The Best Places for Fall Leaf Peeping in the Garden
Watching the leaves turn in autumn is something I have looked forward to every year since I was a child. Growing up in Richmond, I loved seeing the city transform into a red, orange, and yellow oasis as the fall months progressed. After traveling to and from James Madison University over the past four years, I have seen the incredible beauty of the Shenandoah Valley during the autumn. Luckily, there is also somewhere much closer to home to take in the captivating colors of the season: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
To learn which sections, plants, and trees offer the most vibrant fall foliage, I went on a walk with Megan Lacey, a horticulturist at Lewis Ginter. While there are great places to see fall color all over the Garden, Megan’s top locations are the Henry M. Flagler Garden and Grace Arents Garden.
“When I think about fall, I think of my favorite species of trees and their colors,” Megan begins. One of the most vibrant trees is the ginkgo in Grace Arents. “The leaves turn a fantastic yellow color, often very quickly,” she says. “Then the tree drops all of its leaves in about one day, which is exciting.”
Also in Grace Arents are maple trees, which turn beautiful shades of red and orange, a black gum with leaves that go vibrant scarlet, and a dogwood with a deep-red hue.
Along the Garden’s borders are native trees like hickory, which turn a rich, warm yellow color. “Hickories, maples, and stewartias are also found on the Woodland Walk, along with crepe myrtles, which either stay green or turn red depending on the cultivar,” Megan says. “There are a lot of maples in Flagler Garden, too.” She points to one that is still holding onto its green leaves. “This will get a nice orangey-red color to it as the temperatures drop.”
As we pass a deciduous magnolia and a weeping katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), Megan reminds me not to forget about those trees, because they’ll turn yellow and the weeping katsura will develop a maple-syrup-like scent. “One of the benefits of coming to a place like Lewis Ginter for fall color is that you get to see all of the cool non-natives,” she says.
There are Japanese maples in front of the Robins Tea House and throughout Asian Valley that have amazing fall colors and strolling the paths here and along Sydnor Lake offer the chance to see the foliage reflected in the water.
Ultimately, Megan’s favorite places to see autumn colors are “wherever there is a big concentration of a lot of different species of plants and trees!” So, if you’re looking to be surrounded by the vibrant tones of fall, the Garden really is the place to be.