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Kate Pyle, PR & Marketing Intern, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

A Rough Collie and Black Lab enjoying the Garden

Fidos Kassi and Bram ready to go see the lights with their owners.

What could be better than touring Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden during Dominion GardenFest of Lights? I’ll tell you one thing – touring it with your best friend. Better yet, your best canine friend. Between the lights, the beautiful scenery, and new dog friends, GardenFest for Fidos is the perfect opportunity for a tail-wagging good time.

January 8, 2015 the Garden opens its doors to four-legged companions, allowing leashed dogs to walk alongside their owners. The $2 donation suggested pet admission benefits the Richmond SPCA. I was excited that on my first visit to GardenFest, my best friend, Kobe, was going to be at my side. (Whoever said diamonds are a girl’s best friend obviously never had a dog.)

Shiba Inu and owner in front of the Conservatory Holiday Tree

Kobe, my Shiba Inu, being uncooperative in my photo attempt.

GardenFest is truly a sight to see. I started interning here right as staff members and volunteers started to prep for set up, and watched in amazement as everyone worked diligently to transform the Garden into a magical winter wonderland of lights. I wasn’t the only one experiencing GardenFest for the first time — many people I stopped to talk to were first-timers as well.  When you add dogs to the mix, it’s even more fun. The visitors I spoke with were happy to have a social outing they could go on with their dogs.

Friends with their dogs in front of the Fountain decorated with Lights

I stopped Dez & Ally as they arrived

From tiny dogs, to dogs the size of a mini-horse, every canine friend seemed to be smiling from ear-to-ear as they accompanied their owners on a walk. So many exciting things to see and do at dog level! So many  canine friends to greet!

Yellow Lab in front of Fountain with Lights

Scout was happy to momentarily take a break with her owners.

Overall, the general consensus was delight. GardenFest for Fidos is a wonderful opportunity to stretch your legs, and your dog’s, while viewing the beautiful holiday display. From the beautiful tree in the Conservatory, to the zoo animals in lights, there is something for everyone to see. I highly recommend anyone with a furry friend (who enjoys meeting new people and friends) to check out the next GardenFest for Fidos, January 8th, 2015. While GardenFest for Fidos may not be a good fit for dogs that do not do well with unfamiliar people or dogs, it is a great place to bring well-socialized canine friends for an evening out.
If your dog doesn’t have his winter coat yet, remember we also host Fidos After 5 — our summertime dog nights on select Thursdays in June, July and August. The dates are June 11, July 9, August 13, 2015.

Oh, and if you are looking for a holiday gift for Fido, be sure to check out the Garden Shop (don’t miss the pet-themed tree!) or the Richmond SPCA’s Lora Robins Gift Shop (pets are welcome in the store!) At both shops 100 percent of proceeds from purchases benefit our nonprofit  missions.

Didn’t get enough of these beautiful creatures? Here are a few more friends enjoying GardenFest for Fidos:

Alaskan Malamute with Holiday Hat

Kinley, a beautiful Alaskan Malamute, spreading some holiday cheer.

Boxer puppy and French Bulldog at GardenFest

Ruby and Penelope had zero interest in a group picture, there were just so many things to sniff!

Canine friends outside of the Conservatory

Frank, Fergus, and little Pip after touring the Conservatory.


We’d love to see your photos of you and your furry friends enjoying GardenFest for Fidos on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Tag us, or use the hashtag #GardenFest … or here’s more on our Instagram Contest, maybe your dog will become a star like

White shiba inu dog and gray dog

Kira_the_cream_shiba_inu and her friend Frankie. Find Kira at @kira_the_cream_shiba_inu on Instagram



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

gardeners in front of the Conservatory working on mulch ring

Horticulturist Leah Purdy & gardener Chris Brown getting crafty with expanding the mulch bed for the overcup oaks.

On my walk into the office this morning I was having trouble staying warm.  It was only 30 degrees — but for an office-dweller like me, it seemed frigid. My hands were so cold they wouldn’t work properly and I was having trouble taking photos with my phone.   I noticed a buggy piled high with cardboard just ahead. For a minute I though, it’s too cold to even go find out what’s going on over there, but then I reconsidered, thinking about my coworkers who work outside each day, regardless of the heat or cold (and sometimes rain!). Horticulturist Leah Purdy and gardener Chris Brown were working together to expand the mulch rings on the overcup oaks (Quercus lyrata) in the Central Garden, in front of the Conservatory.

It was a neat project and I was marveling at their ingenuity of  using a piece of twine and spray paint to make their work easier — finding a shortcut to create a perfect circle around the tree — using a strand of  twine as the radius and the tree trunk for an anchor (a simple trick you can use at home too!). They were expanding the mulch bed and covering up grass, and didn’t want to have to use chemicals to kill the grass when there’s a better way: cardboard.  They used giant staples to tack the cardboard down to the ground to make it stay in place. For a step-by-step guide to how you could do this at home, just see the photos of Chris and Leah below.

“Try and stay warm you guys,” I said as I walked away.

“It’s not that bad,” said Leah,  “I love this kind of weather!”

Using a string to find the radius from the tree.

Gardener Chris Brown using a shortcut — using a string to find the radius.

chris brown

Spray paint marks the edge of the circle.

complete mulch ring

The completed ring uses giant staples to keep the cardboard in place.

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

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”  ― John Steinbeck

Dried leaf and lights

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

Yellow and Brown Orchid

Oncidiums or dancing lady orchids. Photo by Don Williamson


Phalenopsis orchid. Photo by Don Williamson.

One of our dedicated volunteers, Tom Driscoll, mentioned that one of his favorite parts of volunteering in the Conservatory during Dominion GardenFest of Lights is he gets to spend time around the most wonderful fragrances: orchids! Did you know that many types of orchids only produce fragrance at night because they are moth pollinated? In the Conservatory, the large “corsage” orchids (cattleyas) and the tiny dancing ladies orchids (oncidiums) have the most scent, while most of the very showy sprays (dendrobiums and phalenopsis) have very little, if any.

Oncidium 'Sharry Baby'

Oncidium ‘Sharry Baby’ — Driscoll nicknamed this one the ‘chocolate’ orchid.

Here are some tips if you want to plan your GardenFest visit around the smelling of blooms:  The fragrance is strongest just after dark then fades later in the evening.

Twin lavender and purple cattleyas

These cattleya orchids are most fragrant at night. photo by Don Williamson.

The fragrance is strongest right after a blossom opens, and the smell fades as it ages, but can remain strong for days. Driscoll continues, “Of the two sprays of blossoms on the “chocolate” orchid, the lower, fresher one was much stronger last night than the higher, older one. Similarly, some of the large corsage orchids with the spicy and musky scents have faded in scent considerably over the last couple of weeks, but newer ones with softer floral fragrances had opened last night and were very fragrant and it has a delightful, soft scent.”

Driscoll explains at night the room has an entirely different smell and ambiance than during the day. “Last Monday evening when I volunteered there, we sniffed chocolate to hints of spice, musk, and delicate, fresh floral scents. Looking forward to what my nose and eyes find there on my next shift.”

Rhyncholaeliocattleya George King 'Serendipity'

Rhyncholaeliocattleya George King ‘Serendipity’

Rhyncholaeliocattleya S. M. Damon

Rhyncholaeliocattleya S. M. Damon


Happy Holidays to you and your family from the staff of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

A Night at Lewis Ginter from Tijo Media on Vimeo.

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

Dominion GardenFest of Lights in orange, trees and lake.

The Lotus Bridge from viewed from the North End of Lake Sydnor. Photo by visitor Harlow Chandler


Dominion GardenFest of Lights reopens today after our holiday break. I thought it this might be a good chance to remind you that if you come back to GardenFest for more than visit even in the same year you are likely to see something different that you didn’t see the first time.  Take this photo by visitor Harlow Chandler for example. I had never seen this view of the lake at GardenFest before. I’ve walked through the show more than a handful of times, and yet I had no idea that if you view the lights from this angle — the North End of Lake Sydnor — they all have an orange glow to them.  That’s one reason I love looking at all the photos that come in via our Instagram contest.  Sometimes folks visit GardenFest and they don’t realize how much there is to see.  We don’t want you to miss anything! To get the full experience of the show, you need to make sure you see both the indoor exhibits and the outdoor displays. Indoors, in the Conservatory, don’t miss the night-blooming (and fragrant) orchids, the storybook display in the West Wing,  the shooting star hydrangea tree in the Round House,  the Conservatory Tree,  and train and Richmond landmarks in miniature in the North Wing. In the Kelly Education Center you don’t want to miss the trains,  and all the exhibits in the Lora Robins Library, including doll houses, cycling history exhibits, decorations and the lovely tree that is a tribute to the Garden’s 30th Anniversary. I’m sure there something I’m missing! Feel free to add it to the comments. See what I mean? There’s so much to see.

Sycatmore tree at night with lights at Dominion GardenFest of Lights.

Sycamore tree at Dominion GardenFest of Lights. Photo by Harlow Chandler.

Key features you don’t want to miss outdoors are also nearly too many to list.  You can always get a GardenFest Map, available digitally or at the Admissions Desk in the Visitor Center and use it as a check list — unless you consider that cheating. Here are a few of my favorites: Climbing the CWD Kids Tree house to see the view from the top (don’t worry, it’s not really a climbing thing, it’s accessible to all) is worth it every time. And you must find the peacock, see the John Meola bike tree sculpture, and race your friends and family in the light maze.  Never again may you get to see lighted bicycles hanging from a ginkgo tree, so don’t miss a that one! Plus there are new features like walking all the way around Lake Sydnor on the Cherry Tree Walk. Also, don’t miss the Man in the Moon photo op for wacky photos of your family and friends. I know a few people who would say kissing in the Grace Arents Garden gazebo or in front of the Conservatory Tree is their tradition. I think I need to ask the volunteers up there how many times they take photos of people kissing in front of that tree! What’s on your list of what not to miss at GardenFest?


The Conservatory at night during Dominion GardenFest of Lights.

The view from the Four Seasons Garden features the frog fountain with lights instead of water. Photo by Don Williamson.

Please remember Dominion GardenFest of Lights closed on Christmas Day, December 25, 2014. We will reopen on December 26th and hope to see you then.


We just had to share this Todd Feldman photo of a perfectly reflected CWD Kids Tree House during Dominion GardenFest of Lights. It’s like a fairy tale come true!
Please visit us on Dec. 26th. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and GardenFest of Lights is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, December 24-25, 2014.

Todd Feldman photo

by Megan Compton, Adult Education Assistant,  Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden  

Original Victorian die-cut ornament with angels

This scrap ornament was one of the three purchased on our honeymoon.

As member of the staff at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, it has been so exciting to see what happens behind the scenes during preparations for Dominion’s GardenFest of Lights.  Each year, I look forward to hearing about the next theme and what Garden staff members are planning.  Last January, I learned that the 2014 theme, A Legacy in Lights: 120 Years from Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden, was going to incorporate Victorian holiday décor.  I was thrilled, since my husband and I have collected Victorian Christmas ornaments over the past 13 years.

It started on our honeymoon… my husband and I have a mutual interest in the Victorian era and Victorian antiques and décor, which is why we decided to honeymoon in Cape May, New Jersey.  While browsing in an antique shop during our stay, we came across three original Victorian scrap or die-cut and tinsel ornaments. We had never seen anything like them before. They were beautiful and very unique.  Thankfully, they were also inexpensive, and we were able to purchase them as a keepsake from our trip.

Victorian die-cut scrap and tinsel ornaments

A few of our favorite Victorian die-cut scrap and tinsel ornaments. Since they were handcrafted, each one is unique.

Following that first purchase, we became very interested in learning more about Victorian scrap ornaments and we have added to our collection. Scrap ornaments, like the ones we purchased were usually hand-crafted by Victorian ladies and/or children.  The ornaments were composed of a color image on embossed paper which was produced using the chromolithograph color printing process.  To produce a chromolithograph, each color was applied separately and dried before the next layer was applied.  The process allowed up to twenty different colors to be produced, which had not previously been possible.  Images were produced in sheets, which were then coated with gelatin and gum, embossed, and cut out using steel cutters (hence the name die-cut).  In the late 1800s, die-cuts could be purchased in sheets connected with tabs or were sometimes cut out of Christmas postcards, magazines, or other printed materials.  Both secular and religious topics were popular, including St. Nicholas or Santa Claus, children, angels, cherubs, gift-giving, and flowers.  Ladies magazines of the day included directions for ornament making.  To create the ornaments, women or children would embellish the die cuts with wire tinsel, spun glass, colored cellophane, crepe paper, cotton batting, and/or “Dresdens” (embossed metallic paper shapes from Germany).  In addition to the paper ornaments, Victorians also used scraps, tinsel, and crinkle wire to embellish blown glass “kugel” ornaments.

Blown glass Victorian ornament

Blown glass Victorian ornament with die-cut scrap and crinkle wire

Scrap ornaments have become highly collectible and reproductions are common. When looking to purchase original scrap ornaments, it is good to know that reproduction scraps are made by off-set printing and are not chromolithographs.  They are usually less rich in color and printed on much thinner paper.  Reproduction tinsel will also be much shinier than the original.  There are, however, some online companies today that craft reproduction Victorian ornaments from original materials.  These are quite beautiful, but also usually rather expensive.  Original Victorian ornaments can be found for a wide variety of prices, depending on the rarity of subject matter, amount of embellishment, and condition.

Vintage die-cut scrap sheets

Vintage die-cut scrap sheets, still connected with the original tabs. Evident is the embossing and depth of color not present in reproductions.

My husband and I have continued to collect vintage Victorian scrap ornaments, original die-cut scraps, vintage postcards and old bits of tinsel to use in crafting our own ornaments.  It  has been wonderful to be able to share my interest in Victorian Christmas ornaments with the Garden, and exciting to see how the Victorian-style decorations were incorporated into this year’s interior décor.  Garden volunteers used metallic pipe cleaners to mimic Victorian tinsel when creating the cigarette trading card scrap-style ornaments for the Conservatory Tree in the North Wing. Also, the gorgeous decorations created by horticulturist, George Cowart, and his volunteers in the Robins Room include copies of original Victorian chromolithograph holiday postcards that my husband and I have collected over the years.

Trading Cards embellished with metallic pipe cleaners on the Conservatory's North Wing Tree.  Copies of authentic vintage Victorian postcards in the Robins Room.

Allen and Ginter cigarette trading cards embellished with metallic pipe cleaners on the Conservatory’s North Wing Tree were created in the style of Victorian scrap ornaments. Copies of authentic vintage Victorian postcards were used to decorate the Robins Room in the Visitor’s Center.

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

Chamaecyparis obtusa bark

Chamaecyparis obtusa bark.

This time of year you have to look a little bit harder to find the beauty of nature especially on cold rainy days like today. This morning I found a subtle rainbow of colors in the bark of the Chamaecyparis obtusa. The red and green leaves of the oakleaf hydrangea were made even more interesting in contrast to the gray weather.  Winter woodland textures provided a nice vista anchored by the Lace House.


Chamaecyparis obtusa conifer tree

Interesting bark and trunk form of the Chamaecyparis obtusa.

Hydrangea quercifolia or  Oakleaf Hydrangea

Beautiful red and green leaves of the Hydrangea quercifolia or oakleaf hydrangea.

The Lace House  white gazebo building and forest

Winter woodland textures and the Lace House.

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