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Summer blooms at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Photo: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Diamonds in the Rough

July 26, 2011

Recently, I got a chance to indulge in one of my secret pleasures - visiting a botanical garden - while I was traveling to visit Virginia and Washington, D.C.-based Davey professionals.

In this case, it was Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Va.

My visit started with a walk through the gateway to the garden - the E. Claiborne Robins Visitors Center. It rises gracefully on a knoll, beckoning you in. The front is accented by naturalized plantings of trees and shrubs. The Georgian-style building celebrates the history and heritage of Virginia.

Then onto the Central Garden, which includes 3 acres of garden rooms featuring classic design and artistry, fascinating plants, intimate spaces and dramatic views.

The North Terrace Garden's central fountain of glazed tiles representing magnolia leaves welcomed me through an elegant courtyard, along with the sounds of splashing water and pleasant fragrance.

Patrick Dougherty. Photo: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

The Healing Garden is inspired by medieval cloister gardens as a place for spiritual healing and meditation - a place to center my thoughts. Opposite these gardens were elliptical beds inspired from Padua, Italy's 1545 Renaissance Garden.

I passed through an arbor walkway with bricks and pavers dedicated to loved ones and then stepped into a Sunken Garden, and instantly I was taken back to second-century Rome, where ancient urban gardens were designed for cool temperatures, water flow via gravity and privacy. Perennials and summer blooming flowers surrounded me as I stood in the center near an oval-shaped pool, reflecting the Conservatory in the background - an 11,000 square foot complex full with exotic and unusual plants, including an impressive orchid collection.

The Meadowmorphosis exhibit. Photo: Don Williamson, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Then I got a chance to see one of the most diverse perennial gardens on the East Coast with more than 770 varieties - the Henry M. Flagler Perennial Garden. The perennials are highlighted weaving in and out of a Birding Trail, a Woodland Walk and around a romantic Slow Dance sculpture.

  1. A Japanese garden always stops me in my tracks - and the Asian Valley was no different with its giant Japanese goldfish, native birds and turtles and local Great Blue Heron greeting me as I stepped along bridges and boardwalks.

I can even still smell the variety of soft scents from some of the roses I saw while strolling the meandering paths of a rose garden.

Then as I approached the Vienna Cobb Anderson Meadow, I saw a small village of huts standing out against the almost setting sun. As I got closer, I realized this massive art display was made entirely of sticks. It was Patrick Dougherty's Meadowmorphosis exhibit. I stared at it for what seemed like forever, trying to figure out how the artist put the sticks together.

LG crew with Davey truck
The Meadowmorphosis volunteer crew. Photo: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

It left such an impression in my mind that I brought up the exhibit in conversation the next day, while visiting Richmond, Va.-based Davey crews. I learned that our very own William Paige was one of the volunteers who helped load and haul sweet gum and red maple sticks and saplings for the exhibit in early May. The Virginia Department of Forestry helped identify private landowners' sites in Hanover and Chesterfield Counties where Paige, along with others, were permitted to brave poison ivy, ticks and rain to gather the sticks and saplings. Paige helped load more than five truckloads of material to the Meadowmorphosis site.

Much like Dougherty's exhibit, which was a neat addition to this site, botanical gardens are like hidden gems amidst busy metropolitan cities - diamonds in the rough. Uncover your city's secrets and take a stroll through a botanical garden this weekend. You never know what treasures you might find.


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