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


 Braden Dolbec and Nicki the Garden's Youth program developer.

Braden Dolbec and Nicki the Garden’s Youth program developer. Behavior coach Jimmy is in the background with Charlie Dolbec.

 Braden and Charlie Dolbec reading the thank you note.

Braden Dolbec reading the thank you note with Nicki pointing to the words and brother Charlie smiling, and looking on.

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting brothers Braden and Charlie Dolbec, young adults  who come to the Garden as part of the Garden’s Vocational Program to gain workforce development skills and job training. Braden and Charlie work in the Children’s Garden each week, along with their support staff, behavior coaches Jimmy and Crystal, and the Garden’s Youth Programs Developer Nicki.  When I arrived they were assembling soil, planting trays and seeds into planting packets for school groups to take back to their classrooms to start their own gardens after visiting our Children’s Garden on a field trip.  They have also worked on other projects  like assembling “binoculars” for the Garden’s Young Buds programming.  These are very special binoculars made out of yarn, toilet paper rolls, and double sided tape. Pre-schoolers who visit the Garden can narrow their focus to search for birds, plants and blooms, and while they are observing the gardens around them also collect leaves, seedpods and other treasures to decorate their binoculars.  This day the Dolbecs were receiving a very special thank you note from the Garden’s Early Childhood Program Developer Kristin Mullen.  Turns our Braden and Charlie assembled quite a few binoculars — over 600 to  be exact. And the 3- and 4-year-olds from Richmond Public School Head Start really, really loved them. Here are the Garden we are grateful for partners like Braden and Charlie who learn from us and give back too.  We wanted them to know how much we appreciate their work and a thank you note with photos of the kids enjoying the binoculars seemed like just the right thing.  Based on the smiles I saw, I think they  enjoy it too.

The Garden works with a variety of youth volunteers,  vocational program, and service learning students. Braden and Charlie are in a home-based educational program through Beyond Behavior LLC.  Their goals are to work on communication, social skills and behavior using ABA or Applied Behavior Analysis.  We are happy we can be a part of the process of helping them learn and grow.

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

Lewis Ginter teacher and children touching lambs ear plant.

Kristin Mullen leading encouraging the children to “pet” the lambs ear.

I had an amazing time in the Garden last month with these fine young folks from Richmond Public Schools’ Chimborazo Elementary School‘s 3-year-old Head Start  class. We read a story about animals and then looked for birds and other creatures in the Garden with our “binoculars.”  As we explored the garden we decorated our binoculars with leaves and other treasures.  The Garden provides this educational outdoor experience for these students through our Young Buds program. We had a great time looking at all the plants, and the children especially liked “petting” the lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina).  We even flew through the Garden like birds!

Check out those binoculars!

Check out those binoculars!

My husband, Dr. Holland, happens to be the teacher for this class, so I was excited to meet his students and share Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden with them. Seeing the Garden through a child’s eyes is something special.  None of the children had been to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden before, and there was so much to take in.  If you haven’t been here before (and even if you have) the Conservatory makes quite an impression. One little girl squeeled with delight, “Ohhhhhh a castle!” And all the Children looked up and ooh-ed and ahhh-ed.

Working here, day after day, I always appreciate the Garden and I try not to take the beauty for granted — ever. But hanging out with this group for the day, there was no mistaking their unbridled joy.  It was contagious.  Have you ever been with 17  3-year olds as they see a real turtle for the first time in their life?  It’s wonderful.

Programs like this are made possible because of generous support from our donors. Thank you to all of the individuals that donate to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Annual Fund.


Head Start class and teachers

Mr. Hollands class pretending to be birds.

Head Start kids during the Young Buds program.

Having fun outside in the Central Garden.

Head Start kids touching a lamb's ear leaf

A leaf that feels like a real lamb’s ears!

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

From the Instagram post: This is the first year we went to Garden Fest at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Needless to say Noelle loved all the lights. This will become our Christmas tradition

From the Instagram post: This is the first year we went to Garden Fest at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Needless to say Noelle loved all the lights. This will become our Christmas tradition. Post by @t_page

Congratulations to Toni Page who is our Grand Prize #GardenFest Instagram contest winner with this photo of her daughter Noelle enjoying Dominion GardenFest of Lights.  We were thrilled with the participation in this year’s  Instagram contest!  We had over 1,600 entries, nearly 900 more than last year. The photo submissions told a wide variety of GardenFest stories (check out the collages below to see some of our favorites). There were so many fabulous and creative photos that it was truly difficult to choose our winners. Thanks to everyone who participated.

When choosing our favorites, we looked at  creativity, fun and photographic composition.   Toni Page wins  a prize package at over $600 including a membership to Science Museum of Virginia, tickets to Richmond Ballet’s Don Quixote, tickets to see the Richmond Symphony, plus passes to the Garden for 11 friends.

Congratulations also to the runners up visitor Ann Van Rheenen and……

Caption from teh original Instagram post: Someone is amazed by the miniature diner

Caption from the original Instagram post: Someone is amazed by the miniature diner! Photo by: @annvanrheenen/

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden visitor services staffer, Laura Flornoy. Each runner-up won 4 passes to come back to the Garden later this year with friends.

"The icing on the cake." Caption from the original Instagram post by http://instagram.com/LauraFlora63

“The icing on the cake.” Caption from the original Instagram post by @LauraFlora63

Finalists collages:

GardenFest Instagram finalists collage

Photos from left to right, top to bottom are:

Photos from left to right, top to bottom are: @pandandrum @SilverintheBarn @rosieposie2007 @kagreeni @annvanrheenen @spike_brewster @fangirl35  @baconneggs @1erinrice

Photos from left to right, top to bottom are:


instagram finalists

Photos from left to right, top to bottom are:

instagram collage of GardenFest photos

Photos are by:

volunteer Gary McNutt taking down Dominion GardenFest of Lights decorations.

Volunteer Gary McNutt taking down Dominion GardenFest of Lights decorations in the Robins Room.

We’d like to announce Gary McNutt as the January Volunteer of the Month. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has over 600 volunteers and each month we take time out to recognize one. The Volunteer of the Month gets the honor of parking in a special space in our parking lot, a gift certificate to the Garden Shop, and gratitude from all of the staff here at the Garden. Stopping to recognize their hard work and say thanks is the very least we could do. Dean Dietrich, horticulturist, works with McNutt each week and nominated him:

 “Gary McNutt has been a major help to me since I have arrived at the Garden. Being new to Lewis Ginter, I have not known Gary long but, working alongside him on invasive species removal and plant rejuvenation projects I have found he is always happy to do whatever I have in store for the day. Working in the front entrance is not always glamorous and the projects can be hard work so having a positive energy is important and Gary has a lot of positive energy to go around. Gary is a dedicated, hardworking and reliable volunteer and would be an excellent choice for Volunteer of the Month.”

 Karen Clowers, Horticulture Manager, had this to add:

“Gary comes in with our staff at 7 a.m. ready to work.  He doesn’t care what the task at hand is or what the weather conditions are, he’s here; he’s ready to go, ready to work hard.  Gary is the type of person that you can count on and feel confident that no matter what project he is working on, he is going to give it his all.  Gary signs up for just about, if not all of our monthly Horticulture Group Work Days.

On top of Gary’s dedication to the Horticulture department, he also offers his time to during Dominion GardenFest of Lights.  He volunteers his time for the full duration of the exhibit.  He signs up for almost all the different locations volunteers are needed.  He once again is willing to do whatever is needed of him.  He often times offered me as the Manager on Duty to stay and cover the second shift if needed.

I truly appreciate all the hard work, dedication and hours he has contributed in order to help us grow and improve our garden.  I feel grateful and honored that Gary is part of our volunteer team and I look forward to continuing to grow our working relationship in the years to come.”

Thank you Gary!

Taking down GardenFest decorations

Taking down GardenFest decorations

by Judy Thomas, botanical artist, fiber artist, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden  class instructor 

 felt flowers in red, white, yellow purple and orange!

A needle-felted bouquet, including romantic red roses for your Valentine!

I love working with fabric and fibers, and especially wool.  Why wool?  It is a natural fiber and has a great deal of versatility. You might have heard about felting, it’s becoming a popular craft.  Felting, both wet and dry (or needle felting) uses the ability that wool has for its fibers to “lock” together.   What does that mean?  Well, wool can make a type of fabric, called felt, without weaving. And fiber artists can use it to make flat images (I call them felt paintings) or three-dimensional objects.  One way to do this is by using a barbed felting needle, as we’ll do in my needle-felting class “Hearts and Flowers,” on January 31, where students will learn to make flowers, including long-stemmed roses.

Fiber artists can also make flat and three-dimensional objects with wool through wet felting, a bit more involved process that can yield a larger piece.  In “Landscapes in Fiber,” on February 14 and 21, we start with making prefelt.  Prefelting consists of laying down fibers in criss-cross layers in the approximate background you want.  At this point, the fibers aren’t locked together.

A rainbow of pre-felt materials including felting cards and a variety of wool colors

Beautifully colored wools laid down, ready to felt

Then, design your project, adding detail, and  slowly moisten it with almost-boiling hot water into which you’ve dissolved a squirt of liquid soap. Make sure you dampen all the fiber, but don’t get it so wet that water begins to puddle. Place another layer of your textured material on top and begin to agitate the damp fiber. Gently massage the textured material; this will encourage the fibers to begin sticking together. Occasionally lift the textured material to check on fiber below.

hand working the wool fiber to get the design to mat together in water.

Here, Judy is massaging and working the wool fiber to get the design to mat together.

Once you’ve gotten the felt locked together, you can add needle-felted items or embroidery.  Here’s the final piece: an abstract felted composition of the fall forest floor.

The final felt "painting."

The final felt “painting.”


It’s exciting to learn this new skill and it’s fun to teach it too.  I’m looking forward to seeing you there! Register now for either class, or you can view Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens website for the full course listings  of all their classes online.

To learn more about what Central Virginia Botanical Artists are up to check out their blog. To see more of Thomas’s work visit her fiber art blog, Needlin’ Around or her garden blog.


Laurel Matthew, Greenhouse Horticulturist,   Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Cattleya White Spark 'Panda'

Cattleya White Spark ‘Panda’

The Garden has blogged about goats, butterflies, blooms and bees … but never a panda! See ours, Cattleya White Spark ‘Panda’, blooming in the Conservatory this week. Remember admission is free until January 18, 2015. Come see it this weekend!

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

Kristi Orcutt and Solstice the 9-day-old black and white goat

Children’s Garden Educator Kristi Orcutt with Solstice, a baby pygmy goat.


I thought you’d enjoy this video of 9-day old Solstice is showing off her stuff last week on the hillside behind the Conservatory — scroll down to see it! Earlier this week she took her first bite of solid food (grass), but as she turns into a bigger eater, she’ll help her mom with vegetation management here at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  Using goats in is an eco-friendly alternative to using herbicides to control vegetation, and is especially helpful on steep banks (where the goats have been eating blackberries bushes), in remote wooded areas (where goats munch on poison ivy, kudzu, bamboo and other invasive plants), and along the edge of our irrigation lake.

Solstice and Baby are owned by Children’s Garden Educator Kristi Orcutt, and demonstrate the Garden’s commitment to using sustainable and environmentally friendly options everywhere we can. Anytime we can show the home gardener an easy chemical-free way to solve a gardening challenge, we consider it a win. Since our mission is education, sharing how we use the goats makes sense.
Orcutt tells me that it takes three “applications” of the goats eating down an area before you can expect the plant won’t return. But those three applications are also more effective than the chemical alternatives.  The goats have been working at the Garden for several months now, but you aren’t likely to see them, since our “wild” areas at the Garden are off the beaten path.  The Garden pays Orcutt a fee for their use.

The goats also leave a trail of fertilizer that will help enrich the soil with nutrients, helping the non-invasive plants that remain.


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

helleborus josef lemper

Helleborus niger ‘Josef Lemper’ or Christmas rose is just one of many plants you’ll find blooming an interesting in winter at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

You know Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is beautiful year-round, right!? Pssssst.  Let me let you in on a little secret! We are offering FREE Garden admission through Jan. 18, 2015 (while the Garden Cafe is closed).

conservatory and winter

The Conservatory in winter with Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Gold’

Not only do we have blooms outside, but we also have gorgeous orchids and other tropical plants on display inside the Conservatory. Since it’s January, we thought you might need a tropical escape, and this is the perfect place to find it!  Also, we’ll be offering  1/2 price admission Jan. 19 through Feb. 28. *  We’ve posted some of our favorite blooms here — but to see more view our Garden Blooms slideshow for January.

river birches and a bench in winter

River birches welcoming you to Flagler Garden.

* Please note that the Garden Shop will also be closed Jan. 13-25, 2015 for inventory.


pink apricot buds

Prunus mume or Japanese flowering apricot

Magnolia x 'Luscious'  hybrid magnolia

Magnolia x ‘Luscious’ with berries in the background.

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

Mom and daughter learning in the Children's Garden at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

Healthy food and gardening with family remain foremost among 2015 garden trends. Teaching children to Garden is one way you can educate them about healthy food and engage them in learning. Photo by Scott Elmquist.


What does 2015 hold for gardening and outdoor living?

Health and well-being will remain top priorities. No longer is the veggie patch a half-hearted hobby or merely an attractive backyard addition. More and more adults are returning to their roots, passionately committed to nourishing their family with nutritious produce that is organically and locally grown. They aren’t afraid to experiment with fruit and vegetable varieties that support sustainable lifestyles.

Working with — not against — the environment is important, as is knowledge about which plants and trees attract pollinators, filter the air and absorb carbon emissions. Planting and weeding are not viewed as chores, they are hands-on experiences that teach the next generation about environmental respect. They also are opportunities for families to spend quality, stress-free time outdoors, away from digital demands (assuming the devices are left indoors).
New consumer segments are influencing retail trends. Young men are among the top spenders in today’s garden industry.

Yellow black-eyed-susan flowers

Photo by Don Williamson

According to Garden Media’s “2015 Garden Trends Report,” young men in the U.S. spend $100 more than average on garden plants and products. Mirroring America’s demographic shift, there is similar growth among Hispanics who take pride in growing vegetables for their family and friends.
Meanwhile, as boomers age, retailers are turning attention to millennials. Sixty-two percent of millennials  spend more time outdoors, and 85 percent rate outdoor rooms as “very important” or “important,” according to the “2015 Casual Living and Apartment Therapy Outdoor Decorating Survey.”
Armed with this consumer research, retailers are marketing ready-made, ready-to-display containers of plants as decoratives for patios and decks. Innovative products and services also support backyard transformations for enviable “garden-tainment.”
Personality extends outdoors. No longer are decorating styles relegated to indoor spaces. Those who prefer contemporary designs will enjoy 2015’s flamboyant color combinations, such as bubblegum pinks juxtaposed with bold teals. Conversely, vintage and traditional decorators will find solace in classic palettes, including natural, rustic and muted hues. In general, gardeners and crafters will continue to actively share inspirations through social media forums. They’ll also creatively incorporate found objects and repurposed items in both inside and outside designs.
Busy lives and smaller spaces will influence plant preferences. With marked decreases in free time and living spaces, people are seeking easy-to-grow, easy-to-control plants. The increasing availability of compact plants works well with apartment and townhouse balconies, while container plants and portable gardens provide sensible options for renters preferring mobility over home ownership.
No-fuss plants are super popular, such as native plants outdoors and succulents and cacti indoors.
Likewise, today’s “ultimate” yard is low-maintenance: no sod, manicured shrubs, chemicals or in-ground irrigation system. Rather, it’s an unstructured habitat where nature rules. Settings are left natural, wildflowers are self-sustained, and woodscapes are appreciated. Perhaps most importantly, wildlife is welcomed and families are nurtured.

bee on bloom

Bees are important pollinators. Photo by Brad Alston.

Editor’s Note: This article first published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, in January 2015.

by Phyllis Laslett, Adult Education Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden 

Hot pink botanical print

This is a linoblock piece printed on fabric — wouldn’t it make a great t-shirt? In linoleum block printing, the block you carve has a sheet of linoleum glued to the top.  This can be easier to carve, and it’s certainly easier to make curved lines!  Again, you’ll find that the shapes of the plants you are drawing will suggest playful patterns. In the print below, Johnston created a negative image so that the design is created by the removed parts.

Back in the mists of time, I was an art major in college and rummaged around in a number of different techniques.  So I was delighted when long time instructor Celeste Johnston proposed a series of workshops using simple print-making techniques that don’t require lots of equipment or a big press, remembering how much fun it was to try out different media.   I remember the techniques Johnston proposed as fairly quick and easy to execute, with a lot of leeway for creativity.  Two of the techniques, wood and linoleum block printing, result in carved images that you can use over and over again, varying the medium you print on (cloth, paper, or even leaves!) and the color.  The other two, mono and solar printing, create one-of-a-kind images with a unique look and texture.

Wood block printing is an old technique:  illustrations in the earliest printed books were wood blocks, including the elaborate Gerard’s Herbal, an elaborate Renaissance-era medicinal plant compendium.  In wood block printing, you (carefully) carve a design into the wood block surface using a sharp wooden-handled tool.  I recall that the wood gives you a lot of texture on its own, before you start carving.  The tricky part is that you’re removing the parts you don’t want to print–a little like drawing in a mirror.  Too, the grain of the wood becomes part of your image, with great results!  You roll ink over the raised parts that remain, and press onto a sheet of paper, or fabric, or whatever you like.  The blocks can be wiped and reused over and over again.  Johnston used an ear of corn as her subject for the print below — I love how the silhouette of the ear and husks forms an interesting pattern.

Celeste Johnston made these prints from the same wood block.

Celeste Johnston made these prints from the same wood block.



In another direction, mono prints are created by arranging different elements on a surface that may or may not have permanent elements, such as a wood block.  These result in one-of-a-kind images and lend themselves to all kinds of creative variations.

Mono print uses a block print image with free-drawn additions of ink

Johnston’s mono print uses a block print image with free-drawn additions of ink


Finally — and appropriately, considering plants use the sun for photosynthesis — solar printing  uses what is essentially a blueprint process to create one-of-a-kind monochromatic prints.  Plants and other materials are arranged on treated paper, and exposed to sunlight to create a new image.  You can vary the exposure times to get layers of color.  No tools, except sunlight, are required!

plants and a butterfly form to create this image.

Johnston arranged plants and a butterfly form to create this image. She could have rearranged the elements and made a completely different print on another sheet.

For those who enjoy botanical art but talent lies more toward crafting, or who moan that they “can’t draw a straight line,” these fun, easy, and creative techniques can unleash your inner artist. Spaces are still available in the Garden’s  Printing from Plants  series, on January 24, 2015. We hope you can join us!

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