My sister and I recently visited the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA. According to the garden's website, the place has a slightly unusual history. The property started as a club, progressed to a convalescent home then eventually a private residence, from where it passed by will to the city's possession in 1968, with the stipulation for it to be developed into a botanical gardens. In 1981 this was finally realized. (see LGBG website for more details)
All that's lovely, but what does it mean? The garden and its collection is young and still in development. They have, however, done quite a nice job with the modest grounds. I would also point out, they have a lovely library on premises, which is open to the public and full of books and periodicals on plants, gardening, and birds. Not to mention a fantastic place to escape from the heat. Richmond might as well be Savannah for the weather they get there.
But I digress. Here are some highlights of their collection.
One of the first areas you pass through in the garden is an herb garden display, showcasing some well known as well as less known plants of medicinal interest. Washington Hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum) for example, at left. Hawthorn species are native to the United States, and the berries were/are used to prepare a heart tonic, but due to my lack of experience in the matter I couldn't tell you if all species are used or only certain ones. There are ~200 species. Washington Hawthorn, despite what the name suggests, does not originate from the Pacific Northwest. According to the USDA PLANTS profile, this species is found all over the Eastern half of North America, from Florida into Canada.
They do have a modest conservatory, with a few orchids of mainly rather ordinary selections from the view of an enthusiast. Enough, though, to be educational to the novice, however. I thought this Paph. Lynleigh Koopowitz was rather attractive.
While they may have little in terms of unusual orchid species, they did, however have this nicely executed glass sculpture of a 'ghost orchid' (Dendrophylax lindenii, a.k.a. Polyrrhiza lindenii). This endangered leafless species is native to the Southwestern reaches of Florida. The plants have been under propagation for several years now, and laboratory-propagated stock are often found for sale on eBay. If you by one, please make sure it is laboratory-propagated.
There is a picturesque pavilion, no doubt frequently rented for weddings, surrounded by a variety of roses in varietal blocks. The most unusual to me was this Polyantha rose, 'Orange Morsdag'. I don't recall reading about Polyantha roses before, but if this one is certainly worth note with its adorable multitude of blossoms reminiscent of the Old English style. Googling it I find the shape of flowers varies among Polyantha roses, though floriferous nature and compact size is common, and they vary in their hardiness. Investigate varieties of interest before planting them in your landscape.
There were many other things of interest in the garden, including a nice variety of Japanese Maples and other trees, carnivorous plants, and woodland perennials. Overall, worth the visit when you're in the Richmond area.