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Just a reminder: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Blog has moved! You can now find us at: LewisGinter.org/blog

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Chrysalides

Chrysalides

May 20 2009 004brown

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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

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By Beth Monroe, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden PR & Marketing Dir.

 I’ve always loved meadows, Maybe it’s from watching too many episodes of Little House on the Prairie when I was a child — you know, that opening scene with Laura and her sisters running through the long grass?

 Turns out unmown grasses aren’t just for the prairie anymore. The look is becoming more acceptable in other areas – even (gasp!) botanical gardens.

Partially unmown hillside at the world-famous Royal Botanical Garden, Kew, in England

Partially unmown hillside at the world-famous Royal Botanical Garden, Kew, England

When Garden executive director Frank Robinson returned from a trip to Europe last year, one of the first things he mentioned was how some gardens there are leaving designated spots unmown. In a staff meeting last week I learned Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has made a commitment to do the same – choosing not to mow some of the perimeter areas. It’s a dramatic shift from the perception many people may have of a formal garden. 

 So why are we doing it? The reasons are compelling – and relevant to homeowners as well. The environmental benefits of having unmown areas include:

Increased wildlife habitat — especially for birds, butterflies and other insects.
Part of an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) strategy — providing habitat for birds and beneficial insects helps to minimize populations of damaging insects to ornamental plants.
Better water management — slows run-off, allowing rainwater to soak into the ground, recharging local water tables and wells and reducing flooding.
Unmown lawns do not require the fertilizers and weed killers applied to most lawns — reducing nutrient and pesticide run-off to our streams and rivers.
Addition of visual interest to the landscape.

But wait, there’s more! As I was doing a little “Earth Day” research, I came across these startling stats:

  •  Traditional gas-powered lawn mowers are responsible for 5 – 10 percent of the nation’s air pollution.
  • A lawn mower running for one hour emits the same amount of pollution as 40 new autos running for one hour.
  •  Over 30 million gallons of fuel is spilled annually when filling up lawn mowers, trimmers and other landscape power tool – that’s more than 2 million more than spilled from the Exxon Valdez.

And if all of this isn’t reason enough, consider this — leaving some areas unmown can save you time and money.

Still, the concept of unmown areas is hard for some people. Our culture (which can be a little obsessive!) prizes the picture-perfect lawn. It’s a good reminder that just because something looks green doesn’t mean it’s best for the environment. As we approach Earth Day on April 22, maybe this is the year to rethink the lawn – or at least parts of it. (Read more “Earth-friendly” tips for your yard and garden.)

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I just spoke with Tracy Kane, author of the Fairy House Series of books. She’ll be at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, April 29th  for our No Child Left Inside: Restoring Nature to Early Childhood symposium. I was very excited to speak with her because I’ve seen with my own children how comfairyhousepletely enthralled they are with fairy houses and miniature worlds and I thought she might have some insight into what it is about fairy houses that is so special.

I think it is partly because the magic of nature is so easy to believe in. Watching a caterpillar turn into a butterfly or a tadpole turn into a frog is a magical experience.

[The fairy houses] can be simple rustic dwellings or be quite elaborate its pretty simple when you get kids back into nature it’s natural — within 10 minutes they’ve got something going. They’re intuitive to nature and you just watch the child come to life.

She mentions some basic rules, for example never use artificial material — but other than that it is free game.  “Children understand the difference between natural and artificial materials,” she says.

Girls building fairy houses in the Children's Garden's Woodland Point.

Girls building fairy houses in the Children's Garden's Woodland Pointe.

I’ve mentioned before the incredible positive impact of how being outside in nature affect my kids.  I became more educated about this topic and I made some changes in how I approach our back yard and how much TV I let my kids watch mostly  because  in preparing for this symposium,  I had a chance to serve on the symposium’s advisory committee and just by talking about the issues the committee members enlightened me to nature’s import role in the lives of children.  Still,  I was looking for some concrete examples of why it is important for children to have an opportunity to explore nature.  What is the logic behind it and why does it work?  I found some  great (but surprising) information on Tracy Kane website that explains it:

Recent news reports have suggested that kids are suffering from “nature-deficit disorder”.  Children are plagued by the estimated 44 hours per week that they spend watching TV and playing computer and video games according to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Some might argue that “nature-deficit disorder” is not just a problem for children, but is ever-present with adults, too.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, defines “nature-deficit disorder” as the cumulative effect of withdrawing nature from children’s experiences. Families too can show the symptoms — increased feelings of stress, trouble paying attention, and feelings of not being rooted in the world.
Building fairy houses, the latest outdoor craze, inspires appreciation and awareness of the environment through an activity that encourages year-round outdoor play. The tradition of building these environmentally sensitive, small dwellings to attract fairies and wood nymphs is generations old.

Getting back to the workshop here at Lewis Ginter, Tracy Kane will be part of  an event, Homespun Fun for Families, focused on teaching parents and kids easy fun outdoor activities they can do at home.  She’ll read from her  stories and discuss different types of fairy houses, then the kids will create a fairy house village out of some great natural materials we have been collecting here  at the Garden.

A fairy house, built by my son, in a hollow log with a luffa "flag".

A fairy house, built by my son, in a hollow log with a luffa "flag".

“There is a magical age — somewhere between 5 and 10”  Kane says,  “that they really  show their creative potential.” It’s not just girls either. I mentioned to  Kane, my son’s intense interest in building these houses too.  Boys, she says tend to focus on the  outside of the fairy house more (patios, bridges) girls focus on the inside, including soft stuffing,  putting acorn caps down or seashells as plates for fairy food (seeds, berries).  Very interesting! And she’s right, my son is very focused on the outside of his houses.  Perhaps the fairy house village project will inspire him to create some great infrastructure — a bridge perhaps, or a water tower!  As for me, I just can’t wait to see what these children are create as they play in nature as the sunsets, guided only by their imagination, and inspired by the little treasures that Mother Nature leaves in her wake — pine cones, seashells, walnut shells, luffa, seed pods and hollowed out logs.

Homespun Fun for Families is free to Garden members, symposium attendees and free with Garden Admission.  We just ask that you RSVP via email to registrar [at]lewisginter dot org

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