Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: a Landscape Museum

     In between the rain clouds earlier this week, E and I finally made our way to the north side of town. Our destination was the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (LGBG), one of the crown jewels of Richmond that many of its residents rarely visit.  Isn’t that always the case with local treasures?  Once you arrive, you ask yourself, “Why in the world do I not get out here more often?”

     That was the case for me almost as soon as we drove through the gates.  There bordering the side of a parking area was one of the prolific perennials that I have growing in my front planting bed.

My yard

In the almost nine years that we have lived in this house, I have been unable to identify this unique 2-3′ tall fuchsia beauty that deer actually avoid.   To think, if I had taken the time to tour LGBG in a previous spring, I would not have continued to mistakenly believe that this long-flowering specimen was some type of lambs ear.  The leaves do feel just like it, but now I know that it is “catchfly” (Silene L.)

LGBG's Answer

     Nagging question answered, we proceeded to the entrance of the Garden where I convinced myself that if I went ahead and became a member, then I would have to frequent this gem more often (not to mention receive the discount on amazing classes and in the gift shop).  E and I made a pact that we would make seasonal visits at a minimum.  With new member cards in pocket, we proceeded out into the welcome sun.

     LGBG is huge (more than 40 acres) yet accessible.  Broken down into smaller garden rooms like any great landscape, it could easily take a day to really view the whole place.  Having heard rave reviews about the Rose Garden, we headed in that direction.

LGBG Map

     As we wandered, we noted aloud the many things that we liked or thought we recognized.  The Garden has clearly marked the vast majority of its plantings.  We compared notes about what we thought was beautiful or what might enhance our personal landscapes.  Strolling through this remarkable setting was like walking through a variety of galleries in a museum.  In fact I felt a little museum déjà vu as E and I had visited the Picasso exhibit together just a few weeks ago at the Virginia Museum.

     The current pièce de résistance at LGBG is the Rose Garden.  It had been a little battered by the weekend rains when we arrived, but it still looked stunning and smelled delicious.  There was not a bug or black spot in sight.  No doubt the Garden puts a tremendous amount of resources into maintaining its beauty.  I can’t think of a more exquisite spot for a wedding or other elegant reception.

     We made it as far as the Flagler Pavilion before having to head back.  You are in for a treat when you finally arrive.  Take a seat, and you will discover the sight line to a distance sculpture.

     Like the aftermath of any good museum visit, since our tour of LGBG, I feel inspired as I recall its sweeping vistas and the different components, both living and hardscape, that have been combined to create its glorious garden rooms.  I continue to consider how I can employ these fabulous examples to create something beautiful out of the rock quarry on which our home sits.  As with most of my creative endeavors, it’s just a matter of time and money (sigh).

All photos by Avad Fan.

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