Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden


The ornate terra cotta roof of the Main Street Railroad Station rising above a concrete flyover hints to hurried travelers on I-95 in Richmond, VA that there is something grand beneath the city's industrial surface. In fact, it was industry, capital and private benevolence that funded Richmond's grandeur. From the rubble of the Civil War, the city emerged as an economic dynamo. You might say Richmond was smoking...literally, for it became an important home to the tobacco industry. Lewis Ginter was one of its leading citizens. For his business acumen and his part in developing a cigarette-rolling machine, Ginter became very wealthy, and he used his wealth to advance learning and culture.

Ginter's wealth, influence and sense of philanthropy was shared among other members of his family, most notably with his niece, Grace Arents. Grace, heiress to Ginter's fortune, contributed generously to charitable organizations, and was also involved in "hands-on" benevolence.  Eventually, Arents' liberality provided a fitting memorial to her uncle in the form of a wonderful botanical garden for the benefit of the public.

As with the roof of the Main Street station, the entrance to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden only hints at the beauty beyond. Upon entering the garden from the Visitors Center, the signature Conservatory is viewed beyond three delightful garden rooms. With a map in hand and the conservatory as a destination, we come first to the Four Seasons Garden, which is planted for year-round seasonal interest. Just beyond, the Healing Garden features plants with medicinal properties. Before ascending the hill to the Conservatory, the Sunken Garden provides a water feature and a place for private reflection.

The Conservatory is "the jewel of the garden", its 63 foot tall dome and translucent panes sparkling in the sunlight. In it is housed an extensive orchid collection, palms and seasonal floral displays.

Down the hill toward the lake, the Rose Garden features a vast selection chosen for disease resistance, fragrance and extended bloom period. A visit in summer should be delightful.

We who enjoy asian theme gardens will not be disappointed. Our visit in spring found the Prunus and Magnolia trees to be in full bloom. On the other hand, the season was not the best for enjoying the West Island Garden, which features carnivorous plants.

Perennial plant enthusiasts will be thrilled with the Flagler Perennial Garden, Woodland Walk, Arents Victorian Garden, the Lace House Garden with hand-carved gazebo, and the Wildside Walk. Grace Arents Bloemendaal House, set among these gardens is typical of its day.

The Children's Garden, Conifer Garden and wildflower meadow will captivate young and old alike. The view across the lake from the Lucy Payne Minor Gazebo is not to be missed.

If you're journeying through Richmond, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is not far from I-95. We've passed the signs many, many times, always feeling rushed and thinking that we simply couldn't spare an hour or two. But a visit to the Garden is just what a hurried traveler needs.

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1 comment:

Jim Lewis said...

Thanks for the tip. All our years in VA and we never once visited this site. Next time up, we'll add it to the list!