Warm spring days are made for strolling through verdant gardens, running through meadows and stopping to smell the roses.
About a 90 minute drive from Alexandria is the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
“It really is a special place here in the area,” said Brian Trader, president and CEO of the 50-acre garden in Lakeside, Va., a suburb of Richmond just north of the city. The centerpiece of the property is the thriving conservatory, which opened in 2003, designed by Rough Brothers, Inc. of Cincinnati.
“It’s beautiful all year round,” garden spokeswoman Beth Monroe said. “Even in the middle of winter, it’s an oasis.” The conservatory features palm trees, orchids, tropical plants and more. The conservatory is also the location of the garden’s “M&T Bank Butterflies LIVE” exhibit, which opened last month and will feature hundreds of fluttering butterflies through October 10. Admission to the exhibition is free with admission to the garden.
The community-oriented nonprofit garden named for Ginter, a prominent businessman, was started by Ginter’s niece, philanthropist Grace Arents, who bequeathed funds to create the garden. A garden created in her honor is located in front of a historic house on the property, the Bloemendaal House, where she lived until her death in 1927. It was restored by the Garden Club of Virginia in 1990.
The house was originally used by Ginter for the Lakeside Wheel Club, a bicycle club. The park offers a variety of guided walks and art classes for all skill levels. You can even check out the seeds from the library onsite in the garden, where they pass around a collection of seeds that people can borrow, plant, harvest, save, and return to the library for others to borrow (if anything goes as expected, as they say).
If you really love roses, mark your calendar for Saturday, May 21 (1-4 p.m.) and Sunday, May 22 (11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.) for the Rose Society Show, which is free with admission. regularly in the garden. Roses will be on display and experts will be available to answer your questions.
Rose lovers can also visit the Louise Cochrane Rose Garden, with over 1,300 bushes on a 9,000 square foot hillside garden. The peak of flowering occurs at the end of May and the beginning of June. It is one of more than a dozen themed gardens, which also include the Children’s Garden, the Asian Valley and the Cherry Blossom Walk.
Thursday evenings from June to mid-September, the garden is open until 9 p.m. for “Flowers After 5” with live music, entertainment, catering. Guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets. Although picnics outside are not permitted, food sales continue until 8 p.m. at “Flowers After 5.”
The second and fourth Thursday nights are also Fidos after 5 nights, when the garden partners with the Richmond SPCA and leash dogs are allowed. If you plan to bring your dog, read some of the pet rules here: lewisginter.org/visit/dogs.
During regular hours, the Garden Cafe is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, offering freshly made flatbreads, sandwiches, soup, salad bowls, as well as take-out selections, desserts, drinks and Moreover. Before heading home, take the time to stop by the Garden Shop for a souvenir or useful gardening supplies and gardening-inspired gifts for all ages.
Admission is $14 per person for ages 13 and older, $11 for seniors 65 and older, $10 for military, $8 for ages 3-12, and free for children under 3 years. If you live more than 50 miles from the garden, there is a discount for membership, which allows unlimited visits. To help you plan your visit, you can see what’s blooming each month here: lewisginter.org/visit/whats-in-bloom.
BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THESE OTHER GARDENS IN THE AREA:
BROOKSIDE GARDENS Hours of Operation: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. 1800 Glenallen Avenue Wheaton, Maryland
SPRING GREEN GARDENS Hours: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; noon to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. 4603 Green Spring Road, Lincolnia
MEADOWLARK BOTANICAL GARDENS Opening hours: 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court, Vienna
US BOTANIC GARDEN Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 100 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington, D.C.
US NATIONAL ARBORETUM Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 3501 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C.
WINKLER BOTANICAL PRESERVE Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. 5400 Roanoke Ave., Alexandria