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by Lynn Jackson Kirk, Public Relations Writer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden,  reprinted with permission from the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Mom and daughter learning in the Children's Garden at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

Healthy food and gardening with family remain foremost among 2015 garden trends. Teaching children to Garden is one way you can educate them about healthy food and engage them in learning. Photo by Scott Elmquist.


What does 2015 hold for gardening and outdoor living?

Health and well-being will remain top priorities. No longer is the veggie patch a half-hearted hobby or merely an attractive backyard addition. More and more adults are returning to their roots, passionately committed to nourishing their family with nutritious produce that is organically and locally grown. They aren’t afraid to experiment with fruit and vegetable varieties that support sustainable lifestyles.

Working with — not against — the environment is important, as is knowledge about which plants and trees attract pollinators, filter the air and absorb carbon emissions. Planting and weeding are not viewed as chores, they are hands-on experiences that teach the next generation about environmental respect. They also are opportunities for families to spend quality, stress-free time outdoors, away from digital demands (assuming the devices are left indoors).
New consumer segments are influencing retail trends. Young men are among the top spenders in today’s garden industry.

Yellow black-eyed-susan flowers

Photo by Don Williamson

According to Garden Media’s “2015 Garden Trends Report,” young men in the U.S. spend $100 more than average on garden plants and products. Mirroring America’s demographic shift, there is similar growth among Hispanics who take pride in growing vegetables for their family and friends.
Meanwhile, as boomers age, retailers are turning attention to millennials. Sixty-two percent of millennials  spend more time outdoors, and 85 percent rate outdoor rooms as “very important” or “important,” according to the “2015 Casual Living and Apartment Therapy Outdoor Decorating Survey.”
Armed with this consumer research, retailers are marketing ready-made, ready-to-display containers of plants as decoratives for patios and decks. Innovative products and services also support backyard transformations for enviable “garden-tainment.”
Personality extends outdoors. No longer are decorating styles relegated to indoor spaces. Those who prefer contemporary designs will enjoy 2015’s flamboyant color combinations, such as bubblegum pinks juxtaposed with bold teals. Conversely, vintage and traditional decorators will find solace in classic palettes, including natural, rustic and muted hues. In general, gardeners and crafters will continue to actively share inspirations through social media forums. They’ll also creatively incorporate found objects and repurposed items in both inside and outside designs.
Busy lives and smaller spaces will influence plant preferences. With marked decreases in free time and living spaces, people are seeking easy-to-grow, easy-to-control plants. The increasing availability of compact plants works well with apartment and townhouse balconies, while container plants and portable gardens provide sensible options for renters preferring mobility over home ownership.
No-fuss plants are super popular, such as native plants outdoors and succulents and cacti indoors.
Likewise, today’s “ultimate” yard is low-maintenance: no sod, manicured shrubs, chemicals or in-ground irrigation system. Rather, it’s an unstructured habitat where nature rules. Settings are left natural, wildflowers are self-sustained, and woodscapes are appreciated. Perhaps most importantly, wildlife is welcomed and families are nurtured.

bee on bloom

Bees are important pollinators. Photo by Brad Alston.

Editor’s Note: This article first published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, in January 2015.

by Phyllis Laslett, Adult Education Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden 

Hot pink botanical print

This is a linoblock piece printed on fabric — wouldn’t it make a great t-shirt? In linoleum block printing, the block you carve has a sheet of linoleum glued to the top.  This can be easier to carve, and it’s certainly easier to make curved lines!  Again, you’ll find that the shapes of the plants you are drawing will suggest playful patterns. In the print below, Johnston created a negative image so that the design is created by the removed parts.

Back in the mists of time, I was an art major in college and rummaged around in a number of different techniques.  So I was delighted when long time instructor Celeste Johnston proposed a series of workshops using simple print-making techniques that don’t require lots of equipment or a big press, remembering how much fun it was to try out different media.   I remember the techniques Johnston proposed as fairly quick and easy to execute, with a lot of leeway for creativity.  Two of the techniques, wood and linoleum block printing, result in carved images that you can use over and over again, varying the medium you print on (cloth, paper, or even leaves!) and the color.  The other two, mono and solar printing, create one-of-a-kind images with a unique look and texture.

Wood block printing is an old technique:  illustrations in the earliest printed books were wood blocks, including the elaborate Gerard’s Herbal, an elaborate Renaissance-era medicinal plant compendium.  In wood block printing, you (carefully) carve a design into the wood block surface using a sharp wooden-handled tool.  I recall that the wood gives you a lot of texture on its own, before you start carving.  The tricky part is that you’re removing the parts you don’t want to print–a little like drawing in a mirror.  Too, the grain of the wood becomes part of your image, with great results!  You roll ink over the raised parts that remain, and press onto a sheet of paper, or fabric, or whatever you like.  The blocks can be wiped and reused over and over again.  Johnston used an ear of corn as her subject for the print below — I love how the silhouette of the ear and husks forms an interesting pattern.

Celeste Johnston made these prints from the same wood block.

Celeste Johnston made these prints from the same wood block.



In another direction, mono prints are created by arranging different elements on a surface that may or may not have permanent elements, such as a wood block.  These result in one-of-a-kind images and lend themselves to all kinds of creative variations.

Mono print uses a block print image with free-drawn additions of ink

Johnston’s mono print uses a block print image with free-drawn additions of ink


Finally — and appropriately, considering plants use the sun for photosynthesis — solar printing  uses what is essentially a blueprint process to create one-of-a-kind monochromatic prints.  Plants and other materials are arranged on treated paper, and exposed to sunlight to create a new image.  You can vary the exposure times to get layers of color.  No tools, except sunlight, are required!

plants and a butterfly form to create this image.

Johnston arranged plants and a butterfly form to create this image. She could have rearranged the elements and made a completely different print on another sheet.

For those who enjoy botanical art but talent lies more toward crafting, or who moan that they “can’t draw a straight line,” these fun, easy, and creative techniques can unleash your inner artist. Spaces are still available in the Garden’s  Printing from Plants  series, on January 24, 2015. We hope you can join us!

by Jonah Holland,  Public Relations & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Cherry Trees and the Conservatory

A glimpse of what the view from the new Cherry Tree Walk might look like this spring.


2014 has been a remarkable year for Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. In many ways, 2014 is the year we’ve come full circle.  Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Board of Directors announced this week that President and CEO Frank Robinson will retire on March 31, 2015, after 23 years of leadership at the Garden. We celebrated Dominion GardenFest of Lights this year with the theme A Legacy in Lights: 120 Years from Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden, recognizing our years as the Lakeside Wheel Club, and in honor of Richmond 2015 coming to Richmond in September. And we’ve come full circle quite literally with the completion of the Cherry Tree Walk around Lake Sydnor. For the first time the Lucy Payne Minor and Streb Gardens are fully accessible to strollers and wheel chairs, and we could allow visitors to walk around the lake at night too, thanks to paved walkways and added lighting. Plus we added floating docks to Lake Sydnor for a new view of the Garden.

As we look forward to another great year in 2015, we wanted to take a quick look back on some  more highlights of fabulous year we just finished.
*With your help we were named USAToday Travel’s 10Best Readers’ Choice 2nd Best Public Garden in North America.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is USAToday Travel's 10Best Readers' Choice 2nd Best Public Garden in North America.

*We were thrilled to partner with Blue Sky Fund to host nearly 600 5th graders from Richmond’s inner city schools for hands-on, outdoor learning about science and math.

*Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor we replaced 9,200 sq. feet of existing traditional turf with attractive, low maintenance ornamental grasses, so that we could showcase sustainable best-practices with eco-friendly ornamental grasses outside the Conservatory.

*We showcased the Garden’s history as the Lakeside Wheelclub not only at Dominion GardenFest of Lights, but also in an exhibit — “From Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden” -- that will be on display again during Heritage Weekend, and extended evening hours at the Garden during Richmond 2015.

*Again we hosted the ever-popular Butterflies LIVE! and for the first time had a Richmond Times-Dispatch Butterfly Cam.  Butterflies LIVE! returns April 17, 2015!

Butterflies LIVE! at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Photo by Scott Elmquist

*We continued hosting Beautiful RVA at the Garden — pulling the best minds from Richmond’s urban greening community together in one place, to make this city more beautiful. Beautiful RVA is a a regional coalition of public and private agencies and organizations invested in improving the quality of life in greater Richmond through public horticulture, urban greening and beautiful place-making initiatives.

*We hosted the community, well  7,668 of you, for CarMax FREE Fourth of July (Please come celebrate with us in 2015 if you missed it in 2014.)

Father and Daughter on July 4th at the CarMax Free Fourth of July.

Father and Daughter on July 4th at the CarMax Free Fourth of July.

*We received a grant from the Virginia Tourism Corporation to build a mobile-friendly website for Richmond’s Garden Trail.

*This spring we hosted librarians from all over the United States and Canada for the annual meeting of the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries. 

*Garden CEO and President Frank Robinson was honored with Richmond Region Tourism’s Leadership in Tourism Award and a Virginia Public Relations Award for his Times-Dispatch Op-Ed piece: It’s Not That Hard Being Green.

*We celebrated American Public Garden Association’s National Public Gardens Day with other gardens across the country.

* We made a difference in the community!  Hundreds of community and corporate volunteers helped cultivate food for Central Virginia’s neediest citizens in Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens Community Kitchen Garden growing food for FeedMore.  Hundreds of Head Start students from Richmond Public School visited the Garden and participated in Young Buds educational programming.

Child looking through binoculars

Seeing the Garden in a whole new way!

by Jonah Holland, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Public Relations & Marketing Coordinator 

Snow Drops; Galanthus elwessii

Snow Drops; Galanthus elwessii — you can find them on the path in Flagler Garden.

Snow drops  or Galathus elwesii are a personal favorite, they bloom just when you need them most, and don’t seem to mind the cold.  See the inverted green heart?!

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?


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