Friday, August 16: This afternoon, before heading to Yorktown to visit my father, I stop to explore the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
Lewis Ginter (1824-1897) was a prominent businessman, army officer, and philanthropist in Richmond. He had a number of business careers, making and losing fortunes several times over, finally amassing great wealth in the tobacco industry. He helped develop many civic and business interests throughout Richmond, including the Jefferson Hotel. Major Ginter brought this property inf 1884 and built the Lakeside Wheel Club here as a destination for Richmond bicyclist.
I first head through the visitor’s center and across the Four Seasons Garden, the Healing Garden and the Fountain Garden, on my way to the Conservatory.
Sixteen years after Major Ginter’s death, his niece Grace Arents purchased the abandoned clubhouse from her uncle’s estate. She remodeled the structure, added a second floor and opened a convalescent home for sick children. Later, when there was no more need for that, Ms. Arents developed gardens on the grounds and named the property Bloemendaal (“Valley of Flowers”) to honor her Dutch ancestors.
When Ms. Arents died in 1926, she bequeathed life rights to her friend and companion Mary Garland Smith, who lived with her, with the stipulation that upon Ms. Smith’s death, Bloemendaal would become the property of the City of Richmond to form a botanical garden named after her late uncle. Mary Garland Smith died in 1968 at the age of 102. The property transferred to the City of Richmond, and after languishing for over a decade, the gardens opened its doors to the public in 1987. (Information from the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden brochure)
Inside the Conservatory is a Classical Palm House, tropical orchid wing and themed floral displays. At the north end of the conservatory is the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit, which will be at the garden until October 13, 2013.
Before entering into the Butterfly garden, we must step into a middle room where we must leave bags behind, as butterflies like to hitchhike on large objects. On the way out, we must stop in the room again and be inspected by a staff member, to make sure we’re not unwittingly carrying any butterflies on our clothing.
After enjoying the butterflies fluttering all about and lighting on pretty flowers, I leave the exhibit and head into the orchid garden…..