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By Nicki, Youth Programs Developer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Jim Meuninck’s Medicinal Plants of North America Field Guide

Jim Meuninck’s Medicinal Plants of North America Field Guide

The Children’s Garden had the pleasure of hosting Vivien Fergusson of Collegiate School for her senior final project. Vivien approached me for guidance with her interest in medicinal uses of plants as well as Virginia natives and wildflowers. The Children’s Garden agreed to support her throughout her project: Vivien spent three weeks on-site developing and researching her interest with medicinal plants as her primary focus. As a host site, Lewis Ginter provided resources such as   access to Garden Guides and staff, and access to our plant catalogs through the Lora Robins Library. Vivien also gained special access to the Herbarium Virginicum, our dried plants collection hosted in collaboration with Virginia Commonwealth University and consisting of over 17,000 specimens.

Eucalyptus inhalant salve (with beeswax)

Eucalyptus inhalant salve (with beeswax)

With the assistance of staff, Vivien was also able to have access to our live plant collections. This offered real-life learning experiences by directly connecting her to plants. In Vivien’s own words she relays the importance of hands-on learning at the Garden; “Lewis Ginter is a botanical wonderland: every plant that I was ever curious about can be found somewhere in the garden. Observing a plant in real life is so much more powerful than simply studying it in a book. It adds a dimension of realness and tangibility that really enhanced my understanding of the plant.”

I provided a basic guide to help Vivien self-sufficiently connect with our plants by loaning her my copy Jim Meuninck’s Medicinal Plants of North America Field Guide, bookmarking the exact location of the plants listed in the field guide with sticky notes, many of which were in the Children’s Garden.
Vivien also kept a nature journal to take notes on, sketch, and preserve examples of the plants she researched. Nature journals are a great tool for botanical research. Many great naturalists and scientists such as John Muir, John James Audubon, Charles Darwin, and Rachel Carson kept nature journals. The Sierra Club guide for starting a nature journal  and Smithsonian Institution have great information on  how to get started with nature journaling.

Yucca antiseptic wash and stinging nettle tincture.

Yucca antiseptic wash and stinging nettle tincture (tincture made by herbalist, Jonathan Citron

With the help of her field guide and nature journal in hand, Vivien was able to gain proactive hands-on learning. She was able to pick what species she wanted to focus on, and as her project progressed, she was able to adjust her topic subject. We realized together that Vivien was mostly interested in experimenting with plant materials. We went through the process of making a variety of plant medicines such as salves, teas, inhalants, and washes. Local herbalist Jonathan Citron provided us with examples of tinctures and walked Vivien through the process (which takes longer than her time allotted for her project).

Community members like Citron, as well as Garden staff, helped Vivien connect with plants.

“I was so fortunate to have been able to converse with such knowledgeable people as well. I was fascinated by the Jonathan Citron’s explanation of alchemy and [Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Educator] Kristi Orcutt’s world of beekeeping. I realized how much I didn’t know and how much there was to learn. Jonathan Citron believed that plants exist to support our needs as humans, and conducting this project helped me to understand this. Plants that I would have previously considered weeds in my yard suddenly had names and beneficial properties: wood sorrel, wild strawberry, yucca, and plantain.”
Vivien said her  favorite part of her research project was making her own blends of medicinal teas. She particularly liked the lavender mint tea sweetened with stevia. Tea-drinking allows time for thinking and helps cultivate conversation so I can see why we both gravitated towards making more teas; it brought us together!
At the end of her experience, Vivien said, “I feel much more knowledgeable about the wildlife that surrounds me, and I am so incredibly thankful that I have had this opportunity through Lewis Ginter to explore a passion of mine.”
Vivien will present her project at school next week and we wish her all the luck with her future after graduating this year. I hope she continues to fill the pages of her nature journal throughout her journey.

Sassafras root tea and leaves

Sassafras root tea and botanical example

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

Pink Asiatic lilies

Enjoy a beauty break: pink Asiatic lilies, blooming now in the Central Garden.

By Janet Woody, Librarian, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

naked tree
The Tree Arrives
We recently received an unusual gift, a large, white tree. It was installed in the library last week and looks artsy and a little bit spooky.

Then the butterflies found it. Now it looks warm and cheerful……

butterfly-filled tree

The Butterflies Have Arrived
The butterflies are paper and were installed by Helen MacDonald of the Garden’s Development department.

Butterflies made by kids at Dominion Riverrock

Butterflies made by kids at Dominion Riverrock.

Tango Butterfly

A Tango butterfly

This tree was donated by MeadWestvaco (MWV), a global packaging solutions provider located here in Richmond, Virginia. The origami-style butterflies decorating the tree are made out of MWV’s Tango(R) Digital Coated Cover paper.

The tree was on display at Dominion Riverrock, May 16-18, 2014, which was centered near MWV’s corporate headquarters on 5th Street. Children visiting Dominion Riverrock  decorated lots of paper butterflies which now have a home on our tree.

It’s logical that MeadWestVaco would have a tree display and cover it with paper butterflies – forest products are their business. Sustainability is also part of their business and they look for opportunities all over the world to practice good corporate citizenship. The MeadWestVaco Foundation identifies programs in all of its communities where it can offer volunteer support as well as financial support for worthy endeavors. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is the recipient of a grant this summer supporting our Butterflies LIVE! exhibit in the Conservatory. As part of its global forestry management efforts, MWV recognizes that healthy forests require healthy ecosystems. Butterflies are part of the complex of life in a forest, and are reflections of the health and robustness of the plants, insects, and larger animals which co-exist in the forest.

To complement the MWV butterfly tree, Lewis Ginter will display other 3-dimensional tree forms and titles from its book collection on forests and forest ecology. We share a respect for trees and the environment with MWV, and now we share a butterfly tree. The tree will be on display through October 12, 2014.

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

Roses and the Conservatory

May blooms in the Rose Garden at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

To see more photos of the Rose Garden in bloom, visit our Facebook album.

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

best mulberry

I love this time of year — our 100-year-old  red mulberry tree (Morus rubra) in the Children’s Garden is filled with kids, birds and even adults, searching for the blackest, sweetest berries. One little girl just came up to me as I was shooting this and explained to me, the blacker, the better. Then she asked if I could hand her a few! She had the biggest red-juice stained smile ever. Meanwhile, moms discussed how to get the juice stains out of the kid’s clothes.  Generally, we don’t allow folks to pick fruit (or flowers) in the Garden, but this is our one exception.

Juicy mulberries stain your hands.

Caught red-handed!

by Shane Tippett, Executive Director, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden  

The Children's Garden Staff, left to right, Kristi Orcutt, Katelyn Coyle, Kelly Riley, Kristin Mullens, Heather Veneziano (sitting) Nicki,  and Dawn Lipscomb.

The Children’s Garden Staff, left to right, Kristi Orcutt, Katelyn Coyle, Kelly Riley, Kristin Mullen, Heather Veneziano (sitting), Nicki, and Dawn Lipscomb.


Thank You for Showing Us the Garden! Love, Meagan

Kelly Riley is the children’s education manager at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. A Richmond native, Kelly worked in a number of jobs after completing business school, including a position that allowed her to watch urban residents move into newly renovated housing and not understand or appreciate the plantings around the buildings. No reason they should, nobody had ever taught them differently. Kelly thought she would like to be the one to teach them. Inspired by a prospectus from the just-birthed Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Kelly headed off to J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College and earned her degree in horticulture.

Dear Kelly, thank you for teaching us more about the rain forest. I liked the part when everyone was wearing a suit, especially when I was the poisonous snake. I found a snake hole in my front yard.  Zach T.

In 1992, after securing and completing a stint as one the first paid interns here, she was summoned back to join the three other horticulturists then on staff in a position newly created just for her. Over the years, her role migrated gradually away from hands-on horticulture to hands-on education and eventually to the hands-on running of the Children’s Garden and all its formal and informal programs.

a loofa gourd

A loofah gourd

Dear Kelly, thank you very much for teaching us that a loofah sponge comes from gourds. I also enjoyed the seeds you gave us to keep. Your friend, Goldie  

Kelly remembers the Garden receiving a grant in the 1990s to fund classes for urban elementary school students, and the day when the first busload of excited children arrived. “Where am I?” “Do you live here?” The expansion of the Children’s Garden in 2005, and the way in which Kelly and her remarkable staff brought the Garden alive was a pivotal moment in the Garden’s first 30 years.

Dear Ms. Kelly Riley, I loved the planting. Thank you for showing us the Garden. Love, Meagan

Zach, Goldie, and Meagan are all in their early twenties now, perhaps starting families in which young children can learn from their parents about the rain forest and loofah sponges. And if the children of Zach, Goldie, and Meagan want to come learn in a garden, Kelly and her team will be here.


by Megan Compton, Education Assistant,  Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden  

Mothers Day - Gingko tree in Grace Arents Garden

Mothers Day – Gingko tree in Grace Arents Garden


Having brought our families to Mother’s Day at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for the past six years, my best friend and I generally know what to expect. Each of the previous years, we sat at the tables, enjoyed our lunch, and watched our girls dance the day away under the tent at Bloemendaal House. The girls have always spent some time wandering around Grace Arents Garden, smelling the flowers and playing games in the grass, but we generally stayed close to the concert. This year was a little different…

Dancing to the music during the Mother's Day Concert

Dancing to the music during the Mother’s Day Concert


We arrived at the Garden just as the Glennroy and Company started their first set down at Historic Bloemendaal House. After finding a table, we lunched and watched the girls dance to their favorite tunes. We purchased ice cream at the cart – which really hit the spot on a warm day. Then my daughter asked the question that made this Mother’s Day visit to the Garden different than each of the previous years… “Mommy, can you show us some other parts of the Garden?”

Playing in the Children's Garden

Playing in the Children’s Garden

And… we were off on an adventure during which the girls had the “best day ever!” We started in the Children’s Garden where the girls went up in the CWD Kids Tree House and looked out over the Garden. On the way up, they saw another child playing the drum set under the ramp and wanted to try that next. After playing with the drum set, they built fairy houses in the “Gnome Depot” and explored other parts of the Children’s Garden. The girls were having so much fun that they said that they never wanted to leave.

Exploring the Woodland Walk and Flagler Garden.

Exploring the Woodland Walk and Flagler Garden.

Following our time in the Children’s Garden, the girls wanted to explore the “secret passageway” otherwise known as the Woodland Walk and Flagler Garden. This walk provided a perfect opportunity to put my 9-month-old in the stroller and give him a nap as we followed the girls. They loved the benches, winding walkways, streams, bridges and flowers along the way. The Flagler Lawn was the perfect spot for twirling and lying down in the grass and they wanted to see what creatures might be hiding under the benches near the slow dance sculpture.

Watching "Pop Pop's band" Glennroy and Company during their final song.

The girls watching “Pop Pop’s band” Glennroy and Company during their final song.

We ended back at Bloemendaal House for the final set of “Pop Pop’s Band.” Too sad to dance again, because the day was coming to an end, the girls watched the band over the back of a chair. Long after the band had stopped playing, the only way we could encourage the girls to leave was with a promise to bring them back to the Garden soon. Even though it was different, it definitely was another spectacular Mother’s Day at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

Another yearly favorite - smelling the peonies!

Another yearly favorite – smelling the peonies!




















Text & photos by Brian Vick, Community Kitchen Garden Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Blue Sky Fund Group 050314

The Blue Sky Fund volunteers in the Community Kitchen Garden — still full of energy and fun after three hours of hard labor.

Blue Sky Fund Clover 050314

The heavy weeding included clearing crimson clover and Brundage wheat, re-growing from the winter cover crop (already tilled under earlier this Spring).

Blue Sky Fund Celery 2 cropped

This team planted celery transplants, with perfect spacing.

The Blue Sky Fund organization exists to get inner-city kids out into the great outdoors for various types of experiential education. The organization’s core values include “Discovery through learning about nature, spirit, and self, Unity through working together with our team, neighbors, and diverse communities, Respect by how we treat ourselves, others, and the environment, Stewardship by caring for our environment, our community, our volunteers, and our financial resources.”

Members of the Blue Sky Fund volunteered in the Lewis Ginter Community Kitchen Garden earlier this month, and really put those core values on display. To be candid, having teens work in the CKG can be a little nerve-racking at times. Attention spans sometimes can be very brief, which affects  productivity.  These young people asked questions, wanted to learn and worked hard — very hard — at heavy weeding, mulching and planting. The group was a joy to be around, and their energy was infectious.

“The Blue Sky Fund Outdoor Leadership Institute crew loved working in Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Community Kitchen Garden. We got to work in the fresh air and the sunshine, for the betterment of our community, and we maybe even learned a thing or two about integrated pest management and how deep we should plant our okra. You can’t ask much more from a Saturday morning!”   said Steven Cottam, Blue Sky Fund Adventure Programs Manager.


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

With A Million Blooms, it’s hard to keep up with them all! I have to tell you though when I walked through the Asian Valley this morning, the light was perfect, and the blooms looked better than I’d ever seen them. ….something I just had to share with you all, our most dedicated fans. Enjoy!

'Archangle' peony

Paeonia ‘Archangle’

White Peony

Pure light.

Peony blooms and buds

Blooms and buds with morning dew.

Twin peonies

Peonies in the Asian Valley. I’ve always wanted to call these ‘Sunny-Side-Up’.

paeonia 'irvin altman'

Paeonia ‘Irwin Altman’

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

Butterfly habitat plant kids

The Spring Plant Sale was a huge success! Thanks to many, many Garden volunteers, we raised just over $33,000 at this year’s sale. The total includs $422 earned by the Geezers for their potting bench, commissions paid by vendors who had booths at the sale, $1,480 in proceeds from the Richmond Horticultural Association booth, and $4,300 from the Fancy Phoenix vintage/mini-estate sale, new to the Garden’s plant sale this year. All proceeds support the Garden’s educational mission.

One of the new features we had at this year’s plant sale was Butterfly Habitat Kits to make your own butterfly waytation at your home. This was part of our campaign to save the Monarchs and support our Black Swallowtails butterflies . We sold 100 butterfly habitat kits. Special thanks go to Lorrie Lincoln, team leader for this project. Over 60 volunteers worked Tuesday through Saturday – not including  the work of the greenhouse volunteers. Nancy Penick, Chair of the Plant Sale devoted countless hours of leadership and hands on work as did Sherry Giese, Greenhouse Representative. Ellen Hartenberg more than maintained our fond memories of “Marlu’s Café” caring for the energy level of our volunteers, staff and vendors — thanks!

The Garden’s Youth Volunteers earned over $200 selling seeds and transplants. This compares to $80 at the Fall Plant Sale.
Nicki, Youth Programs Developer says, “I am thankful my homeschool gals could make the time to volunteer during typical school hours. All of the Service Learning Program volunteers had the opportunity to work on customer service, money counting/register, and communication skills. One particular volunteer made great headway with communication; greeting, eye contact, holding a conversation, staying on topic. This was also a great opportunity for the youth volunteers to spend time with some adult volunteers — Lorrie Lincoln and Barb Sawyer were particularly welcoming and inclusive to the youth volunteers.”

nicki and service learners 2014

Homeschoolers Sonny, left, and Kylie, right, helped sell seeds and transplants at the Spring Plant Sale. Children’s Garden Youth Programs Developer, left, assists.

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