fare thee well, for now, virginia {a walk through lewis ginter botanical gardens}

Monday, March 27:  It’s 3:30 a.m. on Monday morning.  My bags are packed and I’ll leave in about an hour for BWI airport.  My journey to Japan is about to begin. 🙂

This is the fourth time I will have lived and worked abroad. I taught Omani and Chinese university students on my two most recent gigs; the first time, I taught Korean elementary students.  I always leave home with excitement and some trepidation, mainly because I never know what the work environment will be like. Each of my experiences has been completely different from the others. I never worry about the travel, because each place offers limitless exploration potential.  I’ve rarely been disappointed in my travels.  I’ve enjoyed each country in which I’ve lived while at the same time struggling to deal with cultural differences. I think every person should live in another country at least once in his or her life; it’s an eye-opening experience to be a foreigner, a minority, in another land.  It gives one an understanding of what immigrants to our country must go through when they embark to the strange world that is America.

I don’t know why, but for this flight they recommend we get to the airport 2 1/2 hours ahead of flight time, which is 7:59 a.m. That seems awfully early to me, but who am I to question these crazy rules?

I made a day trip to Richmond on Monday, March 20, to visit my two kids.  Before meeting them, I went for a walk around one of my favorite gardens, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  I got a glimpse of spring here in Virginia, but now I’ll have to leave it behind. I’ll be immersed in Japan for full-on spring and through the heat of the summer. Tokyo’s weather is much like ours – cool and rainy in the spring, hot and humid in summer.  It will be similar to Korea’s weather as well.

Butterfly bench at Lewis Ginter
Conservatory
tulips and such

Inside the conservatory, I found orchids and tropical plants.

Outside, I found a Japanese tea house and garden, a children’s garden and tree house, and a pond.

to the Japanese tea house
pretty pond
pretties on the path
green and red leaves
Japanese tea house
all abloom
A Celebration of Resourceful Women
Kids Tree House
Kids Tree House
Kids Tree House on Sydnor Lake
orchids in the conservatory
orchids in the conservatory
orchids in the conservatory
orchids in the conservatory
orchids in the conservatory
orchids in the conservatory
orchids in the conservatory
in the conservatory
orchids in the conservatory
delicacies
Palms
tulips
tulips
gingerbread house
bunches of flowers
fir
arbor

I hope to see you all in Japan!  You can follow my adventures here:  catbird in japan.

an evening at lewis ginter’s dominion gardenfest of lights: “H2Whoa”

Saturday, December 5:  After I fetch Mike from the University of Richmond football game, we sit in Starbucks drinking hot coffee for about an hour before we’re due to pick up Alex and his girlfriend, Ariana.

From Alex’s house in The Fan, we head over to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for the Dominion GardenFest of Lights.  It’s quite a cold night, so we bundle up to walk through the 30-acre light and botanical display.  The “H2Whoa” theme showcases water in all its forms and highlights the many ways water shapes our world.

I apologize in advance for the poor quality of my photos, for without a tripod, I fear they’re pretty blurry!

blue fountain at Lewis Ginter
blue fountain at Lewis Ginter
Alex, me and Mike
Alex, me and Mike

Many of the flowers and fish throughout the gardens are made from recycled materials, especially plastic bottles — cut, painted and shaped into fantastical creatures and botanical features.

garden of recycled plastic
garden of recycled plastic
Pirate's booty, Purple Octopuses and Schools of Fish
Pirate’s booty, Purple Octopuses and Schools of Fish
Pirate's booty, Purple Octopuses and Schools of Fish
Pirate’s booty, Purple Octopuses and Schools of Fish
Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland
canopy of lights
canopy of lights

In the children’s area, we find a zoo of colorful animals.

Alex and Ariana are a cute couple, don’t you think?

Ariana and Alex
Ariana and Alex

We make our way slowly over toward the Conservatory.  The warmth inside beckons.

Conservatory
Conservatory
Fountain Garden
Fountain Garden
Fountain Garden
Fountain Garden

Inside the Conservatory, we’re greeted by a giant octopus and schools of fish on the “ocean’s floor.”

An underwater world in the Conservatory
An underwater world in the Conservatory
Gardens in the conservatory
Gardens in the conservatory

We find many garden features in the Conservatory, some real and some created out of plastic bottles.

In the Conservatory, we also admire the elaborate electric train dioramas.

Finally, we head back into the Visitor’s Center, where we wander around the gift shop to warm up.

heading back to the Visitor's Center
heading back to the Visitor’s Center
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octopus ornament
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sea creature ornaments
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cute owl ornament
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terrier ornament
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elk ornament
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butterflies
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lanterns in the gift shop

After our fun exploration of the GardenFest of Lights, we go to The Fan, where we wait in line for a Cuban dinner at Kuba-Kuba Restaurante y Bodega.   We enjoy a lively atmosphere, delicious meals and cold beers, after which we take Alex and Ariana back home and we drive home two hours to northern Virginia. 🙂

springtime at lewis ginter & a milestone birthday party

Friday, May 9:  Today, I drive to Richmond to meet my daughter Sarah to celebrate her 30th birthday, which was on April 26.  We’re a couple of weeks late.  She’s been busy with four classes and as today is the last of her final exams, she’ll finally be able to relax and enjoy the party.  Mike and the boys drive separately to meet us at 4:00.  They plan to drive back home after dinner, while I intend to stay the night with Sarah in Richmond.  We have some shopping to do on Saturday for that birthday.

Since I arrive in Richmond around 2:00, and Sarah is still taking her exam, I drop by Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens to see what’s in bloom for spring.  As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the nicest gardens in Virginia, although I’m sure there must be many more beautiful ones throughout the state that I haven’t visited.  Here’s a little of what I find.

Click on any of the pictures below for a full-sized slideshow.

I have probably misnamed some of the flowers, so I would appreciate any gardeners out there who can set me straight.  For instance, I’m not sure if the flowers I’ve labeled azaleas are such, or if they’re rhododendron.  And I wish someone would tell me the name of the white flowers with the yellow Chihuly-like centers.

{Thanks so much to Carol of Wanderings of an Elusive Mind and Jonah from Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens for setting me straight on the flower names!)

By the time I finish walking around the gardens on this hot and humid day, I’m soaked and my hair is sticking out like it’s been whipped with egg-beaters.  I run to Sarah’s and take a shower so I won’t look like the dregs of society when we go out tonight.  The celebration is mainly for Sarah’s birthday, but also for the end of her demanding semester. It’s also a celebration for Mother’s Day.  It’s not often I have all three of my children together.

Sarah has the idea to go to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for wine tasting on the patio.  In the pond beside the patio are Chihuly’s Red Reeds.

Chihuly's Red Reeds
Chihuly’s Red Reeds

I take a picture of my three children, but, as I don’t have my glasses on, I don’t realize until later that Sarah’s eyes are closed. 🙂

Alex, Sarah & Adam
Alex, Sarah & Adam
Mike, Sarah, Alex & Adam
Mike, Sarah, Alex & Adam

We then head to dinner at Bacchus on Main, where we have a feast fit for kings, a queen and a princess.  As Sarah seems to know all the waiters in the Richmond establishments, we get some little perks, like a dessert we don’t order and an extra appetizer.  Happy birthday to Sarah!

Bacchus: Sarah on the left, Alex, Adam and Mike on the right. :-)
Bacchus: Sarah on the left, Alex, Adam and Mike on the right. 🙂
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the grounds of lewis ginter botanical garden

Friday, August 16:  After I tear myself away from the orchid garden in the Conservatory of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, I walk outside to take a stroll around the extensive grounds.  I first see the Robins Visitors Center across the Fountain Garden.

the view from the Conservatory to Robins Visitors Center over the Fountain Garden
the view from the Conservatory to Robins Visitors Center over the Fountain Garden

Asian Valley celebrates the sacredness of nature with East Asian plants, rocks and water cascades.

Plants in Asian Valley
Plants in Asian Valley
Asian Valley
Asian Valley
Asian Valley
Asian Valley
water garden near the Lotus Bridge
water garden near the Lotus Bridge

The West Island Garden is a wetland garden with a focus on native species and carnivorous pitcher plants.

the West Island Garden
the West Island Garden
the West Island Garden
the West Island Garden
the West Island Garden
the West Island Garden
the West Island Garden
the West Island Garden
the West Island Garden
the West Island Garden
Winter creeper at the West Island Garden
Winter creeper at the West Island Garden

The Flagler Garden and the Woodland Walk have winding paths featuring a rich palette of perennials, shrubs, trees and bulbs.

Flagler Garden
Flagler Garden
Flagler Garden
Flagler Garden
Flagler Garden
Flagler Garden

The Children’s area has a tree house, a children’s garden, a farm garden and an international village.

the Kids' Tree House
the Kids’ Tree House
children's garden
children’s garden

The Louise Cochrane Rose Garden has more than 1,800 roses selected for fragrance, rebloom and disease resistance.

Louise Cochrane Rose Garden
Louise Cochrane Rose Garden
Asian Valley
Asian Valley

By this time, I’m getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and I promised my father I’d be at his house in Yorktown by 5:00, so I head out of the beautiful Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, promising myself to return here on a cool fall day.

Four Seasons Garden
Four Seasons Garden
Four Seasons Garden
Four Seasons Garden
Four Seasons Garden
Four Seasons Garden
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Four Seasons Garden

lewis ginter botanical garden: succulents, palms, orchids and other little pretties

Friday, August 16: After leaving the butterfly exhibit, I explore the rest of the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden‘s Conservatory, including succulents, palms and orchids, along with the little gingerbread house that sits in their midst.  Well, it’s not really made of gingerbread, but it sure looks like it is. 🙂OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After my time in the Conservatory (I always think of the game of Clue when I hear that word: “I think it was Mr. Green in the Conservatory with the lead pipe”), I head outdoors to explore some of the rest of the gardens….

lewis ginter botanical garden: the conservatory & butterflies live!

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.

the entrance to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
the entrance to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

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.

Crossing the gardens to the Conservatory
Crossing the Four Seasons Garden to the Conservatory

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASixteen 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.

Fountain
Four Seasons Garden

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)

The Conservatory at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
The Conservatory at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden with the Fountain Garden in the foreground

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInside 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.

Outside Butterflies Live!
Outside Butterflies Live!
water gardens outside the Conservatory
water gardens outside the Conservatory
water gardens
water gardens
in the water gardens outside the Conservatory
in the water gardens outside the Conservatory
water gardens
water gardens
water gardens
water gardens
water gardens
water gardens

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.

Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!
pretty flowers inside Butterflies LIVE!
pretty flowers inside Butterflies LIVE!
flowers inside the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit
flowers inside the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit
Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!
Butterflies LIVE!

After enjoying the butterflies fluttering all about and lighting on pretty flowers, I leave the exhibit and head into the orchid garden…..