Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Is One Of Best In The Nation In Richmond, Virginia.



City-Owned Botanical Garden Is A Living Tribute

Lewis Ginter Garden Is One Of Best In The Nation And Open Year Round With Adult Gardening, Yoga, Photography Classes & More

The Four Seasons Garden & Toward Conservatory [Photo Credit: Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens]

A veteran of the confederacy, attaining the rank of major, Lewis Ginter left quite a mark on Richmond, Virginia. At the age of 50, he returned to Richmond after making and later losing a fortune in the New York banking industry. He re-established himself in the tobacco and cigarette manufacturing industry. “He was a pretty amazing man, who made several fortunes”, claimed Janet Woody, librarian and archivist for the gardens. “His last fortune was in tobacco and cigarette making and he made multiple millions of dollars. He tried to spend almost all of it on the city of Richmond. He owned lots of land, he built the Jefferson Hotel, he always had a project going.”

Ginter’s philanthropy was well known at the time. In the late 1800’s he built the Lakeside Wheel Club for Richmond’s cycling community. “He was not a cyclist, but in the mid 1890’s cycling became a huge deal, and his friends in Richmond wanted a cycling club away from the city so they would have a place to ride and socialize”, explained Woody. “He used nine acres of land he had acquired and built the Lakeside Wheel Club building, it opened in 1895 and was very popular until the cycling craze died down”.

To honor Lewis Ginter’s memory, his niece Grace Arents left an endowment that would grow over time and be used to create a botanical garden named after her uncle. “In 1912 Grace Arents bought the nine-acre property and the falling down Lakeside Wheel Club. She converted it into a baby hospital, but that only lasted a year or two. It was too far from the city and mothers wanted to have their babies closer to the city. Her next conversion of the property was into her home”, said Woody. “She added other parcels of land all around the wheel club, to get to around 80 acres”.

Bloemendaal Spring Tulips Bless This Garden [Photo Credit: Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens]
The Community Kitchen Garden Volunteers Gathering Crop [Photo Credit: Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens]

After Ms. Arents’ death, her companion lived in the house until 1968, at which time the property was turned over to the City of Richmond. The City was unable to follow through with Ms. Arents’ wishes and claimed that operating a botanical garden at the site was not fiscally feasible. “The botanical garden is run by a non-profit that was formed in 1981, because the city was not following up on her will. A bunch of people got together and formed the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Incorporated. They proved to a judge that they could run the botanical garden and now they operate the site which is owned by the city. We have to maintain it as a botanical garden, it can’t be converted to any other use”, stated Woody.

The site provides many educational opportunities for children and adults alike. “We do summer camps all summer, and they’re usually nature based, because we want to keep kids outside. We have one that’s new this summer that’s a combination of yoga and cooking. We use ingredients from our community kitchen garden and the kids make guacamole or bruschetta. Sometimes the camps are just art focused”, explained Woody. “All during the school year, we have constant school groups. That’s a program we worked out with the schools and it’s not open to the public. We tailor the programs to the schools and what the teacher wants to cover while they are here. We match their curriculum needs”.

“There are several adult classes. We have a certification program in botanical illustration, we have lots of gardening courses, ‘how to’ and botany classes, photography classes and we do some paper making. Right now, we have yoga in the library. We have a movable yoga course that goes wherever there is space. They had to come indoors today because it’s raining”, said Woody.

A Giant Owl Butterfly Finds Landing [Photo Credit: Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens]
Teepee Shaped Art Piece Created Inside Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens [Photo Credit: Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens]
Children At The Carriage House Planting Class [Photo Credit: Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens]

In addition to the classes, there are several exhibitions at the facility. “Currently we have a wild art exhibition until October, that is a group of art creations using natural materials. It is all outside and can be made of stones or sticks, or anything you could find outdoors. One is really cool, it’s a portrait of Grace Arents made out of rocks and broken pots”, claimed Woody.

The facility is open year-round and its facilities are available for events as well as the everyday visitor. “Our rose garden is very popular, as is the Bloemendaal House, because there are some lovely gardens right outside the house. This time of year, we are very focused on what the brides want in their pictures. If you rent our space, we’re going to make it look good for you”, touted Woody. The facility not only hosts weddings, but many other meetings and events including memorial services. “We get you at all phases of life”, joked Woody.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens has something different blooming every month of the year and provide visitors with a serene setting for a leisurely stroll. “The gardens are very walkable, you can do as little or as much as you want. Some people are not able to walk as far, but as soon as you enter the gardens, you are surrounded by lots of beautiful things. We try to be very accessible”, claimed Woody. Thanks to Woody and others, the vision of Grace Arents in honoring her uncle will continue long into the future.

Jared Langenegger

A graduate of New Mexico State University with B.S. in wildlife and fisheries science, Jared spent 15 years working in fisheries and parks management. He enjoys camping, fishing, hunting, painting, and wood working. 

Pocahontas State Park

Make Sure To Stay At:

Pocahontas State Park, just 20 miles from Richmond. The park offers boating, picnicking, camping, cabins, 64-plus miles of trails, and nature and history programs. The Aquatic Center affords seasonal water-based activities for all.

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