Feed on

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

Radhika Patel

Radhika Patel watering the cabbages.

Earlier this fall I ran into three young people just ending their shift at the Community Kitchen Garden.  They were younger than our typical Community Kitchen Garden volunteers and I immediately noticed them because they were all wearing VCU  shirts, my alma mater. Typically, we see alot of individuals volunteer in the CKG, and we see lots of larger corporate groups too. But this threesome seemed different.  I could tell they were tight-knit, focused, and their sense of ownership of the place told me they were regular volunteers.  I could sense a feeling from them — a sort of glow, passion, combined with hard work, and sense of purpose. It reminded me of the feeling you get after a really good run added together with the extraordinary feeling of knowing you are doing something great to help others.  And now I was curious to learn who these young adults were.

Radhika Patel, Gaurav Gupta, and Sam Salmassi are pre-med students earning their degree in biology. They are part of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Service-Learning program – part of which includes working volunteering weeding, planting, harvesting and watering the vegetables in the Community Kitchen Garden growing food for non-profit FeedMore, serving Central Virginia’s neediest citizens. I have to admit, I was a little surprised at first that pre-med students would be interested in gardening, or even have time for it.

Sam Salmassi

L Sam Salmassi watering in the Community Kitchen Garden behind the Conservatory.

Student Sam Salmassi explains how he became interested, “I originally took the class Bio 217 Principles of Nutrition with professor Jill Reid. She was all about organic farming and that’s driven me towards this (service-learning) class working in the Community Kitchen Garden….Everything we’ve done here has been new to me. Originally, I knew nothing about planting or gardening.” But now they know so much.

Students in “Insects & Plants Service-Learning,” taught by Karen M. Kester, Ph.D.work with a community partner (Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Shalom Farms or Maymont) and on an ongoing class project, “The Bug Garden”  at James River Park, for 40 hours during the semester. In addition, they learn to diagnose and control insect pests encountered in their work using sustainable methods and as a final project, design a vegetable garden with companion plantings.

“When they encounter an insect pest problem the students pull together to research and diagnose the problem and and organic solution,” Kester says.  The final project for the service-learning students here  in the Community Kitchen Garden is to design next year’s demonstration garden — the garden you see in the photos to the left. The focus of that design will be using companion plantings to discourage insect pests and using other best practices like crop rotation to discourage harmful insects.

Lynn Pelco, Ph.D., Associate Vice Provost for Community Engagement and Acting Director of VCU ASPiRE, really helped me see the importance of this program in making a difference when she explained, “Service-learning is different from volunteering in that the students in service-learning classes are connecting the academic content of their course to the learning they gain from doing a service project in the community.  At VCU service-learning classes require students to complete a minimum of 20 hours of service during the semester and to reflect on the  connections between their service project and the academic content of the class.”

“When we started working here (back in early September) the plants were really small. I like seeing them grow,” says  Radhika Patel. It’s obvious to me that the plants aren’t the only thing here flourishing and thriving. There’s just something about the  way these students talk that inspires me and makes me happy. Something that makes me want to give back to the community too.

Salmassi says, “I like it because you are not cooped up in a classroom. You don’t get this kind of experience anywhere else. The work really exhausts you, but in a good way. This is learning by doing.”   But the three of them agree, most of all it’s  the giving back that is the biggest reward.  They enjoy going to drop off the produce at Feedmore with CKG horticulturist Laura Schumm, they weigh the produce and see the kitchen where it will be cooked into meals for home-bound seniors through Meals on Wheels, and worked into kid-friendly lunches and snacks for Kids Cafe.

 Student Gaurau Gupta watering in the Community Kitchen Garden

Gaurav Gupta watering the lettuce in the Community Kitchen Garden.

They take pride and ownership over the Community Kitchen Garden now. Gaurav Gupta says “Weeding is very satisfying — honestly I have no idea why I like it. But it’s doing it your way ….it almost becomes your home here, something you nurture and take care of. One day I took an extra 20 minutes and weeded all the (wild) mushrooms.” Gupta explains that while his father used to always ask for help in the garden back home, he had no interest. But now, he’s discovered he loves gardening and will be helping out back home in Ashburn, Va when he visits.  Gupta says he enjoys it so much that he’d like continue volunteering in the Community Kitchen Garden after he graduates.

“Being pre-med, it’s ‘Go! Go! Go!’ — the pace of life is accelerated.  But here you gain perspective in a sense. ….Here at the Community Kitchen Garden, It’s the pace life should be,”  Salmassi says.

And, well, everyone likes to harvest.  “Pulling the carrots was so fun! It was like a surprise when you pull them out of the ground,” Patel says.

As part of the Service-Learning Program at VCU, students have to write a reflection at the end of the semester.  Stay tuned, we hope to share some of those here on the blog later this winter. If you’d like to learn more about Service-Learning at VCU, here’s a video that explains other ways VCU Service-Learning Students are engaged and helping communities in Richmond. 

Text & photos by Judy Thomas, Garden Volunteer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Alice Tangerini teaching.

Alice Tangerini teaching.

There are many delights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: the stunning flowers, landscape plants, trees; the jewel-like tropical plants in the Conservatory and; the many educational programs the garden offers. The most profound delight for me in the years I have visited the garden as a Member has been the ‘Art in the Garden’ and ‘Botanical Illustration’ classes I have taken.
I hold a certificate in Botanical Illustration from the Garden, starting from my first class in 2006. I have found the teachers to be inspirational and motivating. The Garden, from time to time, offers master classes, taught by an acknowledged, national expert. This past weekend, I was honored to take a Pen and Ink Workshop masters class with Alice Tangerini. Alice is a staff illustrator at the Department of Botany at the Smithsonian Institution (and a VCU graduate!).

Student's work

Botanical Illustrations of the Burr oak.

Despite having taken a scientific illustration course before, I was feeling a little intimidated by the class. However, Alice put us at ease. She is an excellent teacher and worked with us through the process of creating a pen and ink “plate” (used in publication) of our specimen, the bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa). This oak has unusual stems and the acorn caps are sort of, well, hairy.

 student working

A student working in class.

Alice often works from pressed plants, called herbarium specimens, which are  flattened and dried, so our first step was to photocopy the leaves and branch. Then Alice worked with us as we traced the various parts of the plant (some tracings done under a microscope were provided for us), cutting and taping them on Bristol board as we created a pleasing composition that included all the required parts. Alice helped us to draw the plant with accuracy, and showed us the conventions and methods used in scientific illustration. She gave many demonstrations so we could all see how the work was done.

The three-day class was challenging, but we were all able to make good progress toward finishing our compositions! There was no need to feel intimidated after all.


class photo cropped

Students in Alice Tangerini’s class in front of the Conservatory.

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

Did you know Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is a Sports Backers-certified Active RVA Garden? Our new map shows walking loops with distances marked so you can get your workout in while you enjoy the fall foliage and blooms. Want to learn more about how we are helping our visitors & members stay active? Visit our website: http://bit.ly/FitGarden

What’s your favorite Garden walking loop at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden?

Garden map with walking loops marked out

Click for a full-sized version of the walking map.

Woman's cycling costume inspired by 1890s Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Cycling from the past to the future, Garden volunteer Sherry Giese wears an 1890s-inspired woman’s bicycling costume and wheels a vintage bicycle from the same era. The costume was sewn from a historical pattern by Garden volunteers Mariette Norbom and Betty Woo.

by Shane Tippett, Executive Director, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden  
120 years ago, Richmond was swept up in a national “bicycle craze.” The popularity of cycling soared with the arrival of safe, affordable bicycles, available to all ages and genders. The fervor of the times prompted changes in the activities of women and their fashions, spurred communities to pave local roads and birthed hundreds of cycling, or wheel, clubs. If not the first, certainly the finest Richmond structure housing a cycling club at the time was the Lakeside Wheel Club building. It was located on the west shore of the lake at the heart of businessman and philanthropist Lewis Ginter’s Lakeside Park, just north of his eponymous suburb.
30 years ago, Lewis Ginter’s eponymous botanical garden was founded. This gift to the community was provided by the bequest of Ginter’s devoted niece Grace Arents, another noted Richmond philanthropist. The structure housing the former Lakeside Wheel Club was still here, but greatly transformed. A second floor was added for an infants’ convalescent hospital about the time of the First World War. Renamed “Bloemendaal” (Dutch for “Valley of Flowers”), the house became a private residence for decades, then a workspace for City of Richmond staff working on site. We now hold special events in Bloemendaal House and use it as a workspace, as well.
In 2015, Richmond again will be swept up in an international bicycle craze, as the UCI Road World Championships come to town in September. Some things will be the same as in the 1890s: the city is working hard on plans for improvements to local roads to accommodate competitors. We shall embrace the “craze,” making all our global visitors feel welcome, with extended evening hours at the Garden during the entire event. Some things will be different: cycling clubs are not so common. As a consequence, the Wheel Club, always at the heart of our Garden, has been rising up in our thinking about this anniversary year. That history is woven through this year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights: “A Legacy in Lights,” 120 years from Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden. Some things will be radically different from over a century ago, when women fought bias to enjoy outdoor activities and wear suitable clothing for their activities. Of the Garden’s nearly 90 employees and 600 volunteers, three in four are dedicated women. Whatever today’s fashion statement for active women, we are proud that it begins with a Garden name badge.


Anais Nin Quote and rose

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

Ladies shoppingOne of my favorite ways to support local businesses and non-profits is by shopping for Christmas presents right here in Richmond. I like that my  money stays in the Richmond community, or better yet stays in Richmond AND  helps a local nonprofit. Plus, my family members like the unique gifts I find locally.

Here are a few upcoming events that support Lakeside Business owners and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Did you know that all the profits from the Garden Shop at Lewis Ginter go directly to support the Garden’s educational mission?  Plus, we’ve got some great deals!

Champagne ‘n’ Shopping at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Thursday, November 13; 2014; 5 – 8 p.m.   A special evening of shopping just in time for the holidays. Guests will be greeted with a glass of champagne punch or sparkling cider and enjoy live music and door prizes while you shop. Plus, Garden Members receive their 10 percent discount on all purchases.

Holly Jolly Christmas on Lakeside Avenue  Start your  holiday shopping at the 10th Annual Lakeside Volunteer Rescue Squad Holly Jolly Christmas event, Friday, November 14 ( from 5-9 p.m.) and Saturday, November 15, 2014 (regular store hours). Of course the Garden Shop will be open! Plus, enjoy FREE trolley rides and special deals at participating Lakeside merchants. The Farmer’s Market will also be open.  holly jolly poster with shopping details

Super Saturday Shopping Day at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014. Details: Garden members receive a 20 percent discount in the Garden Shop on this Super Saturday Shopping Day. That’s double the usual member discount of 10 percent. Not a Garden member? Learn more about the many benefits of Garden membership.

If you miss these great events, some of my other favorite non-profit stores in Richmond include Second Debut, run by Goodwill in Carytown, the Lora Robins SPCA Shop (visit the webpage for an additional coupon!), and the Virginia Center for Architecture Shop.

Plus, don’t forget Small Business Saturday is coming up on November 29!

“I must have flowers, always, and always.” ― Claude Monet with anemone flowers

by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator, and Scott Hornby, Development Writer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Barrett Taylor and the volunteers from Bank of America.

Barrett Taylor and the volunteers from Bank of America working in the Community Kitchen Garden last year. Band of America has a history of supporting the Garden both with funding and volunteers.

Thank you to the Bank of America Charitable Foundation for providing Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden with a grant that will help support the Community Kitchen Garden  and a new Edible Display Garden at Lewis Ginter.

This year the Community Kitchen Garden has grown 6,599 lbs of local, organically grown vegetables for Central Virginia’s hungry children and homebound seniors served by FeedMore.  Since 2008 BOA Charitable Foundation has been working to provide hunger relief and has donated over $12 million dollars to projects like ours. Bank of America Charitable Foundation has a history of support for the Community Kitchen Garden, and Bank of America employees support the mission too with their volunteer efforts.

Have you heard about the new Edible Display Garden we are creating in partnership with Virginia Tech? Edible landscaping is a key part of sustainable urban horticulture, but there are currently no major locations in Central Virginia where people can go to learn more. Our Edible Display Garden will demonstrate best practices that we hope inspire you to create similar plantings in your own yard. We’ve already started planting the 3,600 sq. ft. garden, it will be located next to the Children’s Garden, and will enhance the area’s ornamental landscaping with food-producing plants. The project will provide a teaching landscape for adult and school classes and demonstrate how a food producing urban landscape can be functional, sustainable and beautiful. The Edible Display Garden will include fruit and nut trees, berry producing shrubs,  herbs, root vegetables and more. The Garden will feature hardy, low maintenance species that are ideal for Central Virginia. We will display plants with a range of harvest times to grow fresh produce throughout the season.  Look for more information and photos of the Edible Display Garden in coming months. Other sites of the Edible Display Garden project include Hahn Horticulture Garden at Virginia TechFairfax County’s Greenspring Garden and  Norfolk Botanical Garden.

Thank you Bank of America — we appreciate your partnership.

Barrett Taylor  and the team from Bank of America

Barrett Taylor, Banking Center Manager, from Bank of America lead a group of BOA volunteers working in the Community Kitchen Garden. Far right is Barrett’s husband, Patrick O’Hagan, who is a Gardener at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.



by Lynn Kirk, Public Relations Writer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden,  reprinted with permission from the Richmond Times-Dispatch

monarch butterfly on milkweed

The leaves of the native milkweed provide a place for the monarch butterfly to lay its eggs, as well as providing a source of food for larvae that hatch.

“Go native!” sounds like a tropical chant, but actually it’s a “go green” reminder for  landscape designs. Native plants are the species of perennials, shrubs and trees that occur in the region where they evolved. They’re the flora that nature intended for the area, and what native insects, birds and wildlife rely on for survival.

“If we want to preserve wildlife, we have to have natural areas and native plants,” said John Hayden, professor of biology at University of Richmond.“For example, right now there’s a lot of interest in bird populations being happy and healthy, but we’re not going to have them without native plants at the base of the food chain.” Hayden said that native plants, insects and animals co-evolved over time, so certain essential interrelationships developed. When native flora is not available or is negatively impacted, ramifications occur across the entire food chain.

Another benefit of using native plants is the need for less. Native plants require less work, less money, less chemicals and less water to maintain than non-natives because they’ve adapted to the region’s soil and climate. There’s minimal or no need to change local conditions to meet their needs.

The growing plea from native plant societies, water-quality organizations, researchers and biologists is to opt for native species whenever feasible—but along with that philosophy comes the need for changed expectations. Native perennials, shrubs and trees aren’t as predictable in size and shape as genetically altered hybrids. They also may not be the newest, largest or most unusual specimens, like some of the genetically enhanced hybrids. However, native plants naturally showcase the region’s native flora and, more importantly, earn the approval of native insects, songbirds and wildlife that make it their home.

If you want to grow native plants, it’s best to purchase them from retailers and nurseries that specialize in native varieties. Those growing naturally in woodlands and meadows don’t respond well to transplanting.

Native plants may be seen and enjoyed along the Garden’s Wildside Walk and  Butterfly Meadow, as well as areas of the Children’s Garden.

For tips on nurturing them once planted, explore resources in the Lora M. Robins Library at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden or these books from the Garden
Shop: “Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants,” “Bringing Nature Home” and “Great Natives for Tough Places.” 

Editor’s Note: This article first published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, in April 2012.

"Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves." - James Matthew Barrie.

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