Springtime at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
As Alfred Austin, English writer and poet said, “To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body but the soul.”
Rated second on the Travel Channel’s list of top botanical gardens in America, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is a vast playground of architectural design, plants and flowers.
What can you do at Richmond’s world-famous garden?
Wander its 82 acres, bask in a rose garden with virtually every color of rose imaginable, have tea in a Japanese teahouse, look for koi in the ponds, smell the tulips, hyacinth and lilac, bring your grandchildren to the children’s garden (complete with a treehouse to explore), listen to music, dance a bit, dine in the café, learn to cook with Chef Anne, take a class in landscape design, draw beautiful botanicals, walk among butterflies, buy plants, browse the library’s 20,000 books on plants, and even take home free seeds from the seed library.
Beyond all that, though, you can gain a sense of peace and serenity in a beautiful setting this spring.
Orchids, bonsai and butterflies
Part of the beauty of Lewis Ginter is its architecture. A classic Palladian-style pavilion, filled with sun from tall glass doors and the skylight above, serves as its visitor center.
The space includes a formal dining room and a separate café for sandwiches, salads and other treats. In the garden shop, you’ll find nature-themed artwork, jewelry, gifts, pottery and garden supplies.
Walking out of the visitor center’s back door, you face a massive glass-domed conservatory situated on a hill. Inside the conservatory, a classic Victorian era “palm house,” two-story tall palms and other trees reach for the sky. A rose-colored bougainvillea climbs 18 feet high.
In the conservatory’s orchid room, stunning blooms hang from crevices in stone walls, dripping with dew. Giant ferns and flowering vines add to the jungle atmosphere.
In another area, a country garden surrounds a life-sized vine-covered English cottage. And a third spacious room houses temporary exhibits, such as Japanese bonsai trees and the live butterfly rainforest.
In Ginter’s other buildings, including the library and adjacent auditorium and classrooms, light pours through the back windows, which face the setting sun.
The Williamsburg-style brick library houses 20,000 volumes of garden-related books. It also features a seed library, much like a Little Free Library, where people can “borrow” and offer seeds. The idea is to preserve a library of local varieties of flowers and vegetables to encourage gardening for beauty and food — exciting for gardeners who want to experiment with new and heirloom varieties.
The library also provides story time outside two mornings a week for young children (weather permitting).
Adjacent to the library are sunlit classrooms and a large auditorium for classes and lectures on subjects such as botanical illustration, floral and greens arranging, landscape design and cooking. Lewis Ginter is one of the few places you can earn a certificate in Botanical Illustration, Garden Design and Floral Design.
This time of year, the garden is experiencing its annual “A Million Blooms” event. The name is a forgivable exaggeration, as the garden explodes with more than 32,000 hyacinths, daffodils and tulips in yellow, red, pink, lavender and gold.
From April 16 through October 20, M&T Bank is sponsoring “Pollinator Power,” featuring a live butterfly exhibit. Walk through a rainforest while lovely winged creatures drift above and beside you. They may even alight on you!
M&T Bank’s Pollinator Power continues in May with David Rogers’ exhibit of “Big Bugs.” These are huge bug sculptures made of wood, willow and other natural materials. Walk under the belly of a 10-foot-tall ant.
On May 13 and 14, one of the largest plant sales in Virginia will take place at Lewis Ginter. The Plant Fest (formerly the Spring Plant Sale) will feature forty vendors of live plants, including herbs, vegetables, perennials and annuals, from the well-known species to the rare and exotic. An extension agent will be available to answer questions. This free event will also feature live music.
Two days in April are designated for the Garden’s incredible rose collection. The Rose Show, April 28 and 29, will have horticultural professionals on hand to offer expert advice on growing and handling these beauties.
Flowers After Five — a live music event featuring local musicians — will return in June, taking place outside in the garden on Thursday evenings. It will continue through September.
In cooperation with the SPCA, on the second and fourth Thursdays, the Garden will allow man’s best friend to check out the garden (on a leash, of course).
Spending a day here is pure pleasure. When I asked Beth Monroe, public relations director of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, what it’s like to work in such a beautiful, enriching environment she replied, “I have been here for 20 years, and that’s the case with many of us. It says a lot about how happy we are to be working here.
“People come here to escape and feel revitalized.”
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with later hours on Thursdays mid-May through September 8. Admission costs $14 for adults ($11 for those 65+). Parking is free, but limited. For more information, call (804) 262-9887 or visit lewisginter.org.