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by Nancy Turnage, Public Relations & Marketing Intern, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

A few months ago, while on a mission to capture some fun photos for my Every Day is a Playday blog, I encountered a little friend.  He was so cute — set amidst the foliage and ornate shrubbery.  He was so completely out of place.  He was … a cement pig.  I took a picture of the pig, who is quite photogenic, consequently, and tucked it away for hopeful retrieval after the holiday hubbub.  And I have.

Pig on the jog...an ornamental pig at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Pig on the jog...

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is many things to many more people.  And the story to unfold here only reinforces this concept.  My underlying mission:  why is there a little concrete pig along the path of the Lucy Payne Minor Garden?  I began with Jonah Holland, Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator; did she know anything about the pig?  No … but she suggested speaking with Shanna Chandler, Development Manager — she might have record of its donation.

Knock-knock on Shanna’s door:  did she know anything about the pig?  No … but she had heard something regarding a Richmond woman donating a menagerie of statuary critters to the Garden, although there is no actual record of the “adoption”.  Perhaps I should ask someone who may have been employed at the time — try Lucy Coggin, Group Tour Developer over in the Education department.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

I emailed Lucy ( who has been at the Garden over 12 years); did she know anything about the pig?  (Is the reader sensing a “Little Red Hen” theme?  “Who will help me plant the seeds?  Who will help me cut the wheat?  Who will help me take the wheat to the mill….”)  At first Lucy had nothing to add to my investigation, and I sighed, resigning myself to the fact that the “lead had gone cold”.  But alas, as with many things, reflection often allows particulars to resurface, and she emailed a follow-up the next day:

Hello again!  As I mulled over your topics, a couple of details came to mind.  Elizabeth (Horticulture) once mentioned that little pig.  She may have some information to share.  Happy hunting …

Hunting indeed.  Elizabeth (Liz) Fogel from Horticulture (over 5 years at the Garden) proved to be a key to unlocking the secret:

I think Frank (Frank Robinson, the Garden’s President & CEO) will be the best person to tell you who gave us the animal statues … what I heard was that … a lady had all of these statues in her own yard for years and wanted to make sure they would end up in a place where children could still enjoy them.

… it was pretty much left up to us [the horticulture staff] to put what we wanted where we wanted.  There are several in the Childrens Garden and three through Streb and Minor [Gardens] — a metal pig with wings near the small sundial at the entrance to Minor, the cement pig I think you have seen, and a cement turtle hiding near the white gazebo in Streb….

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

And finally, from Frank Robinson:

Liz’s memory of the various animals is accurate … the donor was a charming lady who collected the animals and had them in various flower beds and pens in her garden.  She did invite the neighborhood children to come and visit, and I remember her saying they especially enjoyed climbing in the “pig pen” and sitting with the pigs.  She was transitioning to fairies and gnomes, so she was excited to have the animals come to Ginter.  Some were used in the Conservatory, as well, and they seem to come and go as themes change within the Garden.  Her donation was a delight and refreshingly unselfconscious, and it is an inspiration to have some unexpected fun at Lewis Ginter!

What has my journey taught me?  Behold the power and tradition of storytelling as a means of passing on what is known by some to others.  And, questions are the key to life … or in this case, pigs.  To the donor, rest assured that your gifts are appreciated.  They add whimsy and intrigue to the Garden, and they bring many smiles to the faces of children … and others, like me.

Life is a journey, not a destination.  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Consequently, Emerson’s quote is my daily mantra.  But, in this particular case, I’m not certain as to whose journey this story refers … mine or the pig’s.

The Lotus Bridge at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

photo courtesy of Don Williamson Photography

 

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