Mar 20th, 2024

The Daffodil Connection at Lewis Ginter

As the bright spring daffodils signal the arrival of spring and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden gears up for the 2024 Virginia Daffodil Society Show, I wanted to highlight a unique connection between the Garden and these sunny perennials. In this 40th anniversary year, I began looking back at articles from years past and discovered that our Richmond botanical oasis has a link to two cultivars of daffodils – Ginter’s Gem and Lora Robins

Ginter’s Gem daffodil. Photo by Brent & Becky’s Bulbs.

Ginter’s Gem

Ginter’s Gem was created in 2013 by daffodil experts Brent & Becky’s Bulbs and Ross Hotchkiss of the Virginia Daffodil Society (also a regular volunteer at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden), who wished to name a daffodil after Lewis Ginter. At the time, Brent & Becky’s Bulbs had some seedlings in the pipeline ready to be named. After taking a look at the seedlings, the members of the Virginia Daffodil Society picked the soon-to-be-named ‘Ginter’s Gem’ because of its soft, bright yellow color and numerous blooms per stem. ‘Ginter’ refers to the Garden and ‘Gem’ is a reference to Richmond Gems, the cigarette card set brand that the Garden’s namesake, Lewis Ginter, made famous.

As Jonah Holland, who was the Digital Content Manager at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for 14 years, wrote in her blog Ginter’s Gem–A Daffodil Named for Ginter, “It’s a beautiful daffodil and a perfect symbol of friendship.”

Jay Hutchins, who Jonah aptly nicknamed “Grin-eral Manager” of Brent & Becky’s Bulbs, explained how the cultivar came to be. “Ginter’s Gem came to be, not only because of our long-standing relationship with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, but mainly because of the camaraderie between the Virginia Daffodil Society and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden,” he says. “The Garden has been so accommodating to the Virginia Daffodil Society over the years and [the society was] so appreciative that some of their members came to us and said ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we could name a daffodil for the botanical garden and its namesake?’ So, Brent & Becky’s Bulbs took this cultivar to the leadership at LGBG to get their blessing and to them, it was an easy decision to make.”

To read Jonah’s full article, click here.

Narcissus 'Lora Robins' daffodil close up

Lora Robins daffodil.

Lora Robins

The next daffodil connection is the ‘Lora Robins’ hybrid. If you’ve been to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, you might recognize that name. Lora M. Robins and her husband E. Claiborne Robins were Richmonders who dedicated their time and hundreds of millions of dollars in support of many Virginia organizations. One of Lora’s favorite projects was Lewis Ginter, where the Robins’ legacy includes the Robins Visitor’s Center, the Garden Shop, the Lora M. Robins Library, the Lotus Bridge, and the Robins Tea House.

William “Bill” Pannill created the hybrid in the late 2000s. He was an amateur botanist, native Virginian, a member of the Lewis Ginter Board of Directors, and icon in the world of hybrid daffodils. Beginning in the 1960s, Pannill hybridized, named, and registered more than 210 hybrids. Today, his bulbs are sold all over the world. The Spring 2011 American Daffodil Society Mid-Atlantic Newsletter tells the origin story.

In April 2004, Ross Hotchkiss (who also helped create Ginter’s Gem), the Virginia Daffodil Society president at the time, approached Pannill when he came to the Virginia Daffodil Society Show to exhibit flowers and asked him if he would consider naming one of his hybrids in honor of Mrs. Robins. Bill‘s response was immediate. He exclaimed, “I think it is a great idea and will be happy to do so!”

On Mrs. Robins’ 92 birthday, her son announced that a daffodil was named in her honor. The first bulbs were planted here in Rob’s Garden, where they bloom today in memory of Mrs. Robins’ grandson, Christopher Robins Haskell. The namesake daffodil is a cross between three varieties of Narcissus: ‘Mabel Taylor,’ ‘Radiation’ and ‘Party Doll.’ As Ross Hotchkiss and Kate Carney write in their story for the Spring 2011 American Daffodil Society Mid-Atlantic Newsletter, “It seems fitting that the daffodil bulbs bearing her name should find a home and bloom in this botanical garden they helped to create.” To read more about the Lora Robins daffodil and the art of creating a man-made hybrid, check out Garden volunteer Susan Higgins’ blog The Lora Robins Daffodil

The Virginia Daffodil Society Show at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Hundreds of prize-worthy daffodils are lined up on tables and have received ribbons as guests pass by.

The Virginia Daffodil Society Show at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Hundreds of prize-worthy daffodils line tables. Photo by Virginia Daffodil Society.

The Virginia Daffodil Society Show

Experience the Virginia Daffodil Society Show on March 23, 2024, from 2 – 5 p.m. and March 24, 2024, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m! The daffodil show features hundreds of delightful prize-worthy daffodils and expert growers. If you’re reading this after the show has occurred, mark your calendars for next March!

Meredith Orne is our seasonal marketing associate at the Garden. She previously held the position of marketing intern. She has a bachelor's degree in Media Arts & Design with a minor in Business. She also loves photography, writing, art, and graphic design and is excited to learn more about the Garden through these channels.

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