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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.

by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Woody Woodroof and his art
Organic farmer, community organizer, and artist Woody Woodroof  creates large scale botanical cyanotypes on fabric using the power of the sun. His work combines farming, the environment, and art, and asks viewers to slow down and notice the intricacy and beauty of the everyday plants and weeds around them.  The botanical cyanotypes show ‘Invasives’ continues through September 21, 2014 in Ginter Gallery II.  But you really won’t want to miss Woodroof’s artist talk on September 20, at 10 a.m. These prints are really cool and make a big impression, just like the artist. Woodroof is also founder and executive director of Red Wiggler Community Farm, an organic farm dedicated to providing employment for adults with developmental disabilities through a unique horticulture program. You don’t want to miss this artist talk. Woodroof will discusses his botanical art and more at this FREE-for-Members event.  Register: http://bit.ly/WoodyWoodroof

Artist Statement:
During the past several years as director and principal instigator of Red Wiggler Community Farm, most of Woodroof’s photographic work was limited to the documentation of the farm itself and, of course, the people working there. In 2005, Woodroof began working with cyanotypes and cameraless photograms as there was no darkroom readily available on the farm. Then it seemed natural for Woodroof, an organic farmer, to catalogue the crops growing in the fields around him and to use the tools and space available, such as the bathtub, to process the prints.

In 2010, Woodroof began to question the social and environmental impacts of using cotton fabric for his prints, and has since decided to use hemp; an exceptionally beneficial, soil building, nitrogen fixing crop considered far more sustainable than cotton. There are so many practical motives in the decisions around his work that the farm again inserts its influence into the process.

The most recent prints from Invasives are on display through September 21 in Ginter Gallery II at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. The cyanotype prints are made on 7 feet long pieces of cotton and hemp, and many of the plants chosen are considered non-native invasive ‘weeds.’ By creating beautiful and mysterious imprints of these undesirable plants, Woodroof transforms them into beautiful objects of art.

According to Woodroof, “We have seen it before throughout recent agricultural history. With the best of intentions we have introduced plants and trees from the other side of the world over the past five centuries. Might our science labs be introducing something today that we will find invasive in time? These prints explore both sustainable fabrics, invasive plants and the ironies of our solutions.”

About Woody Woodroof:

Woody Woodroof studied photography at Denison University in the late 1980’s, receiving his BFA in Photography. His continued education, thereafter, included a series of intensive workshops taught by several photographers who would have a profound impact on his later development. Among these early influences, Linda Connor, David Sauer, Sally Mann and Emmet Gowin are possibly the most prominent. During the 1990’s, Woodroof landed in Tucson AZ, where his path crossed that of photo historian Keith McElroy at University of Arizona. McElroy kindly allowed him to take his History of Photography classes without Woodroof being officially enrolled at the university. It was McElroy who pointed Woodroof in the direction of photographer Ann Simmons-Myers, a well-known instructor of alternative photo processes and then a professor at Pima Community College. At PCC Woodroof learned gum bi-chromate printing and the cyanotype process and was exposed to a variety of other alternative processes.

Woodroof’s working with medium and large format photography might be described as pursuing classical formats within contemporary photography, but his experimentation with various materials, the building of cameras and the coating of unconventional papers demonstrated that his work was becoming decidedly more intuitive or primitive. Thrift stores became as important to his work as was the photographer’s formulary, where photo chemicals might be purchased. Cruising for any containers that might be suitable for adaptation into pinhole cameras or camera obscuras became part of the ritual… suitcases, trashcans, tobacco tins–whatever he might find–really could have in them the potential for new types of work. These years of eclectic education produced a lot of various types of work but Woodroof quickly points out that the process during this period was often more important than the ideas behind the work.

Woody surprised his friends and family when he changed gears in 1996 and left the southwest to found a community supported organic farm and non-profit foundation outside of Washington, DC. The Red Wiggler Community Farm, which is now in its 18th year, is a non-profit endeavor whose mission is to grow and sell vegetables as a framework for training adults with developmental disabilities. This is a simple statement that only hints at the various ways in which the farm has become integrated to its surrounding communities. A deeper discussion of the farm has to include several ideas such as slow food, local produce, horticultural therapy, vocational training, community involvement, volunteerism, market gardening and bio-diversity. Even the casual observer will begin to see that the farm itself just might be the creation about which Woodroof will always be most energized. The farm then becomes a logical point of inspiration for the possibility of artwork, or vice versa.

by Janet Woody, Garden Librarian, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Continuing from last week, here is the conclusion of Grace Arent’s biography of her Uncle Lewis Ginter published in the Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography. She wrote this in 1919. The story picks up after the Panic of 1873, when Lewis Ginter’s banking enterprise failed and he became a traveling salesman selling tobacco to repay the debts incurred by his banking failure. Miss Grace’s words continue:

english naval officer

“English naval officer”, one of Allen & Ginter’s cigarette cards from the 1880s

 His attachment to Richmond turned his thoughts continually back to his old home, where he had been so prosperous and contented. The result of a visit to his friend Jno. F. Allen was a partnership of the two men, under the name of Jno. F. Allen & Co. in the tobacco business and from this time forward he was eminently successful. All of the advertising for the firm was done Major Ginter, and many of his conceptions in this line were works of art. He was the first in the South to employ women in the manufacture of cigarettes. Shortly after, the sale of the products [an expansive line of cigarettes including Richmond Straight-Cuts No.1, Napoleon, Dandies, Virginia Brights, Little Beauties] of the firm was extended to foreign countries, beginning in London; later, permission was obtained from the French government for the sale in Paris of their cigarettes to the exclusion of other American brands. Agencies were subsequently established through Major Ginter’s enterprise, in Hamburg and Brussels, as well as in British India, South Africa, and Australia. In 1884 the firm name was changed to Allen and Ginter, Mr. Allen selling out his interest and retiring from the business. In 1890 the American Tobacco Company was founded, Allen and Ginter being one of the five great manufacturing concerns which composed it. Upon the organization of this great establishment, Major Ginter was elected president; he declined the office but became one of the directors and held this position till shortly before his death. [1897]. Major Ginter took a great personal interest in all of his employees, doing everything possible for their comfort and happiness. A well selected library was maintained for their use, he provided a physician and medicines without cost, and when one of his buildings was destroyed by fire those who were thrown out of work received their regular wages during the period of rebuilding. Much sincere regret was expressed when he ceased to be the active head of Allen and Ginter’s.

                It was at this time, about ten years before his death, that he became more closely associated with various business enterprises in Richmond and elsewhere. He owned the Richmond Times for a short period. He built the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond. He had a large interest in the Richmond Locomotive Works. He acquired a large acreage in the section north of the City near his own country home [Westbrook], and became much interested in suburban development, plotting the land off in sections, planting trees, hedges, setting out some twenty-five miles of the latter. A part of this region is now the most beautiful suburb of Richmond and is known as Ginter Park. [Developed after his death]. In this section he gave the land upon which were erected the buildings of the Presbyterian Union Theological Seminary. He planned and developed Lakeside Park which included a botanical and zoological garden. This has since become a private property [now called Jefferson-Lakeside Country Club]. He had great faith in good roads and at his own expense rebuilt the Brook Road, the leading thoroughfare north of Richmond. His whole heart seemed to be set upon so administering his fortune as to do the greatest good to the people of Richmond and its vicinity. That patriotism in peace which avoids every touch of the politician and which for want of a better expression we call “public spirit” was with Major Ginter almost a passion.

allen  ginter ad

Allen & Ginter advertisement for ‘Richmond Gems’

                He had many and very loyal friendships some dating from the days of his youth, but he never married. When his sister-mother [this is what Grace Arents called her mother, who was Ginter’s sister and cared for him after their mother’s death] was left a widow he made his home hers, and always treated her children as if they were his own. He died at his country home, “Westbrook”, after many months of illness, and his death was regarded as a personal grief by the whole community. [1897, due to complications of diabetes] His benevolence in his life time was far reaching, and when his will was opened it was found that in death he still remembered. Almost every charitable institution in the City was mentioned besides many pensions and long lists of legatees. His was a remarkable life …[after 1890] the next seven years of his life were crowded with the great and generous things he did for Richmond and its vicinity employing hundreds of people and so using his money that when he died at seventy-three the greater part of his private fortune was gone, used for the good of the community.

Newspapers at the time of his death estimated his lifetime wealth at seven to ten million dollars.  After the buyout of his company to form the American Tobacco Company, he spent the last years of his life doing, in Grace’s words, “great and generous things” for his beloved city and spending lavishly in the process.

Recommended reading:  Lewis Ginter: Richmond’s Gilded Age Icon by Brian Burns.  Charleston, SC, History Press, 2011.   On Richmond’s Wheel: A Timeline History of Cycling in Richmond, Virginia  by Thomas Houff.  Richmond, VA, Houff, 2012.   Railways in Richmond by Carlton McKenney.  Richmond, VA, Old Dominion Chapter, National Historical Railway Society, 1986.

Next installment: What he did with his millions and what was left for his heirs




moss photo by Norie Burnet

As sunlight changes throughout the day, so do the colors of the mosses at Eden Woods. photo by Norie Burnet

Keep it or kill it? While many homeowners and gardeners consider moss a nuisance, others have learned to appreciate its beauty and benefits. Over a 35-year span, Bon Air resident Norie Burnet grew to love moss and now cultivates it with passion.

“I never, ever thought about a moss garden, but it kept creeping in while I was trying to garden,” she said. Her son thought the moss was beautiful and encouraged her to give it a chance to grow. “I started looking at moss in a different way, appreciating it and nurturing it. The rest is history.”

Burnet developed close to an acre of native mosses around her residence, which is named Eden Woods (we’ve written about our staff field trips there on this blog before). She cultivated different “garden rooms” that range from a Spring Pool Garden with moss-covered rocks to a mossy Sunken Garden, Circle Garden and Step Garden with winding trails. The area’s acidic soil (around 5.5 pH), cool shade and humidity are ideal for growing mosses. Available moisture is especially important since moss is a non-systemic plant, meaning it lacks a water-conducting system and conventional roots.

Nature’s bounty of mosses offers varying heights, textures and growth patterns for different applications. Moss can serve as a focal point, create a lush backdrop for other plants and garden ornaments or act as a low-growing ground cover that builds soil and helps to combat erosion. It also adds color and interest where plants typically cannot grow, such as between pavers, in rock crevices and at the base of trees.

Minium medium moss forms a spongy carpet between rocks and pavers. Norie Burnet

Minium medium moss forms a spongy carpet between rocks and pavers. Norie Burnet

Burnet, a former teacher and master gardener who enjoys watercolor painting, considers the moss gardens her palette and inspiration. Sunlight splashes on the mosses in varied ways throughout the day, creating an ever-changing vista in every imaginable shade of green.

Moss is “green” in another way, too, since it is environmentally friendly. Like other plants, moss pulls toxins out of the air, and in the right conditions is a unique alternative to highly cultivated lawns. “Grass needs so many things that fight nature — weed killers and fertilizers that get into our water — but moss has a way of working with nature,” Burnet said. “Working with the environment is a more sane and enjoyable way of gardening.”

Though moss takes time to establish, Burnet claims it is worth the wait.

“Gardens of moss become a sacred place, a cathedral in the woods where people tend to lower their voices,” she said. “It creates a mood of quietness and meditation that is a haven, and it never ceases to amaze me how beautiful it can be, especially after a rain.”

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

By Nicki, Youth Programs Developer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden


Volunteers examining a puff of seeds on the "love-in-a-puff" plant.

Volunteers examining a puff of seeds on the “love-in-a-puff” plant.

love in a puff

As you can see in the picture, matures seeds have a perfect white heart atop a black spherical seed.


Volunteers in the Children’s Garden collect Cardiospermum halicacabum (also known as love-in-a-puff, balloon vine, or heartseed) and package for the Fall Plant Sale (coming up Sept. 19-20). The plant is an annual vine with small green puff balls that can be popped to collect the seeds.

Volunteers &  Cardiospermum halicacabum

Cardiospermum halicacabum (also known as Love in a Puff, Balloon Vine, or Heartseed)

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

BEFORE: colorful flags mark the planting scheme for the new Grass Garden in front of the Conservatory

BEFORE: colorful flags mark the planting scheme for the new Grass Garden in front of the Conservatory

A transformation took place at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden this past Wednesday. We replaced more than 9,000 square feet of traditional turf with 2,000 ornamental grasses. The location of the new Grass Garden in front of the highly visible Conservatory makes a statement. “We want to show how ornamental grass can be used in the landscape, including a formal one,” explains Horticulture Director Grace Chapman. You can read more about the “why’s” of this project in an earlier Garden blogpost  Coming Soon: Ornamental Grass Garden at the Conservatory. There’s definitely a growing interest in alternatives to the traditional lawn, as reported by the Associated Press article Brave New Gardening for Brave New Climates.

AFTER: 2,000 ornamental grasses make up the newly planted Grass Garden.

AFTER: 2,000 ornamental grasses make up the newly planted Grass Garden.

The speed of the installation was a testimony to careful planning, coordination and hard work by numerous staff and volunteers. Visitors on Tuesday afternoon saw hundreds of small flags marking the planting plan. Visitors on Thursday morning saw a beautiful new grass garden. See a photo gallery of the Grass Garden installation on the Richmond Times-Dispatch website.

Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus herterolepis)

Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus herterolepis)

Which ornamental grasses did we choose? As with most gardening initiatives, the project took planning, time and patience. Two years ago we began trialing seven ornamental grasses, taking care to choose non-invasive varieties and those native to the United States. Three were selected, based on criteria including performance and desired color, form and height. They include Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ (also 2014 Perennial Plant of the Year ™), Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus herterolepis) and Pink Muhlygrass (Muhlenbergia capillaris). Sharp eyes will notice there’s a placeholder for a fourth grass in the back of the display.

Pink Muhlygrass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

Pink Muhlygrass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

We’re currently searching for the best non-invasive accent grass in terms of size and availability.

Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’

Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’


Traditional turf certainly has its uses. The idea is to encourage people to think of alternatives that are environmentally friendly, require less maintenance and beautiful. We hope you’ll visit often and find splendor in our ornamental grass.

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