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

daffodils at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Daffodils in bloom despite the recent snow.

With tomorrow, March 20, being the  the vernal equinox and official start of spring, I thought you might enjoy some photos of the Garden in bloom.  This has been a long and snowy winter, but our blooms are hardy and still look lovely despite the harsh treatment of ice and snow (with a little polar vortex thrown in.)  Enjoy the photos, I see there is another forecast of snow in our future!

 Pieris japonica 'Dorothy Wycoff' or Lily of the Valley Bush

Lily of the valley bush (Pieris japonica) ‘Dorothy Wycoff’

Narcissus in the rain

Daffodils in the rain.

large cup daffodil gigantic star

Narcissus, large cup daffodil ‘Gigantic Star.’

Helleborus orientalis or Lenten rose

Helleborus orientalis or Lenten rose with snow in the background.


Mementos of Change

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

By now you’ve heard about our new Cherry Tree Walk, but did you ever wonder what we do with the wood when we have to cut down a tree that is diseased or damaged? For a few years now, my 9-year-old son has been a fan of one of the vendors at the South of the James Market: Wood Carver Tom Lowe.  We go there weekly to pick up our CSA — and whenever we have extra time to wander, Tom’s stand is the first place he wants to go (after he gets a donut of course!)

When the Garden recently took down some damaged  cherry, willow and oak trees at the Garden, in the process of building the Cherry Tree Walk, I immediately thought of Tom for the wood. He has taken a great interest in explaining to me and  my son about the different types of wood he works with (think Osage orange wood that is a bright yellow-orange). I wasn’t sure if Tom would remember us, but I had a feeling he might, because how often do you have a 9-year-old boy choose a hand-carved bowl for his Christmas present? And who is roped in by the idea of learning about different kinds of wood.  Tom’s dedication to education about the wood reminded me of the Garden’s commitment to educating our visitors about plants.

Tom Lowe

Wood Carver Tom Lowe with some of the works he made with surplus wood from the Garden.

Tom emailed me right back: “I remember your son taking his time deciding which bowl to choose. I love that. My whole life has been spent making things from wood that make people happy. It is even more fulfilling when someone can’t decide what they like most. Thank you for passing my name along to Grace. It would be a pleasure  to create some pieces from trees that came from the garden.”

Yesterday was the big day. Tom worked with our Director of Horticulture, Grace Chapman, to arrange the pick up of the wood that was left over, and he was ready to meet with us and the rest of the horticulture staff to show off his art. You can see some of his seaweed-like pieces in the photo above, but I have to warn you, the camera can’t do it justice. If you want to see the real-deal in person, you are in luck! The large oak sculpture on the left side of the table will be on display in the Robins Visitor Center for the next few weeks. Tom made it as a gift to the Garden! So come in and enjoy it.  If you love it, you are in luck too — the sculpture will be auctioned off at our annual Children’s Garden fundraiser  Cheers to Art, on April 10th, 2014. Tickets are still available.

Cotinus coggygria

Cotinus coggygria freshly carved.

Me and the bowl made from an oak tree.

That’s me and the small rectangular bowl that Tom made from a damaged oak that was cut down at the Garden.

While he was here, Grace also gave Tom a branch of Cotinus coggygria ‘Velvet Cloak’ (Smoketree) that was pruned during our recent group work day. Grace thought  the rings were especially beautiful and so did Tom! What do you think?

You can probably tell why Tom’s so good at what he does — he loves his work. As I was leaving, Tom pulled me aside. “Wait, you have to pick a small bowl to take with you.” And when I brought it home, you should have seen my son’s eyes when he saw the rectangle bowl that Tom gave me.  He was very excited, and happy for me because he knows how much I love the Garden — and to have a small memento of a place I love. Change brings all kinds of beauty.

And this morning when I wanted to listen to my iphone, but didn’t have a speaker handy, guess what I did? Yep, I placed my iphone in the bowl and the music got louder and sounded like heaven.

wood bowl as an amplifier.

Tom’s bowl as a makeshift amplifier.


To learn more about Tom Lowe and his wood sculptures, visit his blog.

by Shane Tippett, Executive Director, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden  

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in 1986.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in 1986.

When Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden was formed thirty years ago in March, it consisted of a handful of empty, aging buildings and 73 acres of promise. As we celebrate this anniversary year, it is good to remember that the hallmarks of a successful, maturing botanical garden are in part physical. Frequently dubbed “living” museums, it is in the  nature of botanical gardens to always be moving and growing. Lewis Ginter today has 82 acres of Conservatory and greenhouses, lakes and lawns, paths and bridges, classrooms and meeting rooms, shop and restaurants. The collection holds thousands of different plants, many well on their way to being extraordinary specimens. Individual gardens have grown in variety and distinctiveness. We have become better known and respected in our community, our country and around the world.

The accompanying articles brim with energy and passion, and those are also hallmarks of a successful, maturing botanical garden. Our best plants, gardens and ideas have been nurtured for three decades by thousands of individual volunteers and hundreds staff who have committed sweat and brilliance to our mission of connecting plants and people. Millions have frequented Lewis Ginter since its founding, and many of them now see the world through eyes of knowledge, gratitude and wonder as a result.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in 2005.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in 2005.

An eventful past, yet now is the most exciting time to be involved at Lewis Ginter. Skilled, weatherworn hands of experienced gardeners are being joined by new hands: young hands without calluses and eager hands yet to get soil  under their fingernails. We are all feeling a heightened sense of connectedness to our world, and the tug to plant and prune and learn and enjoy is only growing stronger. We begin to realize that a botanical garden is not only a living museum; it is a museum that can help us learn how to live.

What the next three decades hold for us is anyone’s guess, but odds are this — we shall continue to move and grow; the tug is that strong. We shall continue to engage and educate; our passion is that strong. We shall tend the good earth.

by Janet Woody, librarian, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

janet and tom houff on richmond's wheel bike

Librarian Janet Woody and On Richmond’s Wheel author Tom Houff with a very special 30th anniversary gift for the Garden.

This week we received a wonderful 30th anniversary gift from local author and cycling enthusiast Tom Houff.  His book “On Richmond’s Wheel” tells the story of our city’s bicycling history. A week ago I asked Tom if he knew where we could find an 1895 bicycle for exhibit purposes. That is the year that the Lakeside Wheel Club opened. Did you know that our Bloemendaal House started life as the Lakeside Wheel Club in October 1895 and was built by Lewis Ginter?

The Lakeside Wheel Club

Bloemendaal House as the one-story Lakeside Wheel Club.

After many e-mails between me and Tom discussing the fun of historical research and bicycling, Tom decided to give the Garden an 1895 Victor men’s bike. It was built by the Overman Wheel Co. in Chicopee Falls, MA.  You can even see a picture of our bike very similar to ours in their 1899 catalog! Be sure to check out the “Arguments Agents the Victor” section.) We are very excited to have this beautiful and tangible connection to the Wheel Club, to Lewis Ginter, and to all the early cyclists who bravely rode the missing link trail from the city out to Lakeside. If you read Tom’s book, you will learn all about Ginter’s role in supporting bicycling and good roads for bicyclists. Major Lewis Ginter was not a cyclist but he was a community supporter and intrepid businessman, all good subjects for other posts here. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has a rich cycling history.  Today we celebrate our 1895 Victor bike. It will be on display during Heritage Weekend, April 12 and 13.  Look for it near Bloemendaal House, the former Wheel Club. Thank you Tom Houff for helping us in our quest to interpret our Garden’s rich history.

1895 victor bike and janet justin

Operations Coordinator Justin Brown and Librarian Janet Woody with the 1895 Victor bike in the Garden’s Conservatory.

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

Cale McCormick, along with cousins Logan (left) and Marin Snyder, prepares to plant bok choy.

Cale McCormick, along with cousins Logan (left) and Marin Snyder, prepares to plant bok choy. Photo by Scott Elmquist

“I’m a gardener,” 6-year-old Morgan Veneziano boasted with a big-girl smile. Morgan earned the prestigious title by helping in her family’s Louisa County vegetable garden from the time she learned to walk. In recent years, she earned something else: her very own garden plot. “I can plant things like carrots and cucumbers,” she explained. “Last year, the cucumbers grew really tall and big, and I ate them!”

Kristin Mullen, early childhood program developer at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, noted that hands-on gardening experiences like Morgan’s are priceless for children of all ages. Mullen encourages adults, caretakers and educators to welcome children into the garden with them. Backyard, urban and schoolyard gardens not only provide opportunities for fresh air and exercise, but also double as outdoor classrooms.

Now is a good time to plan a garden as a family or class, while waiting for the final frost (around April 15). Read related storybooks, look at age-appropriate garden guides or plant seeds indoors and watch them grow into seedlings for future transplanting. As the weather warms and outdoor gardening chores begin, provide child-sized tools, keep safety first and don’t insist on perfection.

Mullen suggests remaining flexible, ready to respond to whatever interests the child. A morning of weeding may become a time of watching caterpillars if the youngster has his or her way. “Just follow their lead and think of yourself as a learner, too,” Mullen said. “Gardening with children gives them a sense of their place in the world. It plants a seed that teaches them to care about plants and nature, and it might even open the door to future careers.”

Themed gardens can add to the fun and enhance the learning experience. For preschoolers, a rainbow garden filled with bright, multicolored flowers offers living examples of shapes and colors, while an herb garden provides opportunities to experience different smells, tastes and textures.

Peter Rabbit gardens planted with lettuce, carrots and other vegetables encourage nutritious eating. For middle-schoolers, sun and shade gardens demonstrate the sun’s influence on plant life and seasons, while butterfly gardens with host and nectar plants demonstrate life cycles and the interdependence of flora and fauna.

Morgan Veneziano takes great pride in having her own garden, where she grows all kinds of vegetables.

Morgan Veneziano takes great pride in having her own garden, where she grows all kinds of vegetables.

Older children enjoy the challenge of plant and wildlife identification, container gardening that recycles found objects — retired boots, old tires and book bags — and helping prepare meals with their harvests. Teens who help in community gardens and donate excess produce to hunger relief organizations experience firsthand the joy of volunteerism and stewardship.

“If the adult is excited, he or she will draw the children in. Attitude is everything,” Mullen said. However, she cautions adults not to take the role of teacher too seriously. “You’re just the facilitator in the learning process.” Children cannot employ problem-solving skills when adults are too quick to provide all the answers, and though some successes are important for self-satisfaction, gardening mistakes teach valuable lessons about cause and effect.

Morgan is more interested in her own garden and what it offers her. “I play in it, dig in it and sit in it,” she said. “And this year, Mama gave me a camera, so I’m even going to take pictures of it.”

Editor’s Note: This article first published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, in March 2014.

by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator and Beth Monroe, Director of PR,  Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden  

cherry blossoms, Prunus x yedoensis,  blooming at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Cherry blossoms at Lewis Ginter on April 10, 2013. This year, look for them to peak a bit earlier.

If you are a fan of the Garden on Facebook, you may have heard about an exciting new  project at the Garden:  the Cherry Tree Walk. The “Cherry Tree Walk” is the working title of the project currently underway around the perimeter of Lake Sydnor. Scheduled for planting in mid-April of 2014, the project is funded through the generosity of an anonymous donor and will:

  • Create improved planting beds bordering the east side of Lake Sydnor filled with a variety of spring-flowering trees, including several varieties of cherries, and layered plantings up to water’s edge.
  • Remove and replace diseased and damaged trees or those competing with other specimen trees.
  • Improve planting conditions and irrigation.
  • Visually and physically “tie together” the lake and all the individual gardens surrounding it.
  • Create an attractive, accessible, illuminated walkway around the entire perimeter of the lake.
  • Create paved secondary walkways looping from and back to the main walkway in five locations where guests are encouraged to linger and look.
  • Create plans for future projects.

Director of Horticulture, Grace Chapman, has  chosen species to extend the bloom time as much as possible: “From flowering apricots in the winter, to a range of ornamental and edible cherries and other flowering tree/shrubs in the spring (amelanchier, viburnum, plums, apples), to flowering shrubs and perennials in the summer (hydrangeas, deutzia, phlox). I’ll be adding ornamental grasses in the sunny areas, ferns, tiarella, and phlox in the shady area around the treehouse, and native wetland plants that will attract and support pollinators along the waters edge.”

Plus, some very exciting news: Chapman says we will also be getting some rare Prunus specimens from the  U. S. National Arboretum as well.

Speaking of cherry trees, it won’t be long before they are in full bloom at the Garden. Stay tuned to our Facebook or Twitter pages for updates on peak bloom time. Peak bloom for the Washington D.C. cherry blossoms is forecast for April 8 – 12, 2014, according to the National Park Service.  The Japanese cherry trees  for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, planted around the Tidal Basin in D.C., are Yoshino cherries (Prunus x yedoensis). We also have Yoshino cherries here at the Garden, but we have many other kinds of blooming cherries as well — that means the bloom time will be a bit longer than if we had just Yoshinos. Also, Richmond’s blooms tend to be 1-2 weeks before those in the Washington, D.C. area, depending on the weather.

And if you are a fan of cherry trees, be sure to visit our Spring Plant Sale on May 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. We will have some, but not all of the varieties of cherry trees that we are planting around the Cherry Tree Walk for sale for your own yard or garden. What a treat to have a sister of one planted here at the Garden.

Madelyn Phillipsby Madelyn Phillips, Volunteer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Last week I got to spend a week at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for a mini-mester-intern experience. I’m a student at Trinity Episcopal School, which requires that each year, every member of the junior class finds and obtains a job in a career or field of interest. We call this opportunity Junior Work Week. The goal is to provide students with insight into what a job or career is like and how that job fits into to the overall organization.

I’m somewhat unique in that I went into this process with absolutely no idea what career I wanted, and no idea what I wanted to study to in college. I hoped this experience would help narrow my search down. I chose a place to work based on my interests and passions, and my love of the nature and my interest in environmental sustainability and education. This led me to Lewis Ginter. I contacted with Nicki, the Youth Programs Developer at the Garden, went through the application process, and came in for an interview. I expressed to her that I was interested in trying a lot of different things, and when I came in on Monday morning, she provided me with a schedule that had me going to different departments,  doing several different jobs.
I spent a lot of time in the Children’s Garden, first shadowing elementary school programs, and then doing prep work for those same programs, as well as for the Garden’s Spring Break Camp and  Green Adventures Summer Camp. I met all of the Children’s Garden staff, who were really great and fun to work with, and I also got the opportunity to do some work with some of the horticulture volunteers, who were really fun as well. I spent some time shadowing in the Development department.  Did you see my post on the Garden’s Facebook page? That’s what I worked on for the Public Relations office. This may already sound like a lot, but these are only a few of the many different things I got to do last week.
I learned a lot from this experience, and I know that I’ll be able to use that knowledge to inform decisions that I make about my future career and course of study. Outside of that, however, one of the things that made Lewis Ginter a great place to work was all of the people there. From the volunteers to the staff, everyone seems to have a great sense of humor and a passion for what they’re doing. Everyone values the Garden and the the natural world around them, and takes steps to be more sustainable and environmentally aware by reusing and recycling, regardless of what department they’re a part of. Educating visitors about their connection to nature and the wider world around them is definitely a mission that everyone takes to heart, and it creates a great atmosphere to be working in.
Interested in hosting a Junior Work Week student at your place? Interested employers can apply on Trinity’s website.

by Phyllis Laslett, Adult Education Coordinator, and  Laurel Matthew, Greenhouse Horticulturist, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Lavendar Guarianthe skinneri

Lavendar Guarianthe skinneri

When polar temperatures put Central Virginia in a deep freeze, there’s one plant that can reliably transport you to the tropics: orchids!
March is orchid month at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, and we’ve upped the WOW factor by featuring orchids in the Dome House and East Wing of the Conservatory, including rare specimens on loan from Dr. Arthur Burke and Patti St. Clair.  Visit often during the month to see what’s new, including corsage orchids such as Guarianthe skinneri,  Rhyncholaeliocattleya Genevieve Kellogg, and Rhyncattleanthe Yellow Imp ‘King’s Cup’ (these three donated to the Garden by Dr. Burke) also don’t miss Cattlianthe  Gold Digger ‘Orchid Jungle’ HCC/AOS and Cattlianthe Fire Island ‘Fiery’ HCC/AOS  and a variety of breathtaking Phalaenopsis  hybrids (moth orchids) and Paphiopedilum hybrids (slipper orchids).

Cattlianthe Gold Digger 'Orchid Jungle' HCC/AOS

Cattlianthe Gold Digger ‘Orchid Jungle’ HCC/AOS

Tom Purviance and John Salventi with Martha Stewart

Tom Purviance and John Salventi with Martha Stewart

If you’d like an overview of orchids, or need to brush up your orchid knowledge, there’s  Orchid Immersion Day on March 15.  Tom Purviance and John Salventi, founders and former owners of Parkside Orchid Nursery near Philadelphia, present a full day of orchid-related topics.  They encourage registrants to bring an orchid for evaluation, discuss what makes an orchid an orchid, the finer points of growing them under lights, how and when to repot, and more.  They have more than 36 years of experience in growing prize-worthy orchids and have appeared on national TV on the Martha Stewart Show!  They regularly teach orchid workshops and classes at Longwood Gardens, and now have a website and business presence as Everything About Orchids.  Come, and we give you morning coffee and a delicious lunch, too! Want more detail? Here’s the full agenda. There a still a few spots left, so register now.

Also on March 15, the Virginia Orchid Society will have orchids for sale in the Robins Visitors Center atrium (you do not have to be enrolled in Orchid Immersion Day).  John and Tom will have some selected plants available also.

White Guarianthe skinneri

White Guarianthe skinneri

On March 18, take advantage of rescheduling caused by the recent weather unpleasantness, and join Garden Conservatory horticulturist Karin Stretchko and greenhouse horticulturist Laurel Matthew for Ginter in the Morning, where they take you behind the scenes in our newly renovated greenhouse and show you how the spectacular public orchid displays are put together.

Come for Orchid Immersion Day, find an orchid at the Virginia Orchid Society Sale, join the March 18 tour (free for Members), or simply savor a mini-escape to the tropics during March!

Cattlianthe Fire Island 'Fiery' HCC/AOS

Cattlianthe Fire Island ‘Fiery’ HCC/AOS

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is one of only 20 gardens in North America nominated for USA Today’s “10Best Reader’s Choice” contest for Best Public Garden. You can vote for favorite gardens daily online through March 31st.  Winners will be announced April 2, 2014. Please help us out by encouraging people to “Think Spring” and vote for their favorite public garden!

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden one of USA Today’s “10Best Reader’s Choice” contest for Best Public Garden.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden one of USA Today’s “10Best Reader’s Choice” contest for Best Public Garden. Photo by Don Williamson Photography


by Diane Carpenter, Public Relations Volunteer,  Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden 

Queen Sago palm (Cycas circinalis)

Our Queen Sago palm is reproducing in two ways right now: ovules and pups. In the upper right photo, you can see her green ovules. If we had a King Sago to fertilize the ovules they would become seeds. They grow from the tip of the plant, as seen in the lower left photo. In the corner photo, you can see her “pup” that looks somewhat like a pineapple.

This Queen Sago palm (Cycas circinalis), growing in our Conservatory, was derived from seeds collected on a U.S. exploring expedition between 1838-1842, and was given to us from the United States Botanic Garden. They are dioecious so have separate male and female plants.

Although the Queen Sago palm — “she” — looks like a palm and is named a palm, she is not a palm. She is a cycad, which are far older than palms. Cycads are very ancient gymnosperms — cone bearing plants — that existed around the time of dinosaurs.

But, if you fall in love with Queen Sagos… treat them carefully. They are poisonous, particularly the seeds. Also, they are not hardy in our area, so you’d need to bring them inside during the winter months.

You can find our Queen Sago on the right side of the spiral planter as you enter the Conservatory.

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