Sep 12th, 2012

Beloved Monkey Wallpaper Makes Way for Brighter Colors

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

Monkey pulling tail wallpaper

Monkey pulling tail wallpaper

RVC restroom 2012 wallpaper repair with paint by volunteer

Monkey wallpaper showing where Garden volunteers repaired a missing piece with paint.

It’s funny what memories people attach to when they visit the Garden.  For some, a visit to the Garden is all about the plants. For others, it’s about education or quiet meditation. Still others define a great visit by dining al fresco at the Robins Tea House or by playing hide and seek in Diamonds in the Rough, the giant stick sculpture installation in Anderson Meadow. Some say that a butterfly landing on them as they get up close and personal with the butterflies in the Conservatory is what they remember most from their visit.

Personally, I have great memories of  enjoying a wine tasting and live music at Flowers After 5.  The night I spent sleeping in the Children’s Garden Tree House during the the annual staff campout is something my whole family will never forget!

….And then there are the kids….  Some of them come to smell the flowers, others just want to touch them. Some come to enjoy Water Play or to build mud pies & learn about compost.   Many visitors — kids and adults alike — with an especially keen sense of whimsy and humor and come for all of those things, but also to see their favorite wallpaper. I know, its sounds strange. Especially since this particular wallpaper is located in the bathroom, but it’s a spot everyone has to visit sooner or later. And when they do, often it is with delight when they they see the wallpaper.

This particular wallpaper is of a monkey pulling another monkey’s tail and playing in the jungle. People LOVE it.  I mean they ADORE it! The images is repeated over and over — as the monkeys frolic through palm trees.  The wallpaper was installed in the Robins Visitor Center in 1999 when the building opened.  It’s been so popular, that for one reason or another some folks started taking pieces of it with them.  At first perhaps it was an irresistible corner just begging to be pulled by a child. Later perhaps it was  as a keepsake or because someone wanted to match the paper for their own decor.  But what it means for us now is that we have to replace it. For many years, our dedicated volunteers  tried to hand-paint the walls where pieces were missing or torn.  But it was hard to keep up with. And it couldn’t be replaced.

The beloved wallpaper coming down.

The beloved wallpaper coming down.

Yesterday, a crew started renovations to the bathrooms.  So many people asked for a sample of the paper as it was coming down, that the crew could barely work. In fact, when I walked in to the bathroom earlier today to take these photos, the first thing the contractor said to me was, “Yeah, you can have some!” I wasn’t even eyeing it!  But of course when he offered it to me, I couldn’t refuse.

New colors! A workman painting brilliant red & crisp white trim.

New colors! A workman painting brilliant red & crisp white trim.

Patricia Crone, a Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Visitor Services Associate who’s worked at the Garden both as a staffer and volunteer for the past 20 years says she often hears people from down the hall saying in excitement, “Oh monkeys!” as they open the bathroom door.  “I think we are going to miss them, ” she says with a bit of sadness.   And you know the Garden would replace the wallpaper with the same if we could — but they just don’t make it anymore.

Robin Gregson, another Visitor Services worker, say it’s not uncommon to hear people say, “I’ll meet you in the monkey bathroom!” And of course everyone knows what they mean.

Robin says she really likes the new style of the bathroom too.  “I stepped in the men’s room this morning and it looks great — bright & airy!”

Heather Pearce, Assistant  Manager of the Garden Shop and known for her impeccable taste, chose the new colors and wall paper for the bathrooms.

So, we are sorry to see it go, but as they say:  If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.

I suggested we salvage the monkey wallpaper since people were so in love with it.  We have a box of it just waiting. Any suggestions as to what we should do with it? Personally, I’m thinking ornaments for the 2013-2014 Holiday Tree at Dominion GardenFest of Lights. Theme: Tail-Pulling Monkeys of course! And we’ll be sure to do it up in lights too. I bet I can think of a few from our army of 600+ volunteers who would volunteer for the job of crafting it.

Jonah Holland is PR & Marketing Coordinator at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, specializing in social media. She's been known to go for a walk, and come back completely inspired to write a blog post on her newest found adventure.

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  • Janet Freisner

    Jonah, my vote would be for you all to frame as large a section of it as you can save and keep it in or near the bathroom. Sorry to see it go!

  • That wallpaper looks so fun! It matches completely with your thing… I’ve never seen such a playful design of wallpapers actually. All I see is vintage and contemporary stuff. The store where you purchased it must have more to offer, right?

  • Barb Sawyer

    There is so much to love about the garden. We enjoy all the areas (thank you for enumerating them, Jonah) and will surely continue to do so, but … my grandchildren and I will indeed miss the monkeys. There are very few bathrooms that make you smile when you enter!

  • I know what you mean Barb! Maybe we’ll be able to do something just as whimsical when we expand the Children’s Garden buildings. The Garden is a playful place, and we like to express it where we can.
    Janet — That’s a good idea. I know we were planning on “art” in the bathroom. I’m not sure if they’ve picked it out yet. I’m sending your suggestion over now. ~Jonah

  • Jamie Maccaroni

    There is a staff campout?!? I need to come work at LG asap!

  • Jennifer

    I’ll miss the monkey wallpaper; it was so airy and tropical and especially with the soaring ceilings in the bathrooms just made you feel you were somewhere more special than in the loo. I can’t believe people literally ripped it off the wall! I wonder if someone would be able to recreate the print and have Christmas ornaments or note cards or tote bags or other items available for sale in the shop…

  • Jennifer — those are some great ideas! I’ll have to talk to The Garden Shop ladies and see what they think. I know I’d love some note cards with the image!
    Jamie — Yeah, I try not to talk about the staff camp out too much because I don’t want to tempt people/make them jealous, but it’s true! Be sure to stay tuned here for job openings:
    You have until next summer to get hired! 🙂

  • Peg S.

    Maybe you could frame some good pieces and then auction them off the next time the Garden has a fund-raiser. I like the idea of ornaments, too.

  • shann palmer

    Oh Richmond!! It’s wallpaper- let it go gently, quietly. We can’t hold on to everything dear, we’ll become hoarders.

    I can’t wait to see the new colors!

  • Teena Lurlene

    Oh Shann, you did say that so well. I love the idea of note cards and that would be quite easy to do…as simple as a fine photograph and you would have cocktail napkins, and thank yous and “all things Richmond”…memories being the most treasured.
    I on the other hand, have yet to get used to the “cafe”. Promise me on all things “Miller and Rhoads” that you will not change the magnificent…bright….light filled…dining area. ( ;
    Thank you for all you do to create such a nurturing environment…your caring is obvious.

  • Thank you Teena. It’s lovely to be so well appreciated.
    I’ll be sure to pass along your feedback that you like the light-filled dining area near the Garden Cafe. No plans to change it anytime soon! ~Jonah