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

A few weeks ago we told you about local Richmond artist John Meola crafting a 20-foot  holiday tree out of recycled bikes and bike parts. Now, see how it was made in this Richmond Time Lapse video.  The sculpture will be on display during Dominion GardenFest of Lights! (through January 12, 2015). Enjoy!

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

Peacock and Conservatory. Photo by Don Williamson.

Everyone is always looking for the Peacock! I guess this is bit more than a clue. Photo by Don Williamson.

Each year we have a new theme to Dominion GardenFest of Lights, and each year, old favorites (like the peacock) return.  One of the most commonly asked questions we get at the front desk this time of year is “Where’s the peacock?”  One family I spoke with told me they didn’t want to know, they just wanted a clue, because it was their family tradition to seek it out each year.

I don’t know if you are a seeker or a planner, but if you are a planner, you might enjoy looking at the  GardenFest Map before your visit.  You can research where you’ll find  all your favorite GardenFest creatures, so that you don’t miss a thing. Plus for the first time ever this year, you can walk all the way around  Lake Sydnor on our new Cherry Tree Walk.  Also, we we’ve moved the maze from the Children’s Garden to an area just behind the Conservatory. Now it’s 50 percent larger!

You’ll still find the bonfire (and s’mores!) in the Children’s Garden, but we’ve moved it back from the Lake edge, closer to Bloemendaal House. You won’t want to miss the pitcher plants in West Island Garden and the “Magnificent Magnolia” tulip magnolia tree in Flagler Garden, along with shooting stars. We’d love to see your photos of you in the “Man in the Moon” photo op too. You’ll find them all on the map. Just click on the image to make it larger, or download it from the link above.

gardenfest map

Ethan and the wildlife tree

Ethan in front of the Children’s Garden Wildlife Tree, which he helped decorate.

By Nicki, Youth Programs Developer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Ethan Lindsey is a youth volunteer who comes with The Founders Center of Commonwealth Autism (formerly Dominion School for Autism) to participate in the Garden’s Vocational Program, a program that offers community youth the opportunity to explore a variety of careers and vocational training. As part of the Vocational Program,  I open dialogues with the students about their career interests and goals.  With Ethan, I discovered he wants to be a Christmas tree farmer — which I think is so fantastic I just had to write an article about it.

Ethan chose this unique career for a combination of reasons; he LOVES Christmas, he likes to work outdoors, and he thinks it’s a job he could actually do (which I agree as well). I can tell how much Ethan loves Christmas because when we got to talking about his tree at home, he was very excited to share that his is “already all lit up and fully decorated!” I asked him what kind of tree it is he replied that they have an artificial one but that he will probably get a real one for his bedroom.

Not only is Ethan a fan of Christmas, he is also an environmentalist. When I asked him what kind of tree he wanted to get for his room he explained, “probably a Fraser Fir because they are native to Virginia. I want to get a local tree because I think it is better for the environment. Non-local trees are shipped far and they can spread pests.”

I am thankful this future Christmas tree farmer will make the effort to be environmentally thoughtful in regards to what kind of tree he would grow and sell. Ethan also explained to me that when you are done with your tree, you can compost it which is also helpful to the environment.


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

As we celebrate Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s 30th anniversary this year, we look back on how the Garden has developed over the last 3 decades. We remember staff and volunteers who have journeyed with us and helped us form the botanical garden we know today.
This video, by former Community Kitchen Garden Coordinator and Garden volunteer Brian Vick, highlights a few of those memories, along with this year’s indoor displays and celebrates this year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights theme: A Legacy in Lights – 120 Years from Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden. Enjoy!

By Kate Pyle, PR and Marketing Intern, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

As each day in December passes, the holidays tiptoe closer and closer. If you’re anything like me, you haven’t finished your shopping yet. Worse, if you are me, it means you haven’t even started shopping yet — yikes! I better get started… The clock is ticking!

While I don’t recommend this wait-until-the-last-minute strategy, Vikki Wilson of the Garden Shop has offered a list of some really great, oft over-looked items that would make wonderful gifts for any gardener near and dear to your heart:


“Ivy” our 50 gallon rain barrel.

1. Meet “Ivy” our 50 gallon, made in the USA of recycled materials, rain barrel – every home needs at least one! $96

Plant Nanny

Plant Nanny


2. This product takes the worry out of watering your houseplants! Plant Nanny is available in single for $4.50 or a four-pack for $16.95. The Plant Nanny utilizes old wine bottles to help water your plants while you are away. I personally will be picking some of these up for myself and my mom! I do quite a bit of travelling over the holidays and the Plant Nanny is a great way to be sure my plants are being watered in my absence.


Felco Pruning Shears

Felco Pruning Shears

3. Felco pruning shears, simply the best. From $46.50 – $94.50


Folding Kneeler

The Folding Kneeler

4. Folding Kneeler seat, $39.95. We all need a little help now and then. Buy one for yourself and one for a friend!


Terrarium Kit

Terrarium Kits

5. Mini gardens under glass! Terrariums continue to be trending in popularity. Garden Terrarium Kits are available in 8-inch ($48), 10-inch ($64), and 12-inch ($75), they come beautifully packaged and include everything you need to get started (except the plants!)


Fairy House Handbook

Fairy House Handbook

6. Also still very popular – fairy gardening – books and accessories from $2.95 – $16.95


I hope this round up has inspired you to visit the Garden Shop at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden to pick out some things you may never have considered before. The Garden Shop offers such a beautiful variety of gifts for all ages and is open  for extended hours during Dominion GardenFest of Lights — Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sundays from 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.  Garden admission is not required to visit the Shop.

Proceeds from the Garden Shop go to support the Garden’s educational mission

Maze Don Williamson

Light maze and the Conservatory. Photo by Don Williamson.

Photo by Sarah Hauser

Just before dusk is a magical time at Dominion GardenFest of Lights. Here’s the Conservatory at sunset with the bonfire. Photo by Sarah Hauser

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

This year’s Dominion GardenFest of LightsA Legacy in Lights: 120 Years from Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden has been one of our most popular. With that in mind, and as our busiest time approaches we wanted to give you some tips for a great GardenFest visit.  The closer we get to Christmas, the busier GardenFest can be, especially on weekends, but with a little planning, we hope you’ll have your best visit yet.

• Arrive early (4:30 p.m.) or later (after 8:30 p.m.) to avoid peak times (5:30–8:30 p.m.). Sunset is a magical time to see the Garden during GardenFest.

• Carpool when possible.

• Purchase tickets in advance at the Admissions Desk in the Robins Visitor Center (daily, 9 a.m. –10 p.m. during GardenFest) or
online; or by calling (1-800-594-TIXX, ext. 8499). Service charges apply for online and phone sales.

•  Consider visiting on a weeknight, Friday and Saturday nights tend to be busier.

• Dress in layers since GardenFest encompasses both outdoor and indoor elements.

• If gates are closed due to full parking lots, check back in 30 minutes.

• Plan on multiple visits to fully enjoy the various exhibits and activities.

• Check the Garden Cafe Specials and plan to dine with us, or stay for a treat in one of our two restaurants. If planning to dine at the Robins Tea House, reservations are helpful. The full menu is served 5-8 p.m. and light bites, and desert (oh my gosh — Hazelnut Butter Cake topped with a sea salt caramel sauce!!) are served 8-9 p.m. Call (804) 262-9887, x 399  for Tea House GardenFest dinners reservations, or  (804) 262-9887, x 329 for daytime reservations.

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

Acoustic musicians perform festive entertainment in the Lora Robins Library  at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden each Thursday night at Dominion GardenFest of Lights. We have some great acts lined up including flute ensembles, choirs, saxophone quartets and more.

Here’s the full schedule:

Dec. 4,  6-7 p.m. Lisa Thompson and Shari Adams,  flute duet
Dec. 4,  7:30-8:30 p.m. Flute Forte, flute ensemble
Dec. 11, 6-7 p.m. Lisa Thompson and Shari Adams, flute duet
Dec. 11, 7:30-8:30 p.m. Lynda Sturman and Shari Adams, flute duet
Dec. 18, 6-7 p.m. Shari Adams and Diane Stone, flute duet
Dec. 18, 7:30-8:30 p.m. Members of the Richmond POPS Clarinet Choir
Jan. 1, 6-7 p.m. Sax Floyd Avenue, saxophone quartet
Jan. 1, 7:30-8:30 p.m. Richmond POPS Clarinet Choir
Jan. 8, 6-7 p.m. The Chamber Chicks
Jan. 8, 7:30-8:30 p.m. Flute Forte, flute ensemble

musical thursdays from Richmond Pops band500

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

boys with santa photo by Scott Elmquist

Children can visit with Santa during “Santa sightings” on Merry Mondays at Dominion GardenFest of Lights through December 22, 2014.

Dominion GardenFest of Lights is a wonderful family event. If you are a parent, you know any family event can be made even better with a few tips or tricks. So that’s why we’ve put together these 8 tips for visiting GardenFest with kids.  If you have your own tips, be sure to add them in the comments for others!

1. A great way to prepare kids for a visit is to show them photos of  some of the lights before they come so they know what to look forward to.

boy with smore

Gooey s’mores by the bonfire! photo by Scott Elmquist

tweens having fun at GardenFest

Even older kids love Dominion GardenFest of Lights. Great place to take your big brother. Photo by Patricia Cancro

Also, this will give them a chance to get excited.  You can see some great photos of past year’s GardenFest on our slideshow. For photos of this year’s show, you can follow along on our social media channels including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and our blog.  To see other visitor’s photos you can search the #GardenFest hashtag on Instagram or Twitter.

2. Did you know that your children can visit with Santa at the Garden? Why go to the mall when you can see Santa at the in the Conservatory?  Merry Mondays means “Santa sightings” in the Conservatory (Mondays, 6 – 8 p.m. through Dec. 22). We welcome parents to take photos and kids can even take a moment to share their Christmas list with him.  Plus, enjoy storytime fireside with Garden Keeper & visits from Butterfly Fairy in the  Library Reading Room too. Also, don’t forget to see the doll house display.

Girl with doll house

If it’s a cold night be sure to take a break in the Library warm up by the fire in the reading room. There will be a doll house display and even one doll house kids can play with. Photo by Patricia Cancro.

3 boys smores 800

Roasting marshmallows over the bonfire. Photo by Scott Elmquist

3. If you are bringing small children you may want to bring a stroller because there’s a bit of walking involved. We also have a limited number of Baby Jogger strollers available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Girl with lights. photo by p cancro

The Children’s Garden is always fun! Photo by Patricia Cancro

4. Since much of the show is outdoors, it’s also a good idea to dress children according to the weather. Layers are always a good choice! If it’s cold, hats and mittens are great at keeping the heat in.  If you forget yours, our Bling Shop in the Children’s Garden always has extra, and it’s a fun place to explore. The Bling Shop is open Nov. 28-29, 5-9:30 p.m. and December 1-3, 5-6, 12-23, 26-31 from 5-9:30 p.m. You’ll also find these same items in our Garden Shop, which is open nightly, ’til 10 p.m.  If it’s snowing or icy out, be sure to check LewisGinter.org or Facebook for weather-related updates and cancellations.

5. Come early! You can come as early as 4:30 p.m., twilight is a magical time at the Garden and a great time to snap photos of the lights before the darkest part of the night.  Train displays in the Conservatory and Kelly Education Center open at 4 p.m. Visitation tends to peak between 5:30 – 8:30 p.m., so by arriving early (4:30 p.m.) or later (after 8:30 p.m.), you’ll avoid the crowds and parking will be easier too.  Please remember we are closed Dec. 24 & 25.) GardenFest of Lights runs til Jan. 12.  Tip: The number of visitors increases as we get closer to Dec. 25, especially once local schools get out. As you’d imagine, visitation is usually greater on the weekends and is also highly weather dependent.


Gooey s’mores by the bonfire. Photo by Patricia Cancro

6.  There is a kid-friendly menu in the Garden Cafe plus kids eat free on Monday nights (one free kid’s meal (under 12 years old) with a minimum adult purchase of $9.) Check out the other Garden Cafe’ specials too!  The Robins Tea House has a great children’s menu (5-8 p.m.) plus light bites and desert . Both spaces are beautiful, newly renovated in 2014!   What a great way to make this a memorable night for your children. Enjoy fresh-baked cookies and a vanilla milkshake, a flourless chocolate torte, cappuccino crème brulee, pumpkin beignets tossed in cinnamon sugar, or hazelnut butter cake topped with a sea salt caramel sauce.  Sound tempting? You may want to check out the full dinner menu.  Extra Tip: reservations are helpful, but not required. Call (804) 262-9887 x399)

Kids playing with trains.

Kids playing with the interactive train exhibit in the Kelly Education Center.

7. Children especially enjoy the train displays — we have two! — one in the Kelly Education Center and one in the Conservatory. The one in the Kelly Education Center is interactive (we see kids spend hours here). The one in the North Wing of the Conservatory  is exquisitely  handcrafted by our staff:  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.

8. Don’t miss the Children’s Garden. Some of our most lively and crazy lights are located here.  This is also where you’ll find the  bonfire  (think s’mores!) and the wheelchair-accessible Tree House your whole family  can “climb”.  The view from the top of the Tree House is one the kids will not forget! Sparkling lights for as far as the eye can see. Plus, hot drinks, cookies, s’mores and more are available for purchase from Espresso-A-Go-Go in the Children’s Garden. Extra tip: NEW this year, the “kid favorite” maze has moved to the Anderson Meadow across Lake Sydnor. It’s bigger than ever this year!


Conservatory during Dominion GardenFest of Lights. One of the most magical times is early – right before sunset.

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

volunteers taking a break

Volunteers taking a break at the end of the season’s last harvest earlier this week.

Community Kitchen Garden Horticulturist Laura Schumm just sent the end-of-the-year update on our Community Kitchen Garden benefiting FeedMore. The timing is perfect, because it reminds me of all the wonderful things I am thankful for today on this day of Thanksgiving.

Last week six volunteers from the community signed up to work in the the Garden via HandsonRVA.org.  With their help, we harvested the last of the vegetables for this season, a total of 179 lbs. — including 63 lbs. of cabbage, 41 lbs. of broccoli, and 75 lbs of cauliflower.  We are hoping these make some nice additions to Thanksgiving meals of those in need.  This fresh, locally grown produce will contribute to 716 meals, and  brings our total annual harvest this year to 6,379 lbs.  of fresh vegetables donated.

harvesting cabbage

Harvesting cabbage

The number one thing I’m thankful for today is our volunteers. We would not be a Garden today if it weren’t for  volunteers like Mary Mitchell & Betsy Saunders, early supporters of the Garden — before it even existed. And still today  the Garden could not exist without volunteers. Right now we have over 500 volunteers who help support the Garden with their love and care. Our army of volunteers do a huge range of things for us — everything from weeding and working in horticulture, to greeting guests, to leading tours of the Garden as Garden Guides,  to helping run our Splendor Under Glass fundraising gala,  to the “Ginter Geezers”  crafting items we need and take on woodworking projects. You’ll find volunteers inside the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit, hanging lights for Dominion GardenFest of Lights, and participating in weekly gardening crews.  We have Children’s Garden volunteers who support Green Adventures summer camp, and  volunteer photographers. We even have a crew of Youth Volunteers.

loading veggies in the cart

HandsonRVA volunteers loading cauliflower into a buggy to be transported to the food bank. Did you know you can eat cauliflower & broccoli greens? They are wonderful and super nutritious too.

And  I didn’t even yet mention the scores of volunteers who work in the Community Kitchen Garden through our partnering organizations. Organizations like HandsonRVA, Henrico County Public Schools, Faison School for Autism, Virginia Commonwealth University Service-Learning, Blue Sky Fund, there are so many more it’s hard to list them all!   We are incredibly grateful for our corporate volunteer partners too. Staff from CarMax Foundation, Bank of America Foundation, Capital One, Dominion, and MeadWestvaco Foundation have supported the Garden or the Community Kitchen Garden with their volunteer efforts this year.

We are grateful for you and how you help us serve the Richmond community. Thank you!


Hardworking volunteers at the end of the day.

veggies in crates

The day’s haul — ready for the food bank.


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

Bikes and conservatory sarah hauster

Bikes and blooms in front of the Conservatory. Photo by Sarah Hauser.

We’ve been telling you how excited we are about this year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights for weeks now. Finally, opening day — GardenFest Illumination is nearly here. On Friday, Nov. 28, 2014, the day after Thanksgiving, we’ll illuminate the Garden kicking off the season with a trick bike show by Mike Steidley. Plus, guests will be able to power this 100+ strand, 9-foot tall unicorn by simply riding a bike.  But night after night, it’s the lights that draw people in in the dark of winter, and bring holiday cheer and create new family traditions.
There’s no doubt this year’s show,  A Legacy in Lights: 120 Years from Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden, is a show stopper.   The photos can’t really capture the light show, but they give you an idea of what it’s like.  These photos are from one of my favorite local photographers, Sarah Hauser, of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. Sarah visited GardenFest earlier this week for a media preview and really captured how much work and thought went into the design and crafting of the show.

What are you most excited to see this year?

Tulip magnolia and shooting stars! by  sarah hauser

Tulip magnolia and shooting stars! Photo by Sarah Hauser.

Ginkgo bikes sarah hauser

Bikes in the ginkgo tree in Grace Arents Garden. Photo by Sarah Hauser.

 Sarah Hauser Moon Conservatory

Conservatory by moonlight. Photo by Sarah Hauser.

Bike sculpture at night sarah hauser

Local artist John Meola crafted this pyramid-shaped sculpture out of recycled bikes. Remind you of a holiday tree? Photo by Sarah Hauser.


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