Feed on

by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Just one more reason that nature is amazing: here’s the Orange Dead Leaf butterfly (Kallima inachus). Perfect mimic for a dead leaf. Wish I could catch this one with his wings open — then you’d see bright orange and purple-blue. Don’t forget, Butterflies LIVE! closes in just a few short weeks, on Oct. 12th.


orange dead leaf butterfly Orange Dead Leaf (Kallima inachus)

Orange Dead Leaf (Kallima inachus) in the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

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

osmanthus flowers

Osmanthus blooms attract pollinators with their fragrance too!

It’s hard to believe such a small, delicate flower can have such a heavenly fragrance. You’ll find the Osmanthus just across the Lotus Bridge between Bloemendaal House and the Children’s Garden, or you can just follow your nose!

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

Fifth graders taking the temperature of the soil at various radius from the tree trunk.

Fifth graders from George Mason Elementary School taking the temperature of the soil at various radius from the tree trunk.

boy and girl using a compas

Using a compass, and teamwork, to gather data.

girls gathering data

Determining the temperature of the soil at various points distance from the tree trunk. The children found that the temperature closer to the trunk was slightly lower than outside of the tree canopy. Because it was an overcast day, the temperature difference was small.

As part of a partnership with Blue Sky Fund, 5th graders from Richmond Public Schools’ George Mason Elementary School learned hands-on math and science in the Garden. Working collaboratively, students measured air and soil temperature under the tree leaf canopy and outside the tree canopy to determine if trees modify the temperatures of the air and soil around them. Students also measured the water volume to determine if trees impact evaporation of water from the soil.  Students  were able to compare growth rates of two different trees by measuring annual twig growth to discover that different tree species have different rates of growth, and they speculated about weather and other environmental factors that may have contributed to different growth rates.  Have you ever seen kids having so much fun using math, geometry, and algebra skills to solve real-world problems?!  I loved hearing the students’ teacher say that she noticed a clear change in the way some of the children engaged with the science learning differently than they do in the classroom.  For some children in particular, she said, there was a marked difference in the level of focus and interest in learning the material. There’s just something about outdoor, hands-on learning that makes it different than a classroom learning experience.

In the coming weeks, 5th classes from Chimborazo Elementary, Fairfield Court, Belleview, & Woodville Elementary will also participate in this outdoor learning program. Then, the children will come back in October, to see what’s changed.  This program was made possible thanks to a grant from The Dominion Foundation.

By Nicki, Youth Programs Developer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

michelle okra

Michelle harvesting okra in the Community Kitchen Garden

Michelle Zhu is a long-time participant in the Youth Volunteer Summer Program, a volunteer opportunity for youth (ages 13-18). Participants in this program work a variety of areas including the Community Kitchen Garden, which harvests food for FeedMore’s Community Kitchen. Michelle participates every summer and comes every day, except when she is in Rock Camp (she’s also a totally rad drummer).

Another one of Michelle’s interest is culinary arts. Often, participants in the Youth Volunteer programs get to take home herbs and vegetables as part of the educational experience and Michelle always puts her take-homes to good use. From carrots she made a roasted baby carrot dish with a mustard sauce and she made a root vegetable roast with the beets. With parsley she created pan fried fish with parsely.

Her Chinese heritage makes for interesting conversation when discussing edibles. She explains how Western weeds and ornamentals are often incorporated into Chinese cuisine.

“We do use/grow a lot of good greens like luffa or winter melon (a type of gourd). In addition to that, we find a lot of usage in particular weeds, like dandelions, and some others, so a lot of the more aesthetic plants at the Garden are incorporated more purposefully in our cuisine. It’s all part of Chinese medicine… that we find these unconventional herbs and vegetables to use in our dishes.”

Winter Gourd

Winter Gourd at Michelle’s house

Some of Michelle’s new favorite edibles she learned about and harvested while participating in the Youth Volunteer Summer Program, include okra, cherry tomatoes, parsley, and zucchini. Because of Michelle’s interest in the culinary arts and her advanced participation, I often asked Michelle to harvest the herbs and vegetables we grow in the Garden Cafe’ plot and deliver them to the Garden Café. Michelle mastered harvesting purple basil and parsley, are some of the main ingredients in the Café’s pesto. One of Michelle’s favorite educational components is Food Demo Day when all of the Youth Volunter  participants get to make pesto with the Master Chef in the Garden Café’s kitchen.

Michelle’s window plants

Michelle’s window plants, some of which are cuttings from the Garden which she obtained while participating in the Youth Volunteer Summer Program.

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

Editor’s note:  We love you to meet our new staff members. You, our biggest fans, get the inside scoop on who’s new to the Garden, and learn a little something about how we got here and why we love to work here too. Hope you’ll stop and say hi if you see us while you are here! Meet Assistant Facility Events Coordinator Sarah Neely, our newest staff member. 

Sarah Neely in the Asian Valley

Sarah Neely in the Asian Valley

Q: What is your favorite part of the Garden?
The Asian Valley is hands down my favorite place to wander. It’s such a different space in the Garden and has really peaceful and quaint pathways with my favorite — bridges! I have a soft spot for a good bridge that’s over a stream or babbling brook.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
I really enjoy meeting the brides. Each one has a different vision and excitement they bring when planning their special day. It’s fun to see what type of wedding they decide to have and what they end up doing with the venue. There aren’t many places that you can leave the office and find a little oasis to clear your head and everyone at the Garden has been very welcoming and helpful, which has been a great feeling since day one.
Q: Tell us something surprising about you that (people) coworkers might not know.
I do target shooting! I have a boyfriend in the Army that taught me how to shoot, and my first time the employees at the range were calling me “dead eyes.” Apparently I’m a natural and a deadly shot with a 9 millimeter. I think it’s due to all the hours of playing Duck Hunt as a kid.
Q: Where did you work before you came to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden?
For the past 8 years I have worked in various part time positions from a private nanny, to tutor to  catering coordinator. I worked at Burkwood Swim and Racquet Club for 8 years as mainly an Aquatics Manager and a Swim Instructor Coordinator. I also worked at I CATER as an assistant event coordinator to the head caterer, where I handled many events including weddings, showers  and luncheons. Every December, since I was 6 years-old, I volunteered with the Richmond Times-Dispatch at their annual Holiday Hoops High School Basketball Tournament. Eventually I was and then was hired to work  as assistant to the tournament directors, a job that also  included coordinating catering/hospitality, as well as sales and marketing efforts. So, I have worn many different “hats” over the years. Finally,  I’ve found a job that incorporates them all!
Q: Where did you grow up?
Right here in Virginia! I’m a small town girl from Old Church. It’s the boonies of Mechanicsville, where you see a lot of cornfields and get stuck behind big tractors on the way into town. Almost forgot, tons of deer too!
Q: What do you do in your free time?
Hiking trails in the mountains and exploring new restaurants, vineyards, breweries and music all around Virginia. Anywhere that I can put up my Eno hammock and enjoy nature is a plus on my excursions. I’m an avid volleyball player and swimmer, so whenever I get a chance to participate in races or pick-up games I jump at the opportunity.

Sarah Neely

Sarah having a bit of fun with her new job.


VSU students planting parsley at the entrance to the Children’s Garden .

A group of pre-service teachers, grad students and faculty from the Education, Biology, and Agriculture departments at  Virginia State University participated in a hands-on workshop with Children’s Garden program developers Kristi Orcutt and Kristin Mullen.

vsu 2

VSU students measuring the Darlington oak in the Grace Arents Garden

As part of a National Science Foundation  grant, the pre-service teachers ‘dug into learning’ in the Central Garden, Children’s Garden Farm Garden, at the compost bin, on the Tree Trail, and under the Darlington Oak in Grace Arents Garden. They’ll each use their experiences here to develop a multi-disciplinary inquiry-based lesson for their Science Exploration Day on September 27th.

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

Plant Sale Chair Nancy Pennick with day lilies dug here at Ginter.

Volunteer Nancy Pennick, Plant Sale Chair, with a selection of day lilies available for sale. These are the same day lilies featured in Flagler Garden, we needed to thin the beds, and if you get here early you can have them in your garden too. $4 each, while supplies last.

So you already know the Fall Plant Sale is today, noon to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. But did you know that this year, we are highlighting plant divisions from our favorite perennials right here at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden? Come on over for some really great deals! You’ll love having these Garden favorites in your own yard. Details: http://bit.ly/FallPlantSale

woodland poppy

The beautiful woodland poppy — a division from the Garden.

Bloody Cranesbill Geranium sanguineum max frei

Love the name on this one! Bloody Cranesbill or Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’, foliage turns red in the fall – a division from the Garden.


Japanese windflower — a division from the Garden.


Obedient Plant — drought tolerant, and it blooms all summer! — a division from the Garden.

Tree expert and volunteer Bill Smith with volunteer Bay Seale.

Magnolia hybridizer Bill Smith and Garden volunteer with Garden volunteer Bay Seale. These volunteers will happily help you with your plant selection. Just describe the space you need a plant for and they will make suggestions!

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

Pink Muhlygrass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

Pink Muhlygrass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

This Friday and Saturday, September 19 – 20,  is our annual Fall Plant Sale. The Fall Plant Sale features regional vendors selling rare and interesting plants, unique landscape objects and exciting items for your garden. Of particular interest this year are the ornamental grasses that we just planted in front of the Conservatory. Our supplier for those grasses, Poplar Ridge Nursery, will be here both days selling Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) and Pink Muhlygrass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) two of the fabulous grasses that are featured in our Conservatory display.  These grasses are also special because before we planted theme here in the Conservatory display, we tested them extensively to make sure that they’d do well in Richmond’s climate. Ornamental grasses are a great addition to any garden because they are good for the environment. They don’t require much watering, they only need to be cut back once per year in the late winter and they encourage wildlife while filtering out excess nutrients from the soil.

Prairie Dropseed

Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus herterolepis)

Best of all, there is no admission required for Plant Sale; regular admission to enter the Garden. In addition, the Garden Shop will offer 15 percent off  all purchases to Garden Members who shop during the Fall Plant Sale.  Bring your carts and wagons to make shopping even easier!  And don’t miss the Fancy Phoenix, a Garden-influenced upscale mini-estate sale, right here at the Plant Sale.

For more info: http://bit.ly/FallPlantSale

Details on the Fancy Phoenix Sale

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

lake Sydnor

One of the many topics Garden Guide Susie Austin will discuss during the tour is how Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden uses various eco-friendly plantings to improve the water in Lake Sydnor.

Join Garden Guide and volunteer Susie Austin as she leads you on a tour discovering sustainable initiatives that help bring Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in balance with the natural world. Learn how many small changes are adding up to a lighter footprint for a major public garden, and how you can adapt these changes to make similar changes in your own yard and home garden. Come dressed for the weather and walking in the Garden.  Austin’s other claim-to-fame is that she’s Rose Garden horticulturist Jay Austin’s mom, so this will be a bit of an insider tour!

Austin explains, “The focus of the tour will be sustainability, that dynamic balance between the needs of : Planet, clean air and water and healthy habitats; Profit, economically feasible with environmental and human benefits; and People, opportunities for people to interact with their environment in ways that improve their well-being…..I hope to have a dialog with guests on these topics and showcase Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s best practices in landscape design and water management. We’ll talk about how to implement many of these valuable strategies in the home landscape and what a resilient landscape might look like.”

Register: Walk and Talk: Greening the Garden, Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 10 – 11 am

If you miss this tour, don’t worry, we’ll be hosting this tour again on  Tuesday, October 14.

FREE  for members, $16 for others. Pre-registration is required to ensure there are enough Guides for the group.

By Nicki, Youth Programs Developer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Drew Kobus, Youth volunteer

The smile of accomplishment

Drew Kobus is a long-standing participant in the Service Learning Program, a volunteer program for youth (ages 13-18) offered through the Children’s Garden.  This is Drew’s fourth year of volunteering at the Garden and he has moved up to the highest level of responsibilities within the Service Learning Program, Level III. As part of the requirements, for the program, Level III volunteers are asked to complete a project, either a service project or a research project. Completing the program is not only a great accomplishment, but also engages youth volunteers to have a personalized vested interest in the Garden. Completing the program is also a foot in the door in terms of employment– outstanding Service Learning Program Level III’s have obtained a variety of jobs at the Garden.

mason bee house

A Mason hive is a hive with compartmental qualities, which is the preferred habitat of the mason bee.

For the project requirement, Drew chose to do the service project, which fits Drew’s preference of hands-on volunteer opportunities. Drew explains how and why he chose creating a mason bee hive:

“I thought of how great it would be if we had a bee house at the gardens for guests to observe. I built a Mason bee house instead of making a hive for a different type of bee for a multitude of reasons, for one thing mason bees are solitary so they don’t swarm, secondly they are very unlikely to sting people seeing as how the males don’t have stingers and the females will only sting if they are trapped, also it is very low maintenance, and I felt I could make a place to protect our pollinators but also have it be artistic.”

Originally, Drew had hoped to make use of an old nesting structure in the Children’s Garden, however, he ended up having to start from scratch.

“I had originally thought I would reuse part of an existing structure, but the existing material was too rotted to be useful, making it so I had to create the entire structure from scratch, as opposed to just part of it.” But it turns out, this challenge was Drew’s favorite part of the project “I love using tools and building things so it was a great deal of fun for me.” As Developer for this program, it was great to watch Drew solve these problems while creating such a wonderful habit from what otherwise would have become trash and from scraps.

The Children’s Garden loves Drew’s finished project, not only because it promotes recycling but also because he is a creative and passionate volunteer. You may be wondering — where did this awesome kid come from?  Participants in the Service Learning Program join for a variety of reasons, often  in order to get community service credit for a specialty school program,  but Drew’s motivation is unique:

“I give all credit for my interest in gardening and volunteering at the Garden to my grandparents, Barb and Buzz Sawyer. They have both been volunteers at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for quite some time as well as being part of the Hanover Master Gardeners Association, I have grown up helping them with their garden and visiting LGBG. So when I found out I could volunteer and help with more of the behind the scenes work I was all for it.”

building the mason bee house.

Drew Kobus, working on his project.

Drew has not only made a home for our pollinators, but has also created an educational platform for our guests. I highly recommend coming down to the Children’s Garden to see what this 15-year-old has made for the Garden, especially if you want to see a hive up-close.  It’s really neat!

Want to learn more about mason bees and orchard mason bees (Osmia lignaria)? The United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service has some great facts from Beatriz Moisset and Vicki Wojcik, of  the Pollinator Partnership:

A quick fact – the first brood cells that the orchard bee makes (those that are furthest back) will develop into female bees, while the ones closer to the entrance of the nest will become males. Scientists believe that bees do this for one of two reasons. Males need to emerge first so that they wait for new females during mating season – putting them closer to the entrance helps them emerge first. Bees also suffer nest predation, and the brood closer to the entrance would be predated first. Females are much more important to the reproduction of a species than males are. Putting the males as a barrier increases the survival and fitness of the species.

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