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

White top pitcher plant Sarracenia leucophylla with red-green blooms.

White top pitcher plant Sarracenia leucophylla with red-green blooms.

 A cunning carnivore with an inescapable death trap silently waits for prey in some southeastern wetlands. Its exotic markings and distinctive beauty are enhanced by sugary secretions and sometimes enticing odors that lure unsuspecting victims to draw near. While exploring its sweet, slippery “mouth,” the inquisitive typically becomes captive, plummeting through a long, narrowing tube toward death. Downward-pointing hairs prevent escape and force the prey into a deep pit of fluid where it drowns.

Sounds supernatural doesn’t it? You may remember, this is what we wrote about our Sarracenia or pitcher plant collection last summer. Two years ago we restored the Martha and Reed West “Island Garden in an effort to adjust the water level in this garden and  restore the ecosystem for these amazing specimens. And this year, the pitcher plant collection is looking better than ever!

The  hardy native  orchid known as swamp pink, pale grasspink  (Calopogon pallidus) loves the changes that we made there too.  These beauties will be blooming for the next few weeks, and you can enjoy the Sarrencia all summer long, but if you can’t make it in person, please enjoy these photos. They were inspired by a Garden visitor who mentioned she’d really like to see the underside of the Sarracenia bloom up close. Happy to oblige!

Back of a pitcher plant bloom

Back of a pitcher plant bloom Sarracenia leucophylla.

Sarracenia flava bloom

Sarracenia flava bloom with spider web.

Wild color combo of red-green pitcher plants and Calopogon pallidus.

Wild color combo of red-green pitcher plants and Calopogon pallidus.

Look closely! Soon that insect may be dinner for this pitcher plant.

Look closely! Soon that insect may be dinner for this pitcher plant.

alien invasion

Does it look like an alien invasion?

Colopogon pallidus pale grass pink orchid

The beautiful hardy orchid known as swamp pink, pale grass pink or Calopogon pallidus.

pale grass pink

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

Have you ever touched a strawflower? Next time you come to the Garden, gently touch the petal-like bracts. Strangely, they feel like plastic, or straw. Now you know why they are called strawflowers! Because of their low moisture content, they are also good for drying and sometimes called everlasting flowers.

photo by Cathy Hoyt

Photo of strawflower Xerochrysum bracteatum ‘Bondreredem’ Jumbo Red Ember Dreamtime™ by Cathy Hoyt Photography.


by Jonah Holland , PR and Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Photos by Brian Vick, Community Kitchen Garden Coordinator

We love recycling at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. We also love partnering with like-minded organizations. That’s why Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is proud to partner with the MeadWestvaco Foundation,  supporting sponsor of  Butterflies LIVE!  and also our composting partner.   The MWV Foundation is working with  Natural Organic Process Enterprises (NOPE) to enrich the soil at the Community Kitchen Garden by donating nutrient-rich compost made from food scraps from MWV’s cafeteria.   One ton of compost equals roughly 2 cubic yards (give or take). MeadWestvaco expects to donate 20-25 compost credits to Lewis Ginter this year, diverting 20-25 tons of material from the landfill.

putting down fresh compost from NOPE

Amending the growing beds with fresh compost.

Topdressing Okra 052414

Top dressing the okra plants.

Planting Bush Beans 052414

Planting Bush Beans in fresh compost

NOPE CKG Delivery 1 052414

Yes, that’s alot of compost!

“MeadWestvaco diverts organic waste from their cafeteria, which is collected by NOPE and taken to composting facilities where it is processed into compost at a location near Charlottesville. MeadWestvaco earns compost credits for the tons of raw inputs they divert and they have  generously decided to donate their compost credits to us,” explains Director of Horticulture Grace Chapman. “We aren’t getting the exact same material that came from MWV, but we are getting the amount of credits that they have earned and donated.  Each delivery comes with a complete nutrient test so we know what we are exactly getting. We know all the inputs for this compost are vegetable-based so it is safe to use on food crops. MWV, NOPE, and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden are all very excited to be making this a full-circle loop and putting the compost back into food production that will serve the Richmond community by adding vital nutrients to the soil of the Community Kitchen Garden,” Chapman says. Last week the garden received approximately 7-8 cubic yards of compost for the Community Kitchen Garden. The delivery was equal to 175 compost credits.  The truth is we were scratching our head a little at the math trying to figure out where the extra 150 compost credits of compost came from.  Then I talked to  Marshall Hall, co-owner of NOPE. “Your math is right! …. We wanted to have sort of a ‘kickoff’. We know that right now is the growing season,” Hall explained that they made an extra-large delivery to have more of an impact from the start. “It made me have a big ol’ grin on my face to deliver the extra compost for the Community Kitchen Garden.” Still wondering why you should compost? There are many great reasons including enriching the soil, but NOPE’s website provides one of the most compelling I’ve seen: Food and organic materials can be 100 percent recycled if collected properly. Landfill (anaerobic) treatment of organic waste creates methane gas — a harmful greenhouse substance contributing to global warming. NOPE’s website notes that methane is about 21 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, according to the U.S. EPA.  Compost is a natural soil amendment that is earth-friendly and plays a vital role in growing vegetables organically. In the future, NOPE hopes to expand the number of good corporate citizens who practice this kind of recycling so there will be more non-profits who are able to benefit from the compost.

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

A Julia butterfly. Photo by Don Williamson Photography.

A Julia butterfly. Photo by Don Williamson Photography.

Did you know that Butterfly Education Awareness Day is  today, June 7, 2014? We’re celebrating by sharing some butterfly fast facts with you.

Did you know that:

  • Butterflies breathe through pores on their sides
  • Their wings’ color patterns result from tiny, modified hairs (scales)
  • Butterflies tend to be most active on clear, sunny days
  • Some overwinter in native habitats while others migrate
  • Large compound eyes provide a 360° view
  • They have no mouth parts; they use a straw-like proboscis to sip nectar
  • Insects, birds, rodents, etc. are natural enemies
  • They smell with their antennas and taste with their feet
  • Butterflies extract water and minerals from damp soil
  • Some tropical butterflies prefer the juice of rotting fruit to flower nectar
  • Some bask in the sun to reach an 85° temperature for flight
  • Man is their greatest enemy through herbicides, pesticides, and habitat destruction

Visit Butterflies LIVE! to learn more about both native and tropical butterflies.

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

If you read this blog often then you know one of the reasons I love working at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is because I’m always learning something.  Today I learned that the reason that  Tradescantia virginiana  aka spiderwort is called “spider” wort or spider lily is because when the stem of a spiderwort is cut, “a viscous stem secretion is released which becomes threadlike and silky upon hardening (like a spider’s web), hence the common name,” says Missouri Botanical Garden’s Plantfinder.   I won’t be trying this at the Garden anytime soon. But I’ve got a friend with this plant in her back yard. I can’t wait to see if she’ll let me try it.  I bet it would be a really fun thing to do with kids.

It’s really a beautiful plant. I love the bead-like pods that form after the bloom.

spiderwort: bead-like pods that form after the bloom.

 Tradescantia virginiana  aka spiderwort: bead-like pods that form after the bloom.

By Nicki, Youth Programs Developer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Jim Meuninck’s Medicinal Plants of North America Field Guide

Jim Meuninck’s Medicinal Plants of North America Field Guide

The Children’s Garden had the pleasure of hosting Vivien Fergusson of Collegiate School for her senior final project. Vivien approached me for guidance with her interest in medicinal uses of plants as well as Virginia natives and wildflowers. The Children’s Garden agreed to support her throughout her project: Vivien spent three weeks on-site developing and researching her interest with medicinal plants as her primary focus. As a host site, Lewis Ginter provided resources such as   access to Garden Guides and staff, and access to our plant catalogs through the Lora Robins Library. Vivien also gained special access to the Herbarium Virginicum, our dried plants collection hosted in collaboration with Virginia Commonwealth University and consisting of over 17,000 specimens.

Eucalyptus inhalant salve (with beeswax)

Eucalyptus inhalant salve (with beeswax)

With the assistance of staff, Vivien was also able to have access to our live plant collections. This offered real-life learning experiences by directly connecting her to plants. In Vivien’s own words she relays the importance of hands-on learning at the Garden; “Lewis Ginter is a botanical wonderland: every plant that I was ever curious about can be found somewhere in the garden. Observing a plant in real life is so much more powerful than simply studying it in a book. It adds a dimension of realness and tangibility that really enhanced my understanding of the plant.”

I provided a basic guide to help Vivien self-sufficiently connect with our plants by loaning her my copy Jim Meuninck’s Medicinal Plants of North America Field Guide, bookmarking the exact location of the plants listed in the field guide with sticky notes, many of which were in the Children’s Garden.
Vivien also kept a nature journal to take notes on, sketch, and preserve examples of the plants she researched. Nature journals are a great tool for botanical research. Many great naturalists and scientists such as John Muir, John James Audubon, Charles Darwin, and Rachel Carson kept nature journals. The Sierra Club guide for starting a nature journal  and Smithsonian Institution have great information on  how to get started with nature journaling.

Yucca antiseptic wash and stinging nettle tincture.

Yucca antiseptic wash and stinging nettle tincture (tincture made by herbalist, Jonathan Citron

With the help of her field guide and nature journal in hand, Vivien was able to gain proactive hands-on learning. She was able to pick what species she wanted to focus on, and as her project progressed, she was able to adjust her topic subject. We realized together that Vivien was mostly interested in experimenting with plant materials. We went through the process of making a variety of plant medicines such as salves, teas, inhalants, and washes. Local herbalist Jonathan Citron provided us with examples of tinctures and walked Vivien through the process (which takes longer than her time allotted for her project).

Community members like Citron, as well as Garden staff, helped Vivien connect with plants.

“I was so fortunate to have been able to converse with such knowledgeable people as well. I was fascinated by the Jonathan Citron’s explanation of alchemy and [Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Educator] Kristi Orcutt’s world of beekeeping. I realized how much I didn’t know and how much there was to learn. Jonathan Citron believed that plants exist to support our needs as humans, and conducting this project helped me to understand this. Plants that I would have previously considered weeds in my yard suddenly had names and beneficial properties: wood sorrel, wild strawberry, yucca, and plantain.”
Vivien said her  favorite part of her research project was making her own blends of medicinal teas. She particularly liked the lavender mint tea sweetened with stevia. Tea-drinking allows time for thinking and helps cultivate conversation so I can see why we both gravitated towards making more teas; it brought us together!
At the end of her experience, Vivien said, “I feel much more knowledgeable about the wildlife that surrounds me, and I am so incredibly thankful that I have had this opportunity through Lewis Ginter to explore a passion of mine.”
Vivien will present her project at school next week and we wish her all the luck with her future after graduating this year. I hope she continues to fill the pages of her nature journal throughout her journey.

Sassafras root tea and leaves

Sassafras root tea and botanical example

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

Pink Asiatic lilies

Enjoy a beauty break: pink Asiatic lilies, blooming now in the Central Garden.

By Janet Woody, Librarian, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

naked tree
The Tree Arrives
We recently received an unusual gift, a large, white tree. It was installed in the library last week and looks artsy and a little bit spooky.

Then the butterflies found it. Now it looks warm and cheerful……

butterfly-filled tree

The Butterflies Have Arrived
The butterflies are paper and were installed by Helen MacDonald of the Garden’s Development department.

Butterflies made by kids at Dominion Riverrock

Butterflies made by kids at Dominion Riverrock.

Tango Butterfly

A Tango butterfly

This tree was donated by MeadWestvaco (MWV), a global packaging solutions provider located here in Richmond, Virginia. The origami-style butterflies decorating the tree are made out of MWV’s Tango(R) Digital Coated Cover paper.

The tree was on display at Dominion Riverrock, May 16-18, 2014, which was centered near MWV’s corporate headquarters on 5th Street. Children visiting Dominion Riverrock  decorated lots of paper butterflies which now have a home on our tree.

It’s logical that MeadWestVaco would have a tree display and cover it with paper butterflies – forest products are their business. Sustainability is also part of their business and they look for opportunities all over the world to practice good corporate citizenship. The MeadWestVaco Foundation identifies programs in all of its communities where it can offer volunteer support as well as financial support for worthy endeavors. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is the recipient of a grant this summer supporting our Butterflies LIVE! exhibit in the Conservatory. As part of its global forestry management efforts, MWV recognizes that healthy forests require healthy ecosystems. Butterflies are part of the complex of life in a forest, and are reflections of the health and robustness of the plants, insects, and larger animals which co-exist in the forest.

To complement the MWV butterfly tree, Lewis Ginter will display other 3-dimensional tree forms and titles from its book collection on forests and forest ecology. We share a respect for trees and the environment with MWV, and now we share a butterfly tree. The tree will be on display through October 12, 2014.

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

Roses and the Conservatory

May blooms in the Rose Garden at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

To see more photos of the Rose Garden in bloom, visit our Facebook album.

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

best mulberry

I love this time of year — our 100-year-old  red mulberry tree (Morus rubra) in the Children’s Garden is filled with kids, birds and even adults, searching for the blackest, sweetest berries. One little girl just came up to me as I was shooting this and explained to me, the blacker, the better. Then she asked if I could hand her a few! She had the biggest red-juice stained smile ever. Meanwhile, moms discussed how to get the juice stains out of the kid’s clothes.  Generally, we don’t allow folks to pick fruit (or flowers) in the Garden, but this is our one exception.

Juicy mulberries stain your hands.

Caught red-handed!

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