My Family Garden Adventure
Over the weekend, my mom, Bonnie, had the brilliant idea of going to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for a family garden adventure. She hadn’t been to the Garden during the summer blooming season in many years, usually opting to visit during the Dominion GardenFest of Lights in winter. But now that I’m interning with the Garden, she wanted a special insider’s tour. Lucky for her, that’s exactly what she got!
With blue skies shining bright over us despite forecasts of rain, my mom, my sister Emma, and our family friend Greg along with his two children, Morgan and Peter, set out on our family garden adventure. Peter, who’s 10 years old, didn’t want to spend the day seeing flowers when he had perfectly good video games at home. But when I mentioned our Nature Connects®: Art with LEGO® Bricks exhibit, he happily agreed to come.
The first thing we saw when we walked into the Garden was the beautiful hummingbird and flower LEGO brick sculpture. Since I had seen it already, I stood back and looked at the wonder on my family and friends’ faces instead. Amazed, they learned that the sculpture took 31,565 LEGO bricks to build. From there, we made finding the LEGO brick sculptures into a game. Peter, Morgan, and Emma carefully watched as we walked around the Garden, trying to be the first to spot the next sculpture.
One of the places I really wanted to show them was lucky bluebird box number 13, located just to the side of the Conservatory on the bluebird trail. My family didn’t know about the trail, but I wrote about it a few weeks ago and they had heard me talking about it and were excited to see it. We took the super secret trail at the end of the Vienna Cobb Anderson Meadow, and waited to see if any bluebirds were coming or going from the box. We didn’t see any bluebirds this time around, but I had a blast showing them a part of the Garden they didn’t know existed.
Next, we moseyed to the Lucy Payne Minor Garden, where we went out onto a dock on Sydnor Lake. My mom loved the dock’s clear glass guard rail, of all things, wistfully saying, “This is the fence that surrounds the house in my head.” My mom wants to be an architect, and she attends college classes to make her dream a reality. She’s been adding onto the same dream house in her head for years. Hopefully she’ll get to build it one day (and if not, hopefully I strike it rich as an author so I can build it for her). Laughing, we gently rocked the dock from side to side, using the weight of our bodies and teamwork, before going off to find our next family garden adventure.
On our way up to the CWDKids Tree House, we relaxed in the rocking chairs tucked into the treetops. We listened to the laughs of children splashing in Water Play, and noted the interesting plants and flowers all around us. Sometimes it’s nice to find a relaxing place to sit and simply watch the world move around you. And when you’re re-energized, it’s nice to jump back up and see what else there is to find in the Garden.
“Morgan, do you see the next LEGO brick sculpture?” Peter asked, standing at the bottom of the Tree House. His smile worked overtime to contain the secret location of the next sculpture while Morgan looked around and spotted it. “Oh, it’s a lawnmower!” she said. Peter ran to the sculpture, and we followed. This life-size sculpture is made of 13,704 LEGO bricks. Greg loved it so much that he posed for a wacky photo (with Morgan and Peter in the background).
After the Children’s Garden, we went to Bloemendaal House, where Grace Arents, Lewis Ginter’s niece, and the Garden’s benefactor and founder once lived. I explained to my group that the Grace Arents Garden is a favorite for weddings, as is the Cochrane Rose Garden and Flagler Garden. We followed Bloemendaal’s wrap-around porch down some stone steps to the Wildside Walk. Because it was my first time in that part of the Garden, I was thrilled to explore it with my family and friends. It was fun pretending to hike the Appalachian Trail.
We followed the Wildside Walk back up to the Grace Arents Garden, and over to Dot’s Garden, part of the Woodland Walk. Somehow, I’d never been to this part of the Garden either! I was supposed to be giving an insider’s tour, and yet there I was, discovering alongside my family and friends. We found a lovely little bridge crossing a stream, a new rounded bench that looks perfect for reading, and a cute trellis intertwined with tree branches. We even saw a toad!
By then, Peter, Morgan, and Emma were getting tired, but we still had so much to see. We took photos of turtles relaxing in the sun on the floating island garden next to the Lotus Bridge. Walking through the West Island Garden, my mom buzzed with excitement because she saw a few parts of the Garden that are closed off during the Dominion GardenFest of Lights. I told her fun facts I knew about pitcher plants from a blog post my fellow intern, Phuong Tran, recently wrote as we looked at the water platter LEGO brick sculptures. Thirsty, we ordered some mango tea to go from the Robins Tea House before taking the secret rock path over the waterfall.
And of course, we had to go see the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit in the Conservatory. Greg thought the giant atlas moth he found was amazing! It turns out that atlas moths are the largest of the Lepidoptera — an order of insects including moths and butterflies — based on wing surface. The butterflies loved my purple water bottle, which reflected the light to attract them. They fluttered around it and landed for a few seconds before flying off.
My family came to the Garden as lovers of adventure and left as members of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, so that we can all come back again and again. Greg loved learning that on certain days, members of the Garden can visit Dominion GardenFest of Lights for free! Peter, the same boy who didn’t want to come to the Garden in the first place, completely changed his mind during our visit. “Can I live here?” he asked soon before we left to buy lunch from the Garden Cafe and browse in the Garden Shop. I gently told him, “No, you can’t live here, but you can come visit whenever you want to.” Peter smiled, happy with that.
My family and friends will come back soon to have another family garden adventure, especially now that we are members. I love that there’s always something new to see here — even for people like me, who have been coming for years!