Nov 18th, 2014

A Legacy in Lights: 120 Years from Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden

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

Jonah Holland is Digital Content Manager at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, where she has worked for 14 years overseeing social media, the blog, and the website. She is also a mom, yogi, open water swimmer, gardener, and seeker. She's been known to go for a walk in the Garden and come back with hundreds of plant photos, completely inspired to write her next blog post.

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