Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Seasons seem to be more of a suggestion in Virginia, than actual indications of weather. Luckily, the cold winter gave way to a few warm-ish days in early April and I was able to get to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia. I had visited during the summer last year and being new to the east coast at the time meant that I was ill-prepared for the humidity. My visit last year was not as enjoyable as I’d have liked due to the raging sun, so I made sure to put LGBG back on my list of places to visit when the weather was better.
Scoping it out
One of the ways that I check out places before I visit is that I will look at their Instagram, or variations of hashtags of the location to see what people are posting. I used that method to gauge when the tulips would be at perfect bloom, and coincidentally it coincided with their annual Butterflies LIVE event. Armed with all of that knowledge, I made a plan to visit the gardens come rain or come shine!
Who was Lewis Ginter?
Born in New York City in 1824, Lewis Ginter lost both of his parents by the time he was 10, and was subsequently raised by his older sister. When Ginter was eighteen, he moved to Richmond and set up a series of successful businesses. When the Civil War broke out, Ginter joined the Confederate Army and successfully rose to the rank of Major. Ginter was present when Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, and returned to Richmond shortly thereafter.
Richmond suffered great loss during the war, and with little economic prospects remaining, Ginter returned to New York City to pursue a banking career. Ginter did not stay away long; the Panic of 1873 caused him to lose a large amount of his wealth and forced him to return to Richmond.
Upon his return to Richmond, Ginter joined with John Allen and formed, Allen & Ginter, selling foreign tobacco. In the following years Allen & Ginter expanded into Virginia manufactured cigarettes. The production expanded and Ginter amassed an extensive fortune. During his success in the tobacco industry, Ginter began to invest in real estate. In 1894, Ginter established the Lakeside Wheel Club, which would become the Bloemendaal House, in what is now the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
Birth of the Gardens
After Lewis Ginter’s death in 1897, his niece Grace Arents purchased the property from the estate. Over the next several years, the property was expanded, bringing the total size to 80 acres. When Arents died, she willed the property to the city of Richmond, with the stipulation that her companion Mary Garland Smith could live there until she died, and that the city would develop the property into a botanical garden in honor of her late uncle. Unfortunately, after Smith’s death in 1968, none of the city’s plans came to fruition. It wasn’t until the early 1980’s that the wheels were finally put into motion. The garden has undergone many changes over the decades, with many changes still occurring to this day.
The last time that I had visited LGBG, the Butterflies LIVE event was in full swing, but the heat was unbearable! The butterfly area is extremely humid already, so imagine how bad it was in the middle of a Virginia summer. Oh. Em. GEE! Luckily, this visit was a lot more bearable. It was still a little warm in the butterfly enclosure, but I didn’t feel like I was about to pass out.
The staff really goes through great lengths to ensure that you have a great experience, while ensuring the safety of the butterflies. The butterflies are everywhere! I had to be extremely careful as I walked around because I definitely did not want to be responsible for hurting one of the beautiful butterflies. The staff allows you to stay with the butterflies for as long as you want, which is really great when the temperature is cooperating.
Within the Conservatory, where the butterfly enclosure is also housed, there is a wide array of beautiful orchids. As soon as I walked through the doors I could smell the orchids; it was definitely a treat for the nose as well as the eyes. On the other side of the conservatory, away from the orchids, there are some plants that are near and dear to my heart.
Being from California, and living in a constant drought, the “desert landscapes” have become wildly popular over the past two decades. And there, in the brightest corner of the conservatory, there are various cactus plants basking in the sunlight. They look extremely out of place in the lush Virginia surroundings, but I’m sure they were loving the Vitamin D. Seeing them brought a smile to my face because it was a little piece of home.
Beauty is Everywhere
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has 50 landscaped acres of absolute beauty. It is very easy to completely lose yourself and forget about the time while you are there. One of my favorite gardens to visit is the Asian garden with its beautifully manicured trees and small waterfalls. LGBG has over a dozen themed gardens, including a very interactive children’s garden.
See For Yourself
This article really doesn’t even begin to cover everything about LGBG. There are sculptures, pianos, lakes, roses, bridges, and so so soooo much more. The video about my trip is up on my YouTube channel, be sure to check it out and subscribe to the channel! I have also posted so many other photos on Instagram from my trip. The video and the pictures don’t do it justice, you really have to see it in person.
If you want to prep for your visit, the Lewis Ginter website is full of so much information. There is an entire section devoted to articles and blogs, but I have to warn you… you could easily spend hours reading through all of the interesting information.
I really hope to be able to get out to LGBG for the Gardenfest of Lights later this year. I tried last year, but the traffic was INSANE! The key is to not wait until the last minute this time, (I’ll reeeeally try not to.) This will not be be the last article about Lewis Ginter, I’m sure I will return more than once this year.
As always, thank you so much for following along with my crazy adventures. I welcome your comments and feedback.
Until the next Adventure,