Mar 6th, 2024

The Top 40 Things to Do at the Garden

This year marks the 40th Anniversary of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. To celebrate, we asked our staff and volunteers for their favorite things to do at the Garden throughout the seasons, from taking in the first blooms of spring to strolling more than a million lights during Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights in winter. See if you can try them all!

Springtime in Virginia Tour


  1. Marvel at tightly bound ferns unfurling in Flagler Garden in March. They almost look like alien creatures breaking free!
  2. Get up-close to your favorite blooms at an upcoming flower show: Delight in hundreds of prize-winning daffodils during the Virginia Daffodil Society Show on March 23 & 24; join RVA Tropical and Exotic Plants for an unforgettable houseplant swap on March 31; discover interesting and unusual African violet varieties at the African Violet Show and Sale, April 5-7; shop and see stunning irises during the Central Virginia Iris Society Show & Sale on May 5; enjoy displays of specimen roses and get advice from the rose experts during the Richmond Rose Society Show on May 18 & 19.
  3. Go on a treasure hunt to spot spring ephemerals like Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica) blooming in Flagler Garden in early-to-mid April. These delicate beauties bloom before the leaves come out on trees while sunlight can still reach the forest floor.
  4. Attend The Big Bloom on April 12 (ticketed event). This adults-only celebration of nature will feature music, food, and drinks.
  5. Stroll the Cherry Tree Walk along Lake Sydnor, blanketed in spring cherry blossoms.
  6. Join us for the first of our 40th Anniversary panel discussions on Friday, April 19. Garden President & CEO, Dr. Brian Trader, will moderate the talk on “Honoring the Garden’s Past,” with panelists including former President & CEO Frank Robinson, former Managing Director Holly Shimizu, and former Director of Horticulture Grace Elton.
  7. Visit the bluebird boxes and take the Spring Migration Bird Tour with Garden Guides Buz and Barb Sawyer on April 27.
  8. Browse more than 40 vendors selling plants ranging from well-known favorites to rare exotics and other garden-related items at the Spring Plant Sale, presented by Garden volunteers May 3 & 4.
  9. Enjoy live music at the Garden; the popular Flowers After 5 Thursday night concert series starts May 16 and the popular Groovin’ in the Garden concert series returns May 30 after a 10-year hiatus!

Flowers After 5


  1. Catch a cool breeze in the heat of summer from the top of the Klaus Family Tree House in the Children’s Garden. Listen to the giant windchimes hanging from nearby tree branches.
  2. Visit the Library & Archive Exhibit “Women’s Work,” featuring Herbarium specimens and watercolors from our Lee Park collection. On display from April 26-September 3, The collection is related to the Lee Memorial Park Wildflower and Bird Sanctuary Project funded by the Works Progress Administration.
  3. Spot turtles sunbathing on the rocks around Lake Sydnor.
  4. Meditate on the beauty of the lotus blooms waving in the breeze in Lake Sydnor in late June/early July.
  5. Cool off at Waterway splash pad in the Children’s Garden.
  6. Relax in the shade of the bench in the fairytale-like Dot’s Garden along Woodland Walk.
  7. Venture to West Island Garden to take in the carnivorous pitcher plants (Sarracenia).
  8. Attend the Garden for free during our community days on July 4 and Labor Day (September 2, 2024).
  9. Attend the second in our 40th Anniversary panel discussions, “Celebrating the Relevance of Public Gardens Within the Community” with Sir Peter Crane, President of Oak Spring Garden Foundation and former Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew on Friday, August 23.

    photo by Tom Hennessy


  1. Get a charcuterie box to go from the Garden Café and head outdoors for a picnic to take in the foliage.
  2. Play in the golden, fan-shaped leaves of the ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba) the Grace Arents Garden.
  3. Marvel at the diversity of leaves carpeting the Garden—some of the largest belong to appropriately named bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) which has the largest simple leaf of any temperate North American tree, reaching a length of 30 inches.
  4. Celebrate a new event “Diwali: Music and Arts Festival” in addition to Dia de los Muertos and HarvestFest.

    photo by Caroline Martin Photography


  1. Visit Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights, voted Best Botanical Garden Holiday Lights, from mid-November to early-January.
  2. Go behind-the-scenes to see how GardenFest comes together; includes a guided tour of the basement workshop where “the magic” happens.
  3. Roast marshmallows at the GardenFest fire pit.
  4. Admire a “crocus carpet” (scores of delicate crocus blooms) on the lawn near the Lace House Gazebo (the gazebo near the woods near Bloemendaal House) in mid to late February.
  5. Cozy up with a good book in the Lora M. Robins Library Reading Room.
  6. Spot February blooms such as camellias and paperbush (Edgeworthia) along the Asian Valley


  1. Explore the work of artist-in-residence Kyle Epps at the Garden’s Community Art Gallery (April – September).
  2. Attend Storytime in the Library (or outside the Kelly Education Center in warmer weather).
  3. Discover your new favorite hobby via an adult-learning class at the Garden.
  4. Take a public tour with one of the Garden’s knowledgeable guides.
  5. Stop and smell the roses in the Cochrane Rose Garden.
  6. Climb the 100-year-old Mulberry Tree in the Children’s Garden.
  7. Roll down the hill in front of the Conservatory.
  8. Stroll the Flagler Garden path for the perfect natural soundtrack: the trickle of the stream, the wind in the trees, and the birds chirping.
  9. Pick up the perfect, nature-inspired gift at the Garden Shop.
  10. Stand on the Lotus Bridge to take in the spectacular colors as the sun sets behind the Conservatory.
  11. Stand at the base of the big Sycamore tree in the Streb Conifer Garden to appreciate its size.
  12. Borrow herb and vegetable seeds to plant at home from the Garden’s seed library.

Leigh Crandall is the marketing and communications writer for the Garden.

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