Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Touring Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

A little over a month ago, Jonah Holland was kind enough to invite me and Sarah of Roaming Virginia for a private tour of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. I brought Buttercup along, figuring it would be a good chance for her to get the inside scoop on one of her favorite places around town.

I'd been in touch with Jonah via Twitter, and we have a slew of mutual friends in Richmond. Given how many of us have kids and are loosely or directly involved in creative professions, sometimes it seems like a little thirty/forty-something parent mafia, all slightly interconnected. In any case, after meeting Jonah, she took us out for our first stop at the community garden.

Ginter received a grant this year to grow 10,000 pounds of vegetables for the local food bank. It was/is an ambitious task driven by volunteer support and community contributions. When we visited, they had already harvested nearly 2,000 pounds of vegetables and received a few hundred more from personal donations — people with gardens more successful than mine.
We had a chance to speak with the associate director, who explained that they'd opted to go with conventional rather than organic methods out of expediency and cost — they'd been offered a substantial supply of mulch. Still, they weren't treating the plants and sought more organic or natural methods of pest control. Regardless, it was clear that the program was proving to be a success — after all, affluence shouldn't determine whether a person can afford fresh, local produce.

Next up was a stop at the Butterflies Live! exhibit. Here Buttercup was able to show off her stellar knowledge of butterflies and moths. There were some truly remarkable specimens, including one with a wingspan of nearly a foot. The butterflies and moths flit freely around, and you're cautioned before entering not to touch them if they happen to land on you. The brilliant part is that you can visit repeatedly and be assured of seeing different varieties of butterflies and moths.

After a bit more wandering around, we landed in the children's garden. Buttercup knows the place well, but it was still a pleasant surprise to come across blackberry bushes bursting with berries and fairy houses. It was a further reminder that it would be grand to see a bigger cross-section of Richmond using and taking advantage of the gardens... butterflies, squash and all.