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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.

by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Floating docks in lake sydnor
Yesterday & today we have been working on installing floating docks in Lake Sydnor. These docks will go in various spots on the lake so that visitors can get out on the water and enjoy it. Some of the floating docks even have clear glass rails so kids can see everything perfectly clearly. I can’t wait to try them out!

luffa teepee tea time

Nicki, Youth Programs Developer, enjoying tea time in the luffa teepee.

By Nicki, Youth Programs Developer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

The luffa teepee was constructed and planted by Youth Summer Program volunteers and the Service Learning Program volunteers. The teepee was made with invasive bamboo harvested from the Garden and is held together with a biodegradable twine. It is located in the Youth Display Garden in the Children’s Garden and functions as a showcase for Youth Volunteers to show off their horticulture skills. It’s also is a great shade place to sit and relax, either for teatime or to read a book. I like to play make-believe.

Fun Facts: The luffas can be harvested (wait until a mature size) and dried in the shell (to prevent rot). The luffa reseeds; to collect seeds, just cut it open after it is dried. The fruit can be used as a sponge in the kitchen or as a skin exfoliant. If harvested in a younger stage, it is a common edible in many Eastern countries; in Vietnam, it is eaten in stir-fries or soups and in India and China, it is eaten as a green vegetable prepared for a variety of dishes. In Paraguay,  luffas have been used as a construction material for houses!

The 2014 Gillette Forum line-up/save the date

By examining the critical processes of plant ecology and applying them to landscape and planting design, we inspire a dialogue about how to responsibly design, install, and manage the environment to mitigate and slow down climate change. Over an evening and a day, four prominent landscape designers and garden writers approach the modern expression of ecological landscape design through theory, science, and practice. Please join us for this year’s Gillette Forum featuring Sheila Brady, principal, Oehme van Sweden and Associates, Inc., Travis Beck, author of Principles of Ecological Design, Director of Horticulture, Mt. Cuba Center Inc., landscape designer, teacher, GroundedDesign blogger Thomas Rainer, and  Adrian Higgins, writer and editor at The Washington Post.

Register online now! 

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

sunny hibiscus

Hibiscus bloom in the Conservatory. Photo by Garden member Julie Crews.

Garden Member Julie Crews inspires me. She wrote me a short note about a recent visit to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, and it made me so happy I decide to start a new monthly feature here:  Member Monday, as a way to honor Garden Members.

We love all of our visitors, but it’s our Members who come back to the Garden again and again, on a monthly, weekly or even daily routine.  With Garden Membership, you get unlimited day visits to the Garden (and Butterflies LIVE!) each year, and that means that not only do our Members support us with larger gifts, but also they are our best customers, and biggest fans, coming again and again to see us. They are the ones who are specialists on our ever-changing Garden.  They know that Lewis Ginter doesn’t just change seasonally, and monthly, but also weekly and daily. Really — nature is amazing that way.

Members have the inside scoop on how to bring guests for free with a “Plus One” Membership and they use it! Members have family traditions here at the Garden, they come each year for Mother’s Day, or Father’s Day, some come to roll town the terraced lawn above the Rose Garden for our annual New Year’s Eve Family Frolic, or visit and bring their relatives to Dominion GardenFest of Lights on select Member Nights. They are the heart of the Garden and we love them.  Thank you for sharing your story with us Julie, and for giving us a chance to recognize Garden Members like you.

“I enjoy the Garden so much. I have Member “Plus One” card that lets me take a friend as a guest, or I can just pop over to gardens with my camera at any time.  I was there this summer with six college classmates whose different homes dot the state of Virginia.

With a window of opportunity recently I took my older son and his little girls to see the butterflies before they had to head home to North Carolina. The younger girl kept pointing out different butterflies. I have emailed her several of the photos I took under her direction.

Before we left the Conservatory, I took this photo of a hibiscus. The sunlight hit the blossom in an interesting, random pattern. So I am sharing this one with you.”

Spiders in the Garden

Twenty-seven soggy but still cheerful University of Richmond Law students, after working in the Community Kitchen Garden.

Twenty-seven soggy but still cheerful University of Richmond Law students, after working in the Community Kitchen Garden.

by Brian Vick, Communications Specialist, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

On Saturday we had the good fortune of engaging 27  University of Richmond School of Law students in the Community Kitchen Garden. The timing was perfect, as we are just beginning to transition out of summer mode and into the fall. We plant hundreds of Brassicaceae transplants — broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower — and many hands are welcome to do the bed preparations, planting and mulching. The weather cooperated — just barely — because although we experienced a steady but gentle sprinkle of rain for most of the morning, the heavier rain held off until about 30 minutes from the end of our session. The students thoroughly enjoyed their opportunity to meet their classmates, because most of these students are “L1″ (first-year), and have only recently arrived on campus.

The volunteer session was arranged by Tara Casey, Director of the University of Richmond Law’s Harry L. Carrico Center for Pro Bono Service, and led very effectively by third-year law student Miles Jolley. This is the second year Tara has sent students to the Community Kitchen Garden for community service. Thanks Tara!

The group of students included a couple of next-generation attorneys helping Mom in the Garden.

The group of students included a couple of next-generation attorneys helping Mom in the Garden.

John O’Malley, L’17, provided these comments: “At nine o’clock on an overcast Saturday morning, a parade of fresh faced law students arrived at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, eager to make a positive impact on the community that many of us had just joined. With Brian Vick of the Ginter staff directing us, we began the most natural process for a group of law students: Gardening. The morning began with laying out and planting rows of cauliflower and broccoli that, when harvested, will help feed hungry children, seniors, and families as part of the FeedMore program of Central Virginia. A short two hours later, soil had been turned over, tomatoes had been picked, and we had planted enough vegetables to contribute to over 800 meals for the needy in our community. And in doing so, we learned about ourselves, too. We learned that what we lack in skill, we make up for in enthusiasm. We learned that we should bring raincoats when we volunteer for an outdoor service project. But most of all, we learned that a gray Saturday morning spent in service to the community, if we take the time and we’re not too scared, can give us the opportunity to enjoy the butterflies around us that we rarely get to stop and see.”

The students carefully lay out the cauliflower transplants in double row beds.

The students carefully lay out the cauliflower transplants in double row beds.

The group en masse. Yep, that's a lot of bodies in the Garden in a small space, but they did a great job of traffic control (and foot placement). That's how we can accomplish 67 hours of work within a 2.5 hour window of opportunity.

The group en masse. Yep, that’s a lot of bodies in the Garden in a small space, but they did a great job of traffic control (and foot placement). That’s how we can accomplish 67 hours of work within a 2.5 hour window of opportunity.

UR law students planting cabbage

Students planted 75 cabbages in a new section of the CKG behind the Conservatory. Photo courtesy of University of Richmond.

One of the teams cleared out a row of 6-foot tall okra plants. Sad to see those architectural beauties go, but they certainly made a lovely statement in the Locbury section of the CKG this summer.

One of the teams cleared out a row of 6-foot tall okra plants. Sad to see those architectural beauties go, but they certainly made a lovely statement in the Locbury section of the CKG this summer.

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

Iris domestica or blackberry lily

Iris domestica formerly known as Belamcanda chinensis.


This lovely blackberry lily (Iris domestica) along the Main Garden Path is one of my favorite flowers. I bought one for my own garden last year at the Garden’s Fall Plant Sale, and  I’ve featured it on this blog before. But here’s an interesting thing about it — it has a relatively new name.

Did you know that the Latin names for botanical specimen can change?  Plant names can change due to taxonomic research. Plants were originally placed in taxonomic categories based on their flower morphology, but with the use of DNA testing, we are finding that plants that were previously thought to be unrelated are actually close relatives, and vice versa. This is the case with the blackberry lily. Iris domestica was formerly called  Belamcanda chinensis. Turns out it’s not a lily at all, but more closely related to iris. In 2005 they renamed it Iris domestica to reflect what scientists had learned about the DNA.



by Janet Woody, Garden Librarian, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

In 1919, Grace Arents was asked by the Press Association Compilers, Inc., of New York, publishers of  The Cyclopedia of American Biography, to review its entry on her uncle Lewis Ginter. Here are excerpts of her words about her uncle.

Born in New York, April 4, 1824, died in Richmond, Virginia, October 2, 1897.

His father died when he was a few months old, and his mother ten years later. His home was then with his oldest sister [Jane Ginter Arents], ten years his senior and married. When he was twelve years old he refused to go any longer to school and found a place for himself in a store. A few years later, before he was eighteen, he made a trip with a friend to Richmond, Virginia, and liking the place he found employment there in a hardware and notion store. When only nineteen he made his first trip to Europe to purchase clocks and other fine merchandise. … He prospered in business and eventually established a lucrative wholesale enterprise, that became one of the largest concerns in the South, dealing principally in imported linens, white goods, and woolens.

At the beginning of the Civil War he had accumulated a fortune of $200,000. He sold out all of his business and invested the proceeds in tobacco, sugar, and cotton, which he stored, and then joined the Confederate Army … He was appointed Commissary to Gen. Joseph R. Anderson, with the rank of Major, and later in the same capacity under Gen. Edward L. Thomas of Georgia. He was popular under both commands and so in evidence in times of battle, that he was familiarly known as “the fighting Commissary”. For the rest of his life he was always addressed as Major Ginter. His tobacco and sugar were lost in the fire which destroyed a part of Richmond, the day the city was evacuated by the Confederates in April 1865.

He was more fortunate in his holding of cotton which gave him a small capital with which to again begin business. He returned to New York in the summer of 1865, and located in Wall Street at the head of a banking concern. For some years the business did well, but he finally failed for $200,000 on “Black Friday”.[Panic of 1873] Though financially ruined,  in the ordinary sense of the phrase, and fifty years old, Major Ginter was by no means discouraged. He was soon traveling through the country in the interest of tobacco consigned to him by his friends in the South, and he was so successful that eventually every dollar he owed by reason of his failure in Wall Street was paid with interest.

Major Lewis Ginter 1946 101

Major Lewis Ginter

Major Lewis Ginter in Confederate uniform.  Photo of an oil portrait in the Virginia Historical Society, Richmond VA


Next week:  What happened after the Panic and repayment of debts.

by Jonah Holland , PR and Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden 
Boy with Conservatory
Garden visitor Natalie Robinson Dean sent us the best Facebook message with these photos:

My 2-year-old and I visited yesterday for the first time and had an absolute blast. Thank you so much for the excellent hospitality and I guess it goes without saying, my kiddo LOVED the butterflies. He’s been crazy about them since he was little and seeing them up close was exciting for him. We will definitely be back again soon!

Look at these photos! He’s just in awe. It’s the sweetest thing. Looks like he enjoyed WaterPlay in the Children’s Garden too.  Thank you Natalie!

boy with butterfly
boy b
looking at butterflies butterflies up close waterplay fun

waterplay fun

Sadia Pollard, Mayor’s Youth Academy Intern, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden 

Sadia, from the Mayor's Youth Acadamy

Sadia harvesting cucumbers in the rain.

I’ve enjoyed nature since I was a young child. As I get older I’m learning the importance of positive interaction with planet earth. Being at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has showed me what that positive interaction really means.
My first day of interning was also my first day at the garden. I was immediately enchanted by the plethora of plants. Yes, I was aware that I was at a garden, but not one with such personality. All throughout my day I was gaping at all the different plants and how well they worked together. I still have a sense of amazement and curiosity for the garden everyday I’m here.

I think I should first discuss how I got my internship at the garden. I am participating in a program called Mayor’s Youth Academy. It’s basically a program to help instill qualities in my generation to build a successful workforce. Everyone in the program gets a 6-week paid internship at a business. Most of the jobs were office-related. Lewis Ginter stood out to me as a great opportunity because I absolutely dread sitting in an office for long periods of time. I was also very interested in becoming familiar with plants and their names and uses so it seemed like a perfect fit.

One of the greatest aspects of my internship is that I was able to work with variety of departments. I hauled trees on to trucks with the horticulturist. The librarian introduced me to the wonders of herbariums (which don’t smell very pleasant) and the categorizing of a whole library that contains just plant-related books.  The Garden administration is a lovely group of people who make every employee and patron feel right at home. I had a chance to input data from  a surveys about what people thought about the Garden (with the Development department) and although that may not seem very fun it was entertaining to see what some people had to say about the Garden.

I saw the relationship between hibiscus, cotton, and okra in the Community Kitchen Garden and learned that flat beans don’t taste that bad, although they look strange.  The Children’s Garden has been my home base for my internship over the last 6 weeks. Everyone, the staff in the Children’s Garden in particular, have made my experience spectacular.  I told them that I was interested in alternative medicine and the educators here went out of their way to help me learn about different plants and how they can be used in a medicinal way. The staff that I worked with sometimes mentioned plants throughout the day as we walked by them or giving me literature to read about plants and allowing me to find them. Spending time with each staff member allowed me to see what the Children’s Garden vision really is: to allow children to have meaningful interactions in nature in a safe environment.

youth service volunteer sadia

Sadia noticed the long beans have little hairs that act like Velcro and stick to your clothes.

Some of my favorite activities were planting vibrant pepper plants; putting on a puppet show in the Children’s Garden, and collecting dill, cosmos and conflower seeds to be sold by Youth Volunteers at the Fall Plant Sale. I spent two weeks assisting with Green Adventures Summer Camp that the Garden offers to young children. That experience opened my eyes to the art of teaching children in nature, and exposing them to the wonders of positive interaction with nature. There were also many creatures to interact with while at the Garden. I was able to visit the bee hives and taste fresh honey right from the hive. Later on I was able to share that same experience with the children in the camps and teach them about the importance of bees. Goats were another creature I got to meet. Did you know that the Garden has goats?! I even held a baby goat that fit perfectly in my arms. But, my favorite creatures by far were the butterflies. Not just in the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit, but all over the Garden.  I had never been so close or had seen so many different types. I was also allowed to spend some independent time to run some educational programs including Good Green Fun, the Garden Art Studio and Drop in and Dig.

It was fun to show children some of the small wonders of the Garden like finding ripe tomatoes and eating them, or showing them how to identify poison ivy.   My time at the Garden has been so enjoyable that once my internship is over I will try to volunteer here during the school year. I even feel prepared for my horticulture dual-enrollment class I’ll be taking in the fall. Not only have I learned so much, I feel much more confident about my knowledge of nature. I’m also very excited to share what I’ve learned with my friends and family. The Garden, along with its entire staff has truly had a positive effect on me.

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