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

The Conservatory, photo by Sarah Hauser

The Conservatory, photo by Sarah Hauser

Richmond is known for its tacky lights. We’re also known for our classy lights too. Here’s a roundup of the top illumination events in Richmond this holiday season. If you really love the holidays, you’ll want attend them all! Mark your calendar, these are just around the corner. And if you don’t get enough lights at the  illumination events, remember Dominion GardenFest of Lights continues nightly 5 p.m. – 10 p.m., November 28, 2014 through January 12, 2015 (closed Dec. 24 & 25) — perfect for a holiday lights double date, or a family night out with the kids.

 Mike Steidley, a 12-time National Champion

Mike Steidley, a 12-time national champion and professional trials, freeride, and stunt rider

Dominion GardenFest of Lights Illumination, Friday, November 28, 2014: Opening night, the GardenFest Illumination is always chock full of excitement and entertainment.  This year opening night features Mike Steidley, a 12-time national champion and professional trials, freeride, and stunt rider for an action packed mountain bike stunt show! Also, the GardenKeeper, Butterfly Fairy and historic characters from the Garden’s past will be here to entertain you. Doors open at 4 p.m., Illumination ceremony at 5:30 p.m.  The opening night is a popular event, so you may want to arrive early and enjoy the Garden and displays prior to the evening activities. Everyone is invited to assemble on the Terrace Lawn in front of the Rose Garden at 5 p.m. to enjoy the stunt show and help count down to the Illumination. At 5:30 p.m. The Garden Keeper, Butterfly Fairy and a representative from NBC12 will flip the giant light switch and the Garden will be illuminated. From 6 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. Mike Steidley will perform an encore mountain bike stunt show in the Rose Garden followed by an autograph signing. Then stroll the Garden and enjoy the bike-studded Dominion GardenFest of Lights on your own. Our theme this year is A Legacy in Lights: 120 Years from Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden.    

Also, how could I NOT mention that EnergyCycleRVA will have children and adult bikes in the Azalea Room, located in the Kelly Education Center, powering our unicorn light figure! You will be able to power this 100+ strand, 9-foot tall unicorn by simply riding a bike. Fun Fact:   The Children’s Maze, relocated to the Anderson Meadow, is now 50 percent larger for even more good times.  Fun Tip: A man-in-the-moon backdrop beckons you for a one-of-a-kind photo op!

jefferson holidayThe Jefferson Hotel Grand Illumination, Monday, December 1, 2014: Always a hit with kids, and a family tradition for many, the Jefferson Hotel hosts Richmond’s biggest holiday fans for the lighting of their holiday tree. Live music starts at 5:30 p.m. and the lighting of the tree is at at 6 p.m. Also, don’t miss the parade of characters from Richmond Ballet’s Nutcracker, sing-alongs, and complimentary refreshments (traditionally hot cider, hot chocolate and homemade cookies) in the Empire Room.  Note, decorations stay up ’til January 5, 2015, so if you miss the Grand Illumination, you still have plenty of time to see them.  Tip: Don’t miss Music at Midday featuring musical talent from  local high schools in the Jefferson’s Palm Court and Rotunda during lunch hour.  Fun Fact: Did you know that Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s own Visitor Services Associate, Mabel Brock, also performs at this event each year with her spirit group CHEER!?

The James Center 30th Annual Grand Illumination, Friday, December 5, 2014: Richmonders gather to see their city skyline illuminated at the James Center, between 9th-12th and Cary Streets. The music and activities line-up is yet to be announced, but be sure to get their early, they flip the switch right at 6 p.m., entertainment continues until 7 p.m.

James River Parade of Lights, Saturday, December 13, 2014: Each year, boaters decorate their vessels and take to the river at dusk in a dazzling spectacle of lights. The James River Parade of Lights, which is sponsored by the James River Advisory Council, is one of the region’s most cherished holiday events. Spectators line the shorelines at several official viewing sites to take in the parade and other festive entertainment. The parade begins in Richmond, just below the fall line, and the boats cruise through Henrico and Chesterfield counties to the Varina-Enon Bridge. Time of the Parade: Boats gather at 5:45 p.m. (6 p.m. countdown for illumination). The parade lasts until about 8:30 p.m. Viewing sites (free admission): Libby Hill Park and Dock Street in the City of Richmond, Osborne Park and Boat Landing in Henrico County, Henricus Historical Park and Dutch Gap Boat Landing in Chesterfield County.   Number of viewers expected: 6,000-8,000.

Fun Fact:  In 1989, Harvey Price, then the dock master at Kingsland Reach Marina in Henrico County, decided to decorate his boat and cruise the James. Many other boaters laughed at him, but when they saw how much fun Mr. Price was having and how much people along the river appreciated his efforts, they decided to join him. In 1992, the James River Advisory Council (then called the James River Task Force) approached the boaters with the idea that the parade could be a yearly holiday event, and the official James River Parade of Lights was born.

  For more Fun Facts visit the James River Parade of Lights Fact Sheet.



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

Justin Davey Trees volunteer time to help with bike installation in ginkgo

Davey Trees volunteered to help with the bike installation in our ginkgo tree.

The Davey Tree Expert Company, Inc.  volunteered their time to help us install bikes in our ginkgo tree in front of historic Bloemendaal House last week. The bikes are wrapped in lights and will be an exciting surprise for our Dominion GardenFest of Lights visitors. We couldn’t have done it without you Davey! Thank you. Here’s a photo from Justin Brown, GardenFest Coordinator,  who helped design this year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights theme: A Legacy in Lights: 120 Years from Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden.  Davey Trees’ support of the Garden extends beyond climbing trees. This past October the Davey Tree Expert Company sponsored the “Every Tree Tells a Story” exhibition in Ginter Gallery II as well as the Gillette Forum.

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

The ginkgo wheel from the ground level.

The ginkgo wheel from the ground level.

We’ve been having fun at the Garden this week. Maybe a little too much fun!

There are bikes hanging in trees, bike sculptures on their way, bikes in garlands and on holiday trees. There’s even a miniature version of historic Richmond landmarks made out of botanicals in the train display in the Conservatory. (That’s a whole different blog post — stay tuned!)  You can add to that — a giant yellow bike wheel on the ground  made from leaves from the ginkgo tree. If it had to guess, I’d say it’s 50 yards across. It’s that big!

bike wheel  of leaves

The view of the ephemeral art from the roof of Bloemendaal House.

Earlier this year we wrote about how Director of Horticulture Grace Chapman had challenged the horticulture team here to ‘play’ in their gardens and create something magical, even if it was only temporary. Senior horticulturist Elizabeth Fogel  took it to heart and today took it to a whole new level incorporating yellow ginkgo leaves into bike wheel design. With all the bikes in the ginkgo tree it seems fitting! If you want to see it, come soon, it will be here as long as nature allows.

The ginkgo and historic Bloemendaal House.

Bikes in trees and bike wheels out of leaves!

Bloemendaal house and ginkgo

It’s really hard to capture the beauty of this art in a photo. Come see it and you’ll know what I’m talking about.


Our executive director Shane Tippett asked the Bloemendaal House roofers to take a photo for us. They were happy to help!

The Conservatory with bikes and lights

This year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights theme has a bike focus.

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

As you may have heard, the theme for this year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights  is all about bikes — a nod to the Garden’s history as the hub of Richmond cycling in the late 1800s. But we also choose the bike theme to share our excitement about  next year’s UCI World Road Cycling Championship Richmond 2015.

A sneak peek at GardenFest 2014 -- the Asian Valley

A sneak peek at GardenFest 2014 — the Asian Valley

A Legacy in Lights: 120 Years from Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden celebrates the Garden’s 30th Anniversary and allows visitors to take a tour through time – via bicycle!  Wondering what’s new this year at Dominion GardenFest of Lights …and where will you find the bikes? Keep reading…..

flower lights

Recycled plastic bottles made into bottle flower lights.

This year’s theme allows us to remember and celebrate Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s history and  origin as the social center of cycling in Richmond.  The Lakeside Wheel Club, currently known as Historic Bloemendaal House was at the nexus of cycling in Richmond during its early years.  During the show, you might even see a lighted bicycle roving through the Garden!

 Here are a few highlights from the show. You will find bikes and bike-themed decoration throughout the Garden including:

A new pyramid-shaped sculpture crafted out of bike parts, on display in the Rose Garden, crafted by Richmond artist John Meola 

bikes in ginkgo tree

Hey, how did they get up there?!

A Bike Tree! We’ve dangled lighted bikes from the Gingko tree in the Grace Arents Garden in front of Bloemendaal House.  What an experience to look up and see all those bikes — I can’t wait to see them lit up at night, this photo just doesn’t do it justice.

The Central Garden Arbor tunnel will turn into an extravaganza of light and sound.  Lighted wheels will fill the sky overhead in the tunnel. Hundreds of lights will surround you as you walk through, ring bike bells and and toot a few horns.

Outside the Kelly Education Center: Bike Reindeer — look for these handsome buck designed by the Garden’s own Leah Purdy. Located above the Lora Robins Library entrance in the Kelly Education Center.


setting up reindeer bikes on the Kelly Education Center.

Horticulturist Leah Purdy & gardener Chris Brown setting up reindeer bikes on the Kelly Education Center.


The Conservatory:  Classic 40’s bikes and other collectibles on display in the Conservatory among the blooms. Featuring a 1941 Colombia Superb Cruiser bicycle.

The Lora Robins Library: See the “From Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden” exhibit featuring a bicycle just like the ones that would have been ridden to the Lakeside Wheel Club — an 1895 Victor men’s bike built by the Overman Wheel Co.  Visit Ginter Gallery II in the Kelly Education Center hallway for a additional features exploring the Garden’s history from 1895–2014, uses various lenses: what was happening on this site, in bicycle history, in Henrico County and Richmond, and in holiday celebrations.

bike themed garland

You’ll find bikes everywhere — including on the garlands in the Kelly Education Center.


The Main Garden Path: Illuminated bikes will light your way in the night.

New this year at GardenFest: Walk all the way around Lake Sydnor on the new Cherry Tree Walk!

Also, we have a NEW location for the bonfire, and a NEW 50 percent-larger maze — Look for the kid’s maze at the base of the Anderson Meadow just past the Rose Garden.

Other highlights of this year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights show:

Railroad Exhibit, Conservatory, North Wing

With exquisite handcrafted detail, a snow-dusted city in miniature
features historic Richmond landmarks—such as Old City Hall, c. 1894;

The Jefferson hotel and Lakeside Wheel Club, c. 1895; and Main Street

Station, c. 1901—while late-19th-century trolley cars and G gauge toy
trains travel to and fro.

Holiday Tree, Conservatory, North Wing

The Lewis Ginter Tree, a 20-foot majestic display, is creatively

decorated with lions and lace, tigers and bears, bicycles and trains—even

alligators!—symbolizing the many ways our namesake, Lewis Ginter, made his mark on Richmond.

 Woodland Wonders, Conservatory, Cottage Wing

Uncover a secret, magical side of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden filled with frolicking fairies, temperamental trolls,

and mischievous dragonflies in an original children’s story brought to life! Authored and illustrated by volunteer

 Railroad Exhibit, Kelly Education Center, Classroom 2

Interactive model trains remain a holiday favorite for all ages! Check

out the new setting for the S and O gauge toy trains, manufactured

from 1920 to present. Special thanks to the Virginia Train Collectors.

 Dollhouses, Victorian Tree, & Garden’s Pictorial History

topping the conservatory historical photo

Remember this?! Historical photos will be featured on a holiday tree in the Lora Robins Library.

Kelly Education Center, Lora M. Robins Library

Warm by the fire, peruse fascinating dollhouses, and view a 14-foot

tree adorned with Victorian-style decorations and historic photographs depicting friends of the Garden, past to present. Also enjoy stories about the historic Lakeside Wheel Club.

Holiday Trees, Kelly Education Center, Corridor

Ornaments crafted by local schoolchildren reflect turn-of-the-century

inventions, bicycles, moons, and stars. A collaboration with Henrico County Public Schools art educators.


Also, don’t miss this year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights Illumination with 12-time National Champion Mike Steidley will perform two sets of action-packed tricks and stunts in the Rose Garden.  Plus EnergyCycleRVA will have children and adult bikes in the Azalea Room, located in the Kelly Education Center, powering our unicorn light figure! You will be able to power this 100+ strand, 9-foot tall unicorn by simply riding a bike. unicorn don williamson

by Randee Humphrey, Director of Education, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Daffodil --  Photo by Tyler Darden.

The Low Line will include many plantings including trees, ferns, grasses, vines, perennials and thousands of daffodils. Photo by Tyler Darden.

Join us at the Garden this coming Wednesday evening (November 19, from 5 – 7 pm.), when Beautiful RVA (the Garden’s community engagement initiative) brings you the low down on the Low Line.  The visionary folks from Capital Trees (Jeanette McKittrick, Meg Turner, Susan Robertson), joined by Keith Whipple from Waterstreet Studio and City of Richmond Planning Director Mark Olinger, will present an overview of this latest public-private urban landscape project, a prominent section of which they hope to complete in time for the UCI Road World Championships next September.  By creating a linear park along a critically important but neglected stretch of the Kanawha Canal and Virginia Capital Trail, the team envisions a “waterfront refuge for people and plants,” in the spirit of New York City’s tremendously successful High Line.

There will be a snazzy media presentation with commentary from team members, and an open period for a “process” discussion.  There is much to be learned from the behind-the-scenes collaborative work of all involved on this ambitious project!  So come join us—these meetings always attract civic-minded, can-do folks who see urban greening efforts as ways of building economic vitality and an improved quality of life for Richmonders.  Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Robins Room, Robins Visitors Center, 5-7 p.m.  Drop a note to randeeh [at] lewisginter.org if you plan to come.  Not able to attend, but want to learn more about the Low Line?  Contact information[at] capitaltrees.org or Jeanette McKittrick, Jeanette [at] capitaltrees.org

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

Radhika Patel

Radhika Patel watering the cabbages.

Earlier this fall I ran into three young people just ending their shift at the Community Kitchen Garden.  They were younger than our typical Community Kitchen Garden volunteers and I immediately noticed them because they were all wearing VCU  shirts, my alma mater. Typically, we see alot of individuals volunteer in the CKG, and we see lots of larger corporate groups too. But this threesome seemed different.  I could tell they were tight-knit, focused, and their sense of ownership of the place told me they were regular volunteers.  I could sense a feeling from them — a sort of glow, passion, combined with hard work, and sense of purpose. It reminded me of the feeling you get after a really good run added together with the extraordinary feeling of knowing you are doing something great to help others.  And now I was curious to learn who these young adults were.

Radhika Patel, Gaurav Gupta, and Sam Salmassi are pre-med students earning their degree in biology. They are part of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Service-Learning program – part of which includes working volunteering weeding, planting, harvesting and watering the vegetables in the Community Kitchen Garden growing food for non-profit FeedMore, serving Central Virginia’s neediest citizens. I have to admit, I was a little surprised at first that pre-med students would be interested in gardening, or even have time for it.

Sam Salmassi

L Sam Salmassi watering in the Community Kitchen Garden behind the Conservatory.

Student Sam Salmassi explains how he became interested, “I originally took the class Bio 217 Principles of Nutrition with professor Jill Reid. She was all about organic farming and that’s driven me towards this (service-learning) class working in the Community Kitchen Garden….Everything we’ve done here has been new to me. Originally, I knew nothing about planting or gardening.” But now they know so much.

Students in “Insects & Plants Service-Learning,” taught by Karen M. Kester, Ph.D.work with a community partner (Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Shalom Farms or Maymont) and on an ongoing class project, “The Bug Garden”  at James River Park, for 40 hours during the semester. In addition, they learn to diagnose and control insect pests encountered in their work using sustainable methods and as a final project, design a vegetable garden with companion plantings.

“When they encounter an insect pest problem the students pull together to research and diagnose the problem and and organic solution,” Kester says.  The final project for the service-learning students here  in the Community Kitchen Garden is to design next year’s demonstration garden — the garden you see in the photos to the left. The focus of that design will be using companion plantings to discourage insect pests and using other best practices like crop rotation to discourage harmful insects.

Lynn Pelco, Ph.D., Associate Vice Provost for Community Engagement and Acting Director of VCU ASPiRE, really helped me see the importance of this program in making a difference when she explained, “Service-learning is different from volunteering in that the students in service-learning classes are connecting the academic content of their course to the learning they gain from doing a service project in the community.  At VCU service-learning classes require students to complete a minimum of 20 hours of service during the semester and to reflect on the  connections between their service project and the academic content of the class.”

“When we started working here (back in early September) the plants were really small. I like seeing them grow,” says  Radhika Patel. It’s obvious to me that the plants aren’t the only thing here flourishing and thriving. There’s just something about the  way these students talk that inspires me and makes me happy. Something that makes me want to give back to the community too.

Salmassi says, “I like it because you are not cooped up in a classroom. You don’t get this kind of experience anywhere else. The work really exhausts you, but in a good way. This is learning by doing.”   But the three of them agree, most of all it’s  the giving back that is the biggest reward.  They enjoy going to drop off the produce at Feedmore with CKG horticulturist Laura Schumm, they weigh the produce and see the kitchen where it will be cooked into meals for home-bound seniors through Meals on Wheels, and worked into kid-friendly lunches and snacks for Kids Cafe.

 Student Gaurau Gupta watering in the Community Kitchen Garden

Gaurav Gupta watering the lettuce in the Community Kitchen Garden.

They take pride and ownership over the Community Kitchen Garden now. Gaurav Gupta says “Weeding is very satisfying — honestly I have no idea why I like it. But it’s doing it your way ….it almost becomes your home here, something you nurture and take care of. One day I took an extra 20 minutes and weeded all the (wild) mushrooms.” Gupta explains that while his father used to always ask for help in the garden back home, he had no interest. But now, he’s discovered he loves gardening and will be helping out back home in Ashburn, Va when he visits.  Gupta says he enjoys it so much that he’d like continue volunteering in the Community Kitchen Garden after he graduates.

“Being pre-med, it’s ‘Go! Go! Go!’ — the pace of life is accelerated.  But here you gain perspective in a sense. ….Here at the Community Kitchen Garden, It’s the pace life should be,”  Salmassi says.

And, well, everyone likes to harvest.  “Pulling the carrots was so fun! It was like a surprise when you pull them out of the ground,” Patel says.

As part of the Service-Learning Program at VCU, students have to write a reflection at the end of the semester.  Stay tuned, we hope to share some of those here on the blog later this winter. If you’d like to learn more about Service-Learning at VCU, here’s a video that explains other ways VCU Service-Learning Students are engaged and helping communities in Richmond. 

Text & photos by Judy Thomas, Garden Volunteer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Alice Tangerini teaching.

Alice Tangerini teaching.

There are many delights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: the stunning flowers, landscape plants, trees; the jewel-like tropical plants in the Conservatory and; the many educational programs the garden offers. The most profound delight for me in the years I have visited the garden as a Member has been the ‘Art in the Garden’ and ‘Botanical Illustration’ classes I have taken.
I hold a certificate in Botanical Illustration from the Garden, starting from my first class in 2006. I have found the teachers to be inspirational and motivating. The Garden, from time to time, offers master classes, taught by an acknowledged, national expert. This past weekend, I was honored to take a Pen and Ink Workshop masters class with Alice Tangerini. Alice is a staff illustrator at the Department of Botany at the Smithsonian Institution (and a VCU graduate!).

Student's work

Botanical Illustrations of the Burr oak.

Despite having taken a scientific illustration course before, I was feeling a little intimidated by the class. However, Alice put us at ease. She is an excellent teacher and worked with us through the process of creating a pen and ink “plate” (used in publication) of our specimen, the bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa). This oak has unusual stems and the acorn caps are sort of, well, hairy.

 student working

A student working in class.

Alice often works from pressed plants, called herbarium specimens, which are  flattened and dried, so our first step was to photocopy the leaves and branch. Then Alice worked with us as we traced the various parts of the plant (some tracings done under a microscope were provided for us), cutting and taping them on Bristol board as we created a pleasing composition that included all the required parts. Alice helped us to draw the plant with accuracy, and showed us the conventions and methods used in scientific illustration. She gave many demonstrations so we could all see how the work was done.

The three-day class was challenging, but we were all able to make good progress toward finishing our compositions! There was no need to feel intimidated after all.


class photo cropped

Students in Alice Tangerini’s class in front of the Conservatory.

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

Did you know Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is a Sports Backers-certified Active RVA Garden? Our new map shows walking loops with distances marked so you can get your workout in while you enjoy the fall foliage and blooms. Want to learn more about how we are helping our visitors & members stay active? Visit our website: http://bit.ly/FitGarden

What’s your favorite Garden walking loop at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden?

Garden map with walking loops marked out

Click for a full-sized version of the walking map.

Woman's cycling costume inspired by 1890s Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Cycling from the past to the future, Garden volunteer Sherry Giese wears an 1890s-inspired woman’s bicycling costume and wheels a vintage bicycle from the same era. The costume was sewn from a historical pattern by Garden volunteers Mariette Norbom and Betty Woo.

by Shane Tippett, Executive Director, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden  
120 years ago, Richmond was swept up in a national “bicycle craze.” The popularity of cycling soared with the arrival of safe, affordable bicycles, available to all ages and genders. The fervor of the times prompted changes in the activities of women and their fashions, spurred communities to pave local roads and birthed hundreds of cycling, or wheel, clubs. If not the first, certainly the finest Richmond structure housing a cycling club at the time was the Lakeside Wheel Club building. It was located on the west shore of the lake at the heart of businessman and philanthropist Lewis Ginter’s Lakeside Park, just north of his eponymous suburb.
30 years ago, Lewis Ginter’s eponymous botanical garden was founded. This gift to the community was provided by the bequest of Ginter’s devoted niece Grace Arents, another noted Richmond philanthropist. The structure housing the former Lakeside Wheel Club was still here, but greatly transformed. A second floor was added for an infants’ convalescent hospital about the time of the First World War. Renamed “Bloemendaal” (Dutch for “Valley of Flowers”), the house became a private residence for decades, then a workspace for City of Richmond staff working on site. We now hold special events in Bloemendaal House and use it as a workspace, as well.
In 2015, Richmond again will be swept up in an international bicycle craze, as the UCI Road World Championships come to town in September. Some things will be the same as in the 1890s: the city is working hard on plans for improvements to local roads to accommodate competitors. We shall embrace the “craze,” making all our global visitors feel welcome, with extended evening hours at the Garden during the entire event. Some things will be different: cycling clubs are not so common. As a consequence, the Wheel Club, always at the heart of our Garden, has been rising up in our thinking about this anniversary year. That history is woven through this year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights: “A Legacy in Lights,” 120 years from Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden. Some things will be radically different from over a century ago, when women fought bias to enjoy outdoor activities and wear suitable clothing for their activities. Of the Garden’s nearly 90 employees and 600 volunteers, three in four are dedicated women. Whatever today’s fashion statement for active women, we are proud that it begins with a Garden name badge.


Anais Nin Quote and rose

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