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Did you see Sunday’s Times-Dispatch? Not only did they feature Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for how well we are using social media — but they also featured the butterflies (plus a slideshow)!  I’m so happy to be in such good company! And so honored to have made it to the front page.

Kudos to Bill Lohmann, the reporter, who lead with how nuns in Richmond use social media.  Once again, we are in very good company!

Of all the places you might expect to find Sister Vicki, a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia, one of the last might be here on YouTube, the often-irreverent, post-your-own-video free-for-all that’s representative of today’s social media landscape.

What’s a nice nun doing in a place like this?

“The biggest part of my job . . . is visibility,” said Sister Vicki, whose job is to work with women who believe they are called to religious life. “My job is to make sure the ones who should find us do.”

The flurry of activity around Butterflies LIVE! and the Garden has been incredible these past few days.  What an incredible way to kick off the summer!

I’d just like to take a few minutes to thank and round up some of the blog posts of Richmonders who decided it would be a good idea to come see our Butterflies LIVE! exhibit for themselves and give the rest of Richmond and Central Virginia a preview. The really cool thing is that they all decided to do this on thier own.  From movies, to photos, to blog posts, each was inspired by the Garden or the butterflies. So cool!

Plus we’ve gotten some great local media coverage as well.  And Elevation just finished our 15 second TV spot that will be airing starting June 1st — so if you have 15 seconds, take a peak!

In fact, the response in the blogging world has been so tremendous, I’ve decided to host a blogger tour of  Butterflies LIVE!  If you are interested in participating, just email me at jonahh [at] lewisginter [dot] org and I’ll add you to the list! Hopefully, we’ll have some live Tweeting from this event as well.  The date is still to be decided.

So here goes:

A blue morpho feeding on fruit at Butterflies LIVE!

A blue morpho feeding on fruit at Butterflies LIVE!

Plus,  RVAnews.com featured one of my blue morpho photos as their photo of the day.  And Style Weekly had a cute  write up on how everyone loves butterflies because they remind us of our ability to transform ourselves. (Very true!)  Plus you can always see some of our latest and greatest photos on Richmond.com. They featured the butterflies  in an article a few weeks ago.

I’m sure I’m missing someone, so if you’ve seen a blog post or media coverage on Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden recently, or you’ve written something yourself, please feel free to leave a comment so we can link to it.

Blue Morphos feeding on cantaloupe

Blue Morphos feeding on cantaloupe

The Rose Garden at Lewis Ginter

The Rose Garden at Lewis Ginter

Wow, there is some really exciting stuff going on at the Garden! The Rose Garden is in full bloom, just in time for a packed house for tonight’s Groovin’ in the Garden concert.  Old Crow Medicine Show may be the first show of the season to sell out, and this gorgeous weather is certainly helping! There are lots of wonderful plants in bloom as we wind up  the last few weeks of A Million Blooms.  Some of my favorite are the iris and pitcher plants in the West Island garden and the hardy water lily outside the Conservatory.

Tomorrow, is another big day for the Garden: opening day of Butterflies LIVE! featuring hundreds of exotic tropical butterflies in the North Wing of the Conservatory as part of a metamorphosis-themed 25th anniversary celebration, funded with generous support from the Robins Foundation.

Here are some photos for you of some of the 24 species that will be featured.  Also, check out some of our butterfly videos on YouTube!

We have lots of other fun information on butterflies and Butterflies LIVE! on our website, including ID cards, FAQs and more.  Plus, don’t forget, our Butterflies LIVE! Facebook Widget and our “Which Butterflies LIVE! butterfly are you?” quiz, also on Facebook.

treeblackorange2

Chrysalides

Chrysalides

May 20 2009 004brown

by Janine Butler, garden volunteer
Under the watchful eye of Tom Brinda, Assistant Executive Director of Horticulture & Education, the first team of vegetable garden volunteers got things moving on Saturday!  And what a team it was!  Five ladies, including myself showed up bright and early to continue the work that was started last Thursday during the Planting Day Celebration.

First off, we moved several 50-pound bags of cow manure. This was spread up and down the rows of cabbages and peppers that didn’t get manure prior to planting.

Then we placed old newspapers down around the plants, about 5-6 sheets thick. Tom must have been so impressed with our muscles moving the bags of manure that he then made us shovel mulch all over the newspapers to a depth of several inches. Who knew that there was such an art to putting down mulch?! As the location of the veggie garden is quite open and can get pretty windy, the mulch had to completely cover the edges of the newspapers so that the wind would not be able to get underneath and blow them away. Then we had to go back and make sure that there was no mulch touching the plants, especially the stems of the tomato plants, as this can damage them.

While some of us continued to shovel mulch, a couple of ladies moved on to the next task of the day. Tom wanted to get some squash seeds planted. They thought they were getting out of the shoveling … but no! Apparently, squash seeds grow best when planted in little ‘hills’. This means making small mounds of organic matter (about 2 shovels full), and then covering them fully with dirt (more shoveling). The hills should be spread out about 4 feet apart. Next we rolled out the black plastic over the hills, and then, you guessed it, we shoveled dirt onto the edges of the plastic to prevent it from blowing away. Finally we got to the easy part – making holes into the plastic by cutting X marks, and then popping three seeds into the dirt, about 2-3 inches apart. In about 10-12 days the seeds should begin to germinate. Depending on how many seeds do actually germinate in each hill, some of the seedlings may be thinned out to give more space to the remaining plants.

All in all it was a good day’s work but we still have many more days of work to go. Teams of volunteers and Lewis Ginter staff will be working regularly each week to get it all done. I’m hoping that we didn’t scare away the volunteers with all the shoveling this week – we need them to come back and do some more work next week!

By Janine Butler, garden volunteer

Today was awesome!   About a hundred people participated in the celebration planting day this morning, including a group of 20  4- and 5-year-old students from New Directions Daycare.

It was great fun watching the children get in the dirt and plant cabbages, bell peppers, eggplant and tomatoes.  It comes so natural to children – they have no fear or anxiety over whether they are doing it in just the right way, its all about getting it done.   They worked with folks from the Virginia Master Gardener Program and volunteers who did a great job explaining to the children what they were planting and why.  I overheard one master gardener asking a group of children gathered in front of several tomato plants if they ate spaghetti, and did they put ketchup on their burgers?  When the kids all said yes, she explained that spaghetti sauce and ketchup were made from tomatoes – and the look on the kids’ faces was amazing when they started to make the connection between the plants in front of them, and the sauce that goes on their spaghetti!   They couldn’t wait to get those plants into the ground!

The kids get down in the dirt!

The kids get down in the dirt!

New Directions Daycare partners with FeedMore.  It was great for them to come out and give a helping hand with the planting so that the students had a chance to learn about growing food locally and giving back to the community.

In the opening presentation Fay Lohr, President/CEO of FeedMore (the umbrella organization for Central Virginia Foodbank and Meals on Wheels of Central Virginia) commented on some startling statistics;   FeedMore has distributed over 10.6 million pounds of food and grocery items in the last nine months.  The programs that they offer make sure that those in need, including children, the elderly and the homebound, will continue to receive healthy food when  they need it most.

A few more facts from FeedMore:

- more than 723,000 people have received food through the foodbank since July 2008; more than 33% of them were children

- of the 36 localities they serve, 25 localities have childhood poverty levels above the state average

- the number of meals they prepare and deliver per day has risen from 3,000 last summer to 3,800 anticipated this summer; a 27% increase.

The staff and volunteers at Lewis Ginter are thrilled to be working on this vegetable garden, and the chance to help fight hunger in our community.  For me, volunteering on this project is such a great opportunity – I get to do some gardening which I enjoy, I get to learn lots of new stuff about growing vegetables which I have never really done before, but best of all I get to contribute to my local community.   If you would like to volunteer at Lewis Ginter then I encourage you to sign up!

Today we planted about 15 rows of plants, with each row having about 10-15 plants.  We had two rows of cabbage seedlings, 5 rows of assorted bell peppers, 1 row of eggplant, and lots of rows of tomatoes.  Most of the plants take 70-80 days to mature, but one variety of tomatoes – Early Girl Hybrid – matures in about 50 days.  Just a month and a half before we can reap some rewards!  Additional plants and seeds will be planted in the next few days, and throughout the season.

Cabbages in front row, bell peppers behind

Cabbages in front row, bell peppers behind

Attendees at the planting day celebration were each given a free packet of seeds.  Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is encouraging people to plant an extra row in their gardens at home and donate the produce to FeedMore.  I got a packet of squash seeds.  I’m not sure that I have space in a sunny spot in my garden at home, but I know one of my neighbors’ does!

If you told yourself that this year you would plant a garden, but haven’t got around to it yet, then I challenge you to go out and do it this weekend! It’s not too late!

We got a really sweet write-up in todays Richmond Times-Dispatch on Butterflies LIVE! that is opening next week (May 22nd) at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Check it out!

Butterflies seem to be a hot topic these days,  Maymont opens their new butterfly trail with a Garden Celebration this Sunday  and then our exhibit opens on Friday.

I’ll be posting some behind the seens photos soon, our first shipment of 100 adults and 500 pupa should arrive tomorrow — so stay tuned!

I’m so excited to see the butterflies — especially the blue morpho butterfly, pictured here.

Blue Morpho Butterfly

Blue Morpho Butterfly

My teacher husband wrote a great blog post on the Garden’s recent Dinner in the Garden for Teachers that Lewis Ginter hosted as part of our No Child Left Inside: Restoring Nature to Early Childhood symposium, so, I’ll let you read about Jane Kirkland, our keynote speaker and her wonderfully funny and inspiring story on his blog.

Jane Kirkland signs books at the No Child Left Inside symposium

Jane Kirkland signs books at the No Child Left Inside symposium

I want to get down to business talking about some of the amazing speakers that inspired me the next day, during our full-day symposium. And also, some of the children that inspired me at the Homespun Fun for Families event that followed later that evening.

First, we were so fortunate to have Virginia’s First Lady, Anne Holton, provide welcoming remarks at the symposium.  I couldn’t help but smile when she told the audience how she and Governor Tim Kaine used to come here to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in the Garden’s earliest days  to have serious discussions.   This is a wise woman who knows that nature allows us to step out of the box of life and nature somehow allows us to find solutions to our problems and conflicts that we might have otherwise overlooked.

Jane Kirkland, who had inspired us so wonderfully the night before at the Dinner in the Garden for Teachers, gave us some detailed ideas about how to incorporate nature into classrooms by making field guides with our children.  Robin Moore, Director of the Natural Learning Initiative and Professor of Landscape Architecture, North Carolina State University, really opened my eyes to how  much nature really affects children, with a simple view of trees having a measurable effect on attention functioning.  Of course I knew about the relationship between lack of outdoor play and obesity and diabetes in children, but I had no idea that outdoor play could prevent myopia — or nearsightedness.  Apparently, if you don’t use the vision to look off into the distance you can loose it!  I also learned that you don’t need to spend a great deal of time outside reap the healthy benefits of nature. “The minimum daily dose is actually quite small,” Moore says.

Chip & Ashley Donahue, Akiima Price and Robin Moore at the No Child Left Inside Symposium

Chip & Ashley Donahue, Akiima Price and Robin Moore at the No Child Left Inside Symposium

Akiima Price, Chief of Education and Programs, New York Restoration Project, founded by Bette Midler,  blew me away with her grounded and common sense approach to reaching out to urban youth. I felt double  lucky that Akiima was such  a brilliant and inspiring speaker because she was a last minute substitution for one of our speakers who couldn’t make it.  Part of what was so special about Akiima was that she came from a background that didn’t focus on nature, but discovered it herself later in life in a program that reached out to women and minorities to explore the idea of a career in environmental education.  Akiima saw firsthand the impact exposure to nature made in her own life and  because of her background, she is able to help children who might have had little access to nature to enjoy it without being frightened by it.

She easily understands and reaches out to the children who come from urban and low income areas who might have very little experience with nature and helps educators reach out to them in ways that they can relate to.  Basically, this is her genius.

“I evolved into an environmental education specialist because I realized my niche was working  as a bridge between the people that have the information and the wonderful opportunities and the land and the programs, with the folks that they are trying to reach,” she says.

Akiima explained  how in Las Vegas, where she was working, the environmental educators were reaching out to low income children in that area but were doing it indoors.  She questioned, where no one else had before, “Why are we doing this indoors?”  OK, it seems like the obvious solution looking back and knowing what we know now, but for the program at this Las Vegas nature center to change, it took Akiima to question —  “As opposed to talking about a cactus as a picture, why not have them looking at a cactus in real life and actually have that [experience].”

Akiima’s program uses new ideas to bring entire families to the garden. Ideas anyone, even on a small budget here in Richmond could easily apply. Garden games, using giant dice with pictures on them, matching games using images of items from gardens, and the kids favorite — Go Dig, a version of Go Fish!  She says she noticed that with many of the  troubled children she worked with that they are able to forget about the problems they have for a while in her program either  it is because they are playing garden games,  or somehow immersed in nature holding a snake, planning a garden, planting seeds or having a sleepover in the garden.  It offers them a place to be where they aren’t consumed by their troubles.

Much of her work,  she explained,  is achieved by asking simple questions that make the children think, “Where did this trash come from?” leads to an interesting discussion about combined sewage overflow. Another entire facet of her work was dedicated to building trust within the communities and with the children in particular. Building a trusting relationship with the children has staying power even outside of the garden that is something they can apply to life.  Commitment ceremonies — to the garden are not uncommon and help children, in their own words, make a promise to fulfill a  responsibility.

Another project educated the children about pollution and the affects that trees can have on reducing it. The project was simple enough – taking Popsicle sticks covered in Vaseline into high-traffic areas outside where they would be exposed to air and leaving them for a week. The children were completely floored when the contraptions filled with black particles.

Other ideas to get kids excited? A salsa garden, a pizza garden and, believe it or not – a compost toilet — which she said freaked the kids out at first, but then everyone wanted to use it.

Ashley and Chip Donahue, founders of Kids in the Valley, in Roanoke, made a huge impression on me. Not only have they single handedly founded a huge club where kids and their families can take adventures in nature together, but with 3 kids themselves, they are walking the talk.  They spoke about their many experiences of leading the KIVA trips, and one thing they mentioned is that they never cancel a trip due to the weather. They go rain or shine, and it adds another layer to the experience. Namely, I’m guessing the children learn they are tougher than they thought. Plus, Chip and Ashley said, once they get around their friends, they don’t complain like they do sometimes at home, or when it is just your family.

One thing that Chip said that really struck me is that sometimes it’s OK to let you children out of your sight. He talked about using a red backpack, centrally located, as a point that both the kids and the adults keep in sight and this method allowed his children to explore more independently and have more opportunities to use their problem- solving skills.  For me this was a big deal, as I’ve always been one of those parents who won’t let their kids out of their site EVER.    And with Chip and Ashley on site at the Garden on Wednesday night, I got to put it into practice — for the first time ever, I let my kids be in two separate areas of the Garden, each doing the thing they wanted to do. My son wanted to build his fairy house in the Children’s Garden mulberry tree and my daughter wanted to build hers down in the woodland point.  Chip and Ashley addressed people’s fear directly.  Why should I  let my fear hinder my children’s experiences?

Tracy Kane, author of the Fairy House Series of books, did a great job working with the children to build elaborate fairy houses out of natural materials. The kids loved it when she brought out fairy food and water for the little creatures!

A fairy house at Woodland Pointe in the Children's Garden

A fairy house at Woodland Pointe in the Children's Garden

My son's fairy house in the mulberry tree.

My son's fairy house in the mulberry tree.

Since I started working here at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden over 6 months ago, I’ve learned a lot about children and why they need nature.  As I sat down to listen to the speakers for the Garden’s  No Child Left Inside: Restoring Nature to Early Childhood symposium, last week, I wasn’t sure what more I’d learn, and what I’d take away from it.  But, I have to say, I learned alot.  In fact, not only have I learned a lot, but I’ve put it to good use — including setting an example for my kids.   On Mother’s Day, for the first time ever, I caught a frog. And guess what? 2 minutes later my daughter caught her first ever frog too. Speaking of fears, so far, no warts yet!   Here are the pictures! What do you think?

That is me holding my first frog!

That is me holding my first frog!

That is my daughter at the river holding her first frog, check out my son's face!

That is my daughter at the river holding her first frog, check out my son's face!

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