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

Iris domestica or blackberry lily

Iris domestica formerly known as Belamcanda chinensis.


This lovely blackberry lily (Iris domestica) along the Main Garden Path is one of my favorite flowers. I bought one for my own garden last year at the Garden’s Fall Plant Sale, and  I’ve featured it on this blog before. But here’s an interesting thing about it — it has a relatively new name.

Did you know that the Latin names for botanical specimen can change?  Plant names can change due to taxonomic research. Plants were originally placed in taxonomic categories based on their flower morphology, but with the use of DNA testing, we are finding that plants that were previously thought to be unrelated are actually close relatives, and vice versa. This is the case with the blackberry lily. Iris domestica was formerly called  Belamcanda chinensis. Turns out it’s not a lily at all, but more closely related to iris. In 2005 they renamed it Iris domestica to reflect what scientists had learned about the DNA.



by Janet Woody, Garden Librarian, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

In 1919, Grace Arents was asked by the Press Association Compilers, Inc., of New York, publishers of  The Cyclopedia of American Biography, to review its entry on her uncle Lewis Ginter. Here are excerpts of her words about her uncle.

Born in New York, April 4, 1824, died in Richmond, Virginia, October 2, 1897.

His father died when he was a few months old, and his mother ten years later. His home was then with his oldest sister [Jane Ginter Arents], ten years his senior and married. When he was twelve years old he refused to go any longer to school and found a place for himself in a store. A few years later, before he was eighteen, he made a trip with a friend to Richmond, Virginia, and liking the place he found employment there in a hardware and notion store. When only nineteen he made his first trip to Europe to purchase clocks and other fine merchandise. … He prospered in business and eventually established a lucrative wholesale enterprise, that became one of the largest concerns in the South, dealing principally in imported linens, white goods, and woolens.

At the beginning of the Civil War he had accumulated a fortune of $200,000. He sold out all of his business and invested the proceeds in tobacco, sugar, and cotton, which he stored, and then joined the Confederate Army … He was appointed Commissary to Gen. Joseph R. Anderson, with the rank of Major, and later in the same capacity under Gen. Edward L. Thomas of Georgia. He was popular under both commands and so in evidence in times of battle, that he was familiarly known as “the fighting Commissary”. For the rest of his life he was always addressed as Major Ginter. His tobacco and sugar were lost in the fire which destroyed a part of Richmond, the day the city was evacuated by the Confederates in April 1865.

He was more fortunate in his holding of cotton which gave him a small capital with which to again begin business. He returned to New York in the summer of 1865, and located in Wall Street at the head of a banking concern. For some years the business did well, but he finally failed for $200,000 on “Black Friday”.[Panic of 1873] Though financially ruined,  in the ordinary sense of the phrase, and fifty years old, Major Ginter was by no means discouraged. He was soon traveling through the country in the interest of tobacco consigned to him by his friends in the South, and he was so successful that eventually every dollar he owed by reason of his failure in Wall Street was paid with interest.

Major Lewis Ginter 1946 101

Major Lewis Ginter

Major Lewis Ginter in Confederate uniform.  Photo of an oil portrait in the Virginia Historical Society, Richmond VA


Next week:  What happened after the Panic and repayment of debts.

by Jonah Holland , PR and Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden 
Boy with Conservatory
Garden visitor Natalie Robinson Dean sent us the best Facebook message with these photos:

My 2-year-old and I visited yesterday for the first time and had an absolute blast. Thank you so much for the excellent hospitality and I guess it goes without saying, my kiddo LOVED the butterflies. He’s been crazy about them since he was little and seeing them up close was exciting for him. We will definitely be back again soon!

Look at these photos! He’s just in awe. It’s the sweetest thing. Looks like he enjoyed WaterPlay in the Children’s Garden too.  Thank you Natalie!

boy with butterfly
boy b
looking at butterflies butterflies up close waterplay fun

waterplay fun

Sadia Pollard, Mayor’s Youth Academy Intern, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden 

Sadia, from the Mayor's Youth Acadamy

Sadia harvesting cucumbers in the rain.

I’ve enjoyed nature since I was a young child. As I get older I’m learning the importance of positive interaction with planet earth. Being at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has showed me what that positive interaction really means.
My first day of interning was also my first day at the garden. I was immediately enchanted by the plethora of plants. Yes, I was aware that I was at a garden, but not one with such personality. All throughout my day I was gaping at all the different plants and how well they worked together. I still have a sense of amazement and curiosity for the garden everyday I’m here.

I think I should first discuss how I got my internship at the garden. I am participating in a program called Mayor’s Youth Academy. It’s basically a program to help instill qualities in my generation to build a successful workforce. Everyone in the program gets a 6-week paid internship at a business. Most of the jobs were office-related. Lewis Ginter stood out to me as a great opportunity because I absolutely dread sitting in an office for long periods of time. I was also very interested in becoming familiar with plants and their names and uses so it seemed like a perfect fit.

One of the greatest aspects of my internship is that I was able to work with variety of departments. I hauled trees on to trucks with the horticulturist. The librarian introduced me to the wonders of herbariums (which don’t smell very pleasant) and the categorizing of a whole library that contains just plant-related books.  The Garden administration is a lovely group of people who make every employee and patron feel right at home. I had a chance to input data from  a surveys about what people thought about the Garden (with the Development department) and although that may not seem very fun it was entertaining to see what some people had to say about the Garden.

I saw the relationship between hibiscus, cotton, and okra in the Community Kitchen Garden and learned that flat beans don’t taste that bad, although they look strange.  The Children’s Garden has been my home base for my internship over the last 6 weeks. Everyone, the staff in the Children’s Garden in particular, have made my experience spectacular.  I told them that I was interested in alternative medicine and the educators here went out of their way to help me learn about different plants and how they can be used in a medicinal way. The staff that I worked with sometimes mentioned plants throughout the day as we walked by them or giving me literature to read about plants and allowing me to find them. Spending time with each staff member allowed me to see what the Children’s Garden vision really is: to allow children to have meaningful interactions in nature in a safe environment.

youth service volunteer sadia

Sadia noticed the long beans have little hairs that act like Velcro and stick to your clothes.

Some of my favorite activities were planting vibrant pepper plants; putting on a puppet show in the Children’s Garden, and collecting dill, cosmos and conflower seeds to be sold by Youth Volunteers at the Fall Plant Sale. I spent two weeks assisting with Green Adventures Summer Camp that the Garden offers to young children. That experience opened my eyes to the art of teaching children in nature, and exposing them to the wonders of positive interaction with nature. There were also many creatures to interact with while at the Garden. I was able to visit the bee hives and taste fresh honey right from the hive. Later on I was able to share that same experience with the children in the camps and teach them about the importance of bees. Goats were another creature I got to meet. Did you know that the Garden has goats?! I even held a baby goat that fit perfectly in my arms. But, my favorite creatures by far were the butterflies. Not just in the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit, but all over the Garden.  I had never been so close or had seen so many different types. I was also allowed to spend some independent time to run some educational programs including Good Green Fun, the Garden Art Studio and Drop in and Dig.

It was fun to show children some of the small wonders of the Garden like finding ripe tomatoes and eating them, or showing them how to identify poison ivy.   My time at the Garden has been so enjoyable that once my internship is over I will try to volunteer here during the school year. I even feel prepared for my horticulture dual-enrollment class I’ll be taking in the fall. Not only have I learned so much, I feel much more confident about my knowledge of nature. I’m also very excited to share what I’ve learned with my friends and family. The Garden, along with its entire staff has truly had a positive effect on me.

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

wild butterfly!

Grand Prize winner @sarabeejensen ‘s photo of her son at Butterflies LIVE! He’s a Butterfly charmer — Love it!

Congratulations to @sarabeejensen our Butterflies LIVE! Instagram contest Grand Prize winner. Sara wins a prize package valued at $500 including a night at the Jefferson Hotel Richmond and passes to come back to enjoy Butterflies LIVE! with 11 friends.
Judging this contest was very difficult — there were so many fabulous submissions — 1,829 to be exact! We had a 3-way tie for our 2nd place winner: congratulations to @kathrynmoyers @gucci_gilbert and  @casiesdavis who each win 5 free passes to Butterflies LIVE! You’ll find there photos in the collages below.

Do you follow the Garden on Instagram? Follow along to see what’s in bloom!

Here area a few more favorites from our Butterflies LIVE! #Bflies Instagram contest. Which is your favorite? Pictured from left to right, top to bottom: @cassiesdavis @omjitskaylax3 @filthyrichmond @phillipaberch @themeganm22 @rlasch @harryvdesign @gucci_gilbert @polene Follow us on Instagram: http://instagram.com/lewisginter

Here area a few more favorites from our Butterflies LIVE! #Bflies Instagram contest. Which is your favorite?
Pictured from left to right, top to bottom:
Follow us on Instagram: http://instagram.com/lewisginter

collage 2

Pictured from left to right, top to bottom: @leahnewcomb @rlasch @sarabeejensen @pugsrule.12 @amonature @phillipaberch @kathrynmoyers @lauren_lizbeth_ @rlasch

butterfly collage instagram

Bottom photos & center photo are by Stuart Scott. Top photos & center side photos are by David Burkwall.

by Janet Woody, Garden Librarian, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

lakeside zoo cage

Remains of an animal cage at Lakeside Park, now Jefferson-Lakeside Country Club

This is the first in a series of short posts about the history of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. In 2013, our good neighbors at Jefferson Lakeside Country Club reached out to us to see what we knew about the zoo cages on their property. We shared what we know (very little!) and visited the cages and talked about our shared history. We do not have any papers or documents from either Lewis Ginter or Miss Grace Arents so we rely on secondary sources to gather details of their lives and business pursuits. Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Bill Lohmann was kind enough to write about the Lakeside Park Zoo to see if we could recover some of its lost history from newspaper readers.

Detail of ironwork

Detail of the base of the lamp-post or stanchion.

We did learn a bit from Bill’s readers about the history of Lakeside Park, a scene of gaiety and fun that opened in 1896, and is now known as the Jefferson Lakeside Country Club.  I will write more about Lakeside Park in future installments. Staff at the country club offered us this iron stanchion or lamp-post shown here.  We are excited to add this to our collection of Lewis Ginter memorabilia.

lamp post

Iron lamp-post or stanchion.

It may not seem like much, but having something that he very likely commissioned and paid for personally is pretty thrilling. Ginter used the finest materials, architects, and craftsmen when he built his city home at 901 W. Franklin St., the Jefferson Hotel at 101 W. Franklin St, and his country home Westbrook.  It seems likely that he gave the same care to Lakeside Park.  No expense was spared on any of his projects.


Many thanks to the staff at Jefferson Lakeside for giving us something new to add to our knowledge of Uncle Lewis and Miss Grace.  Next week I’ll tell the story of how Uncle Lewis became one of the richest men in the South.

By Beth Monroe, Public Relations and Marketing Director, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Lilah holding a bess beetle (photo by Barb Sawyer)

Lilah holding a bess beetle (photo by Barb Sawyer)

One of the great joys of working at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is being able to experience it through the eyes of my children. This summer my daughter, Lilah, participated in Green Adventures Summer Camp for the very first time.

The week-long day camps are held each summer in June, July and August. Each week is geared toward a specific age group. Lilah was in the “Care of Magical Creatures” camp for rising 5th and 6th graders.

The description for “Care of Magical Creatures” stated: “campers will study enchanting garden dwellers including fly-traps, dragons, serpents and more.” The camp was a reminder that all creatures are magical in their own way — the dragon was a bearded dragon lizard and the serpent was a pet corn snake.

Campers took home their own worm farm

Campers took home their very own worm farm

The photo to the left shows Lilah holding a bess beetle (Passalidae) which makes a whispering sound by rubbing its legs together. I found it magical my child was studying nature and playing with insects and reptiles!


The group also made crafts, did field studies, played games and whipped up botanical snacks.

Every day Lilah brought home something cool and interesting: a worm farm, a piece of snakeskin, an owl pellet containing the tiny bones of a shrew. I thought it was way cool, but what did she think of the experience? Here’s what she wrote:

“The “Care of Magical Creatures” camp was super fun. One of the coolest things I learned about was jewelweed — it can help make poison ivy not itch. We had the sweetest and kindest teachers, Miss Amy and Ms. Barb. Thank you so much for making this camp wonderful!”

I second that thanks and add that I think our Children’s Educators and volunteers are magical creatures for the work they do in the Garden every day getting children excited about the natural world.

You can see the shimmering quality of a jewelweed leaf when placed in a jar of water. Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) has a reputation for helping alleviate the potential effects of poison. The catch is the jewelweed has to rubbed on the skin within 10 minutes of the exposure to poison ivy.

You can see the shimmering quality of a jewelweed leaf when placed in a jar of water. Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) has a reputation for helping alleviate the potential effects of poison ivy. The catch is the jewelweed has to rubbed on the skin within 10 minutes of the exposure to poison ivy.



Before and after the ornamental grass plantings.

Before and after the ornamental grass plantings outside the East Wing of the Conservatory.

Between now and September we’ll be building a new Ornamental Grass Garden in front of the Conservatory.
• This garden will replace 9,200 sq. feet of existing traditional turf with attractive, low maintenance ornamental grasses, and will showcase sustainable best-practices in one of the most prominent sites on our property.
• Once established, these grasses will require little-to-no watering, and their deep roots will reduce stormwater runoff by encouraging infiltration of rain water into the local water table.
• These grasses also provide valuable habitat and food for insects, birds and larger animals, encouraging a more robust local ecosystem.
This project was designed by Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden staff: Horticulturists Leah Purdy and Karin Stretchko, and Gardener Chris Brown. Plantings will include prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), purple muhlygrass (Muhlenbergia capillaris), switchgrass ‘Northwind’ (Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’) and plume grass (Saccharum ravennae) that were tested here at the garden, so we know they will do well in this environment.
The Ornamental Grass Garden has been made possible by the generosity of an anonymous donor.

Before and after East Wing plantings

Before and after the ornamental grass plantings outside the East Wing of the Conservatory.

Drawing of ornamental grass garden design.

Plantings will include Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), Purple Muhlygrass (Muhlenbergia capillaris), Switchgrass ‘Northwind’ (Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’) and Plume Grass (Saccharum ravennae).



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

Children's Garden sun

A sunflower in the Children’s Garden. The CWD Kids Tree House is in the background.

Part of my job is going out in the Garden to capture the beauty as it happens. Sometimes, like spring, I can’t keep up with all the blooms and the daily changes. Other times, when I least expect it the Garden changes overnight from lush greens to the red and purple, yellow and brown of fall.  In summer, I never know what to expect. When I think of summer, I think of sunflowers, Echinacea and daylilies. Sometimes I forget all the diversity that comes in summer.  The wildlife thrives.  And the diversity of blooms is rather stunning. Rose plants that bloomed prolifically in spring, continue to bloom in summer (and amazingly will do it again in fall).  I find insects I never know existed. Summer has special moments — like catching a pollinator at work, or watching a hummingbird zoom around you.  These are the experiences that you can’t quite capture in photos, you have to come to the Garden to see them yourself.  But perhaps the photos can act as a reminder for why you should visit. I promise you — it’s far better in person.


Chives, with a visitor.

Double passionflower

Passiflora incarnata; purple passionflower

Ailanthus Webworm Moth (Atteva punctella)  on sea holly or Eryngium maritimum.

Ailanthus Webworm Moth (Atteva punctella) on sea holly or Eryngium maritimum.

hum 2

Hummingbird with blue cardinal flower, Lobelia siphilitica

rosa flutterby

Rosa ‘Flutterby’

brothers grimm fairytale Rose

Rosa ‘Brothers Grimm Fairytale’

Bee party

A bee party on the Japanese windflower or anemone.

crepe myrtle leaf

A crepe myrtle leaf with oranges and yellows on a anemone.

perennial phlox nicky

Perennial phlox ‘Nicky’

 Lycoris squamigera

Some folks call these naked ladies. Some folks call them resurrection lilies. Either way, they are beautiful. The Latin name is Lycoris squamigera.

resurection lily

Lycoris squamigera

rosa pat austin

Rosa ‘Pat Austin’

tasel flower Emilia coccinea

Tasel flower or Emilia coccinea with an insect.

yellow legs

What’s most remarkable to me about this photo is the vibrant color of the bee’s legs.

zinnia butterfly

A butterfly on a zinnia in the Children’s Garden.

Sundial Grace Arents

The white arch with climbing roses is one of the elements that creates a Victorian-style garden.

by Hannah Lindquist, PR & Marketing Intern, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Sunny, breezy, and temperatures in the mid-80s made for a very enjoyable “15 Minutes in the Garden”  last week.  A group of volunteers and staff took a break from our work to gather under a shady tree to listen to Horticulturist, Elizabeth Fogel  teach us a little more about the Grace Arents Garden. I wish it could have been longer to enjoy the beautiful weather and learn more about the Garden’s history.

With the Garden’s mission being education, it’s no surprise that I find myself learning something new here every day.  Fogel explained that the Grace Arents Garden is an elegant, Victorian-style garden.


Gazebo at the end of one-of-four brick paths leading from the center of Grace Arents Garden, giving the garden symmetry, another element adding to its Victorian-style.

What qualities distinguish a Victorian-style garden, exactly?  Well, if you walk through this area outside of Bloemendaal House, you will notice its formal symmetry, arbors covered in climbing roses, and boxwood hedges along the outskirts.  Each of these elements along with “old-fashioned” blooms, like roses and peonies, allow you to feel as if you have gone back in time to the early 1900’s.

The Grace Arents Garden was restored by The Garden Club of Virginia in the early 1990s based on its original design.  With its open lawn space, beautiful structures, and wide variety of vibrant flowers, this area of the Garden is a favorite for weddings and hosts our Flowers After 5 events on Thursday evenings in June, July and August.

Join us this Thursday at 5 p.m. and enjoy live music by The Roger Pouncey Trio on the Grace Arents Garden lawn.  Bring a blanket and enjoy beer, wine and dining al fresco and take a stroll through the Garden.

Thursday, August 14 bring your furry friends with you for our last Fidos After 5 of the summer.  On this special night leashed dogs are allowed and a $2 admissions fee is suggested to help benefit the Richmond SPCA.

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