Epitomizing a beautiful fall day, Saturday was the ideal time to visit Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. Located on Richmond’s North Side, Lewis Ginter’s 50 acres contain more than a dozen gardens, a conservatory, and various dining and shopping areas.
Lewis Ginter was originally a nine-acre plot of land owned by renowned 18th century patriot, speaker, and five-term governor of Virginia, Patrick Henry. It was purchased by Richmond businessman Lewis Ginter in 1895, and the one-story foundation of the Bloemendaal House, which is currently located in the east section of the garden and a popular destination for weddings, was built. After his death in 1897, Ginter’s niece purchased the property and turned it into a convalescent home. In 1982, years after Ginter’s niece had died and the land ownership had been turned over several times, Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens was formed by a group of botanists, horticulturalists, and Richmond community members.
Lewis Ginter’s gardens are rich with color, and they provide an appreciated escape from the outside world. No one garden is alike. There’s a pleasant dichotomy between the bright, open Children’s Garden and the mysterious, tree-lined paths of the Flagler Garden. My favorite part of the visit was the going to on the Woodland Walk. Separated from the main path by trees, the Woodland Walk felt secluded and serene. The only sounds I could hear were water trickling and the wind whistling in my ears. There was green everywhere I looked, with tree branches cascading down above my head and moss under my feet. I could see the reflection of my surroundings in the completely still water, a sign of the area’s peacefulness.
I was taken back to my years in the Lower School as I walked through the Children’s Garden. From the welcome message written in pink and blue chalk on the sidewalk, to the multi-colored hands and streamers, my inner child began to shine through. I was itching to abandon my sense of composure and go climb the tree house like I would have done years ago. The garden, positioned next to Sydnor Lake, gave way to exquisite views of the lake and conservatory in the distance. Standing in the Children’s Garden, admiring the grounds, it was apparent how Lewis Ginter was recently voted among the top ten botanical gardens nationwide.
One distinctive part of Lewis Ginter is the glass-domed conservatory, which is the only one like it in the Mid-Atlantic region. The conservatory houses a collection of plants, including orchids, cactuses, and palm trees. The air inside the building was thick and warm, but not even my discomfort could take away from the beauty of the plants inside. The lilac and light pink orchids were so pristine it was almost as if they were plastic. Other Lewis Ginter attractions include the Robins Tea House, situated so that guests can enjoy their food while overlooking the Asian Valley and West Island Garden, and the Garden Shop, with nature-themed collectables and home items.
Lewis Ginter not only provides incredible views and collections of plants but is also committed to education and sustainability. They offer seminars and classes for adults, volunteer opportunities and camps for kids, and a library filled with resources open to the public. These align with their mission to enrich the community and support the environment.
In addition these offerings, Lewis Ginter hosts several events each month. In October, some events included Goblins and Gourds and Wedding Floral Design. December and January will host the infamous Dominion GardenFest of Lights, which was reviewed in The Match last year.
Whether you’re looking for a nice place to spend a Saturday afternoon or somewhere to study nature, Lewis Ginter is your destination. I certainly enjoyed spending some time away from the hustle and bustle of my life, appreciating everything Lewis Ginter has to offer.
All photos by Gillian Laming.