beck

From Travis Beck:

Landscapes are critical to our well-being. From cloud-strewn rangeland to urban streetscapes, they feed and shelter, nurture and amaze us.

In all landscapes, human action and natural processes combine. Wilderness is now designated, no longer de facto. In even the most tended garden myriad insects and seedlings appear.

Successful, sustainable landscapes result when we align our efforts with natural processes. Such landscapes flourish without constant care and support life within and beyond their boundaries.

A network of these landscapes could serve our needs, restore ecological function, conserve biodiversity, and be a delight to inhabit. Such a network can only be built piece by piece. As designers and managers of landscapes, that is our work.

Thomas Rainer

Thomas Rainer

From Thomas Rainier:

This year on this blog, I have started to celebrate the idea and expression of contemporary naturalistic design. I have made the claim that naturalistic design may be in a golden era. To show the diversity and complexity of this idea, I plan to highlight the work of several leading practitioners.
But my enthusiasm was given pause this week after reading Michael King’s thoughtful essay “Never New Gardening.” Michael makes the claim that when it comes to the New Perennial movement (and other gardening movements generally), there is nothing new under the sun.

Here at the Garden we are changing our practices too. Two great examples of that are the new Cherry Tree Walk around Lake Sydnor featuring bountiful native plantings and grasses around the water’s edge that will help filter water before it enters the lake.  At the Conservatory, we replaced 9,000 square feet of turf with 2,000 native grasses that encourage wildlife and are better for the environment. As we continue to build new garden areas look for this sort of sustainable landscaping to continue at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. We hope that we inspire you to rethink your yard too.

Interested in joining the conversation? Register now, a limited number of spaces are still available for Making Beauty Sustainable: The Charles F. Gillette Forum.

The Garden would also like to thank Presenting Sponsor: 3north, and Supporting Sponsor: The Davey Tree Expert Company, Inc. and The Care of Trees for their generosity in supporting the Gillette Forum.

The Charles F. Gillette Forum on Landscape Design honors the legacy of Charles F. Gillette, a leader in the field of landscape architecture, by engaging the public and the design profession in a conversation about the importance of landscape design and the value of Gillette’s ideals of elegance, superb craftsmanship, and seamless blending of architecture and garden.

Follow up the Gillette Forum by touring some of Richmond’s important urban landscapes during the first What’s Out There Weekend Richmond, presented by The Cultural Landscape Foundation, October 25 and 26. Tours are free, but registration is required.


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

Fothergilla Suzanne

Fothergilla gardenii ‘Suzanne’

Fothergilla gardenii ‘Suzanne’ is a native with a very interesting bloom. In fall, the green leaves turn orange-red. It’s a beauty for sure. You’ll find these along the edge of Lake Sydnor, just down from the Rose Garden.

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

ephemeral art

Senior Horticulturist Elizabeth Fogel’s fairy art including elephant’s ear, zinnia & crepe myrtle in Grace Arents Garden.

Have you noticed “fairy art” around the Garden recently? We’re feeling a bit whimsical and inspired by our blooms these days.

Director of Horticulture Grace Chapman explains, “A few months ago, I challenged the staff to ‘play’ in their gardens. I wanted them to have the freedom to create little art pieces that would last a day or two using materials from their gardens. We weren’t going to tell anyone when we were doing these or where they would be located, it was just a fun thing that visitors could discover. When I worked at Temple University, I often found little art pieces that the students left for us. Those were the inspiration for this staff project.”

Senior Horticulturist, Elizabeth Fogel says, “The one I did last week was inspired by the fact that I was getting ready to rip the plants out for the fall!”

This “bedding change-out” is something we do twice a year, in fall when we compost the summer annuals and plant fall bulbs, and at the end of spring, when we clear out spent bulbs to plant summer annuals.

Sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) and Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) pods on the stump of an Ash tree

Sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) and Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) pods on the stump of an Ash tree at Ambler Arboretum at Temple University. Photo by Grace Chapman.

“The one I made last week was inspired by the fact that I was getting ready to pull the annuals out for the fall. I had been looking at the elephant ears and thinking that they would make a nice backdrop/container for making a little arrangement.  I love the idea of visitors discovering them and imaging that a garden fairy (or some other form of magic) made them.  It’s a fun way to try different plant and color combinations and a quick way to add a little more creativity into my day.”

I love how these projects recycle items that would otherwise go straight to the compost pile. We hope that they inspire you to make something beautiful in your world.

Please remember that the ephemeral art at the Garden is a staff project. At Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden we have a no collecting policy for plant material in the Garden, including picking flowers.


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

Rachel Robbins, butterfly whisperer, rounding up butterflies with her hands!

Rachel Robbins, butterfly whisperer, rounding up butterflies with her hands!

One of the most common questions we get is what do we do with the butterflies after the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit ends. Monday we had a “butterfly round-up” in the Conservatory as we chased down butterflies in butterfly nets & got them ready for their trip to Tucson Botanical Garden’s Butterfly Magic exhibit. First we used a bit of water to coax them to where we could reach them with nets, then we collected them in butterfly carriers. Finally  we pack them in boxes in a Styrofoam cooler with ice packs so that they slow down and go into a sleep-like state for the trip. Then we ship them overnight.

Annie Raup, Lead Butterfly Curator said they spent from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. rounding up the butterflies.  In total, we sent 194 butterflies and 36 chrysalides to Tucson. Stay tuned, we hope to post photos of those butterflies in their new home soon!

Rachel Robbins & butterfly

Rachel’s got the net ready, but this one (top of frame) got away.

The team with their nets.

Rounding up butterflies is not as easy as it looks.

Alex with a butterfly

Can you tell, Alex Studd-Sojka loves her job as butterfly curator?

Butterfly curators working to round up the butterflies.

Butterfly curators Rachel Robbins & Annie Raup rounding-up the butterflies.

I made a 10-second Instagram / YouTube video of the process too. Check it out!

by Kate Pyle, PR & Marketing Intern, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Cornus angustata 'Elsbry' Empress of China™ Dogwood

Cornus angustata ‘Elsbry’ Empress of China™ Dogwood

Did you know that fall is a great time to plant bulbs, trees, shrubs, and perennials? I’ll be honest with you, I did not. The most experience I have with gardening is the little avocado tree (or Persea americana) I planted from the pit of an avocado after I made guacamole. As the new PR & Marketing Intern at the Garden I am excited about the opportunities to learn more about my studies as well as plants.

The Garden staff is busy at work; donations from Southern Living Plants Collection  are being planted throughout the property, as well as bulbs, native grasses, and shrubs. Planting in the fall is very beneficial, not only to the plant itself but to the environment. Roots act as natural water filters and, as they absorb rain water, they help decrease pollutants. Storm water can carry pollutants to streams, rivers, and even the Chesapeake Bay. The cooler temperatures in the fall, along with increased rainfall, make for great conditions for roots to develop, giving the plant a better chance at survival come the heat and humidity of summer months. For some fall planting tips, check out Southern Living’s Fall Planting Guide.

Carex oshimensis 'Everillo'

Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) partnered with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, the Central Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association, the Green Industry Council and the James River Association to support this important initiative and encourage Virginians to add plants to their home and community landscapes this month.   Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe endorsed this early this month when he declared October is “Fall is for planting” month.

Take a look at just a few of these beautiful Southern Living plants. You’ll find them throughout the Garden, along Lake Sydnor, in the new triangular bed above the Lotus Bridge, and in Flagler Garden. Please note that these images are not from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, but have been sourced from Southern Living Plants Collection because ours are not yet in bloom. Visit us come spring to see these beauties in action!

Azalea Solar Flare™ Sunbow®

Azalea Solar Flare™ Sunbow®

Azalea Solar Glow™ Sunbow®

Azalea Solar Glow™ Sunbow®

Bye-bye Butterfly!

blue butterfly -- Doris Longwing

A Doris longwing butterfly on Anthurium.

Bye-bye Butterfly!

Today is the last chance to see these guys ’til next year . Look for Butterflies LIVE! to return in April of 2015.

Photo by Don Williamson Photography

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

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