May 8th, 2015

Garden Love Comes Full Circle

Therese Wilson (seated) and Caroline McLean posing next to a yellow peony – Peonia lactiflora ‘Mister Ed’.

Therese Wilson (seated) and Caroline McLean posing next to a yellow peony – Peonia lactiflora ‘Mister Ed’.

Yesterday I came across these two lovely women as they were exploring the Central Garden. Mother, Therese Wilson, and daughter, Caroline McLean, were going for a stroll on a beautiful morning. I noticed that they were taking much more interest in the cultivars of specimen than many of our guests – examining the botanical tags, smelling each bloom, and perhaps ever-so-gently touching the petals.

It wasn’t long before we started a conversation with them, and I learned from Caroline, that her mother, Therese Wilson, was instrumental in the formation of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  I had often heard about the  nine legendary women who bravely fought for our garden to be.  I was familiar with 2 of them, at least: Mary Mitchell  and Betsy Saunders, early supporters of the garden who told the story of how they (and others) fought to uphold Grace Arents’ will — to create a botanical garden here in honor of her beloved Uncle Lewis Ginter whenStoryCorps was here a few years ago. I knew that there were more women involved —  but I didn’t know who they were.  When Caroline told me about her mother, I immediately knew who she was — one of the other original nine!  And strangely, although I had just met her, I felt a deep connection to her — and was filled with gratitude.  Wilson, who now lives at Westminster Canterbury, just down the road, visits often. She’s seen this Garden change from practically nothing to one or Richmond’s most visited attractions, and the 2nd Best  Public Garden in the United States.

I had to talk her into letting me take her photo, but when I suggested she pose with the yellow peony (Peonia lactiflora) ‘Mister Ed’ she had trouble refusing.
“This makes me so happy,” Wilson almost sings, as her daughter glides her wheelchair through the Asian Valley.

“It really bring her so much joy.” McLean chimes in. And it should. Without Wilson, along with eight other very special women, and the amazing Lora Robins, this Garden never would be what it is today.  I wonder if perhaps it is not just the flowers and the beautiful Garden that bring Wilson joy. Perhaps it is seeing the fruits labor of nine strong women long ago chose to take up a fight for what was right.

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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