The 5 most unique botanical gardens in Virginia

Photo by Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

By Amie Knowles

March 5, 2024

When the daffodils bloom, it’s a sure sign that spring is right around the corner—and last weekend, we saw the bright yellow buds in our backyard. While there are a multitude of spring flowers popping up across the commonwealth this month, it’s a neat experience to see a curated collection. We’ve selected some of the best Virginia spots to catch a glimpse of nature in all of its glory.

Norfolk Botanical Garden

The year was 1938—and Norfolk’s city manager, Thomas Thompson, and Frederic Heutte, a young horticulturalist, had an idea. The two were familiar with the famous azalea gardens in Charleston, South Carolina, which brought tourists to the area by the thousands. Since Virginia’s Tidewater region had a similar climate, the pair pitched a plan for a large azalea display in Hampton Roads.

More than 200 African American women and 20 men worked on the project, according to the Norfolk Botanical Garden’s website. The crew cleared the land, hauled soil to build a levee, and planted thousands upon thousands of azaleas, rhododendrons, shrubs, and trees, as well one hundred bushels of daffodils.

Visitors still enjoy the gardens today, which feature 60 uniquely themed areas that are accessible by walking trails, waterways, and a seasonal tram system. In March, things in bloom include camellias, magnolias, cherry blossom trees, and more.

Southern Virginia Botanical Gardens

Located at the Paul C. Edmunds Memorial Park in South Boston, the Southern Virginia Botanical Gardens and Environmental Education Center aims to showcase “gardening as a lifestyle.”

Grants from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission (VTICRC) and the Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association of Virginia helped bring the garden to life. In 2010, a group of Southside Master Gardeners worked alongside leaders in Halifax County to cultivate a portion of the local park.

In under 15 years, the idea became a thriving horticultural area, featuring an American Indian culture area, a children’s teaching garden, a nature trail that became a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, and more. 

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Grace Arents, a Richmond philanthropist, is to thank for this beautiful oasis in Richmond. Arents, who was born in 1848, wanted to honor her beloved uncle, Lewis Ginter, in a special way. In her will, she stipulated that some of her money be used to create a garden in his name—and in 1984, that wish became a reality.

“Today, the garden is comprised of 82 acres and includes more than a dozen themed garden areas, including a conservatorychildren’s garden and Kroger Community Kitchen Garden growing fresh produce for area food banks,” the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden website reads. 

Visitors have access to thousands of plants, four lakes, 15 distinct outdoor gardens, and more. There are a multitude of events taking place this spring, like the Virginia Daffodil Society Show and the RVA Tropical and Exotic Plants Plant Swap. Simply head over to the garden’s website to learn more about these and other special occasions. 

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

Have you ever wondered what life was like in the 1700s? At Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, it’s like stepping back in time when you visit the site of a circa 1740 log cabin likely built by Henry Gunnell. The structure started as a one-room space, but additions, renovations, and restorations in the late 18th century through the 1900s created the two-story home that stands today.

There are also opportunities to see old springhouse ruins, the historic daylily collection, and a historic tree grove. 

If the modern age is more your style, visiting the Color Wheel Garden, Pollinator Garden, and Butterfly Garden may be good stops to add to your itinerary. 

Hahn Horticulture Garden 

Hokies, unite! This nature space is actually located on the campus of Virginia Tech. Fear not, it’s not just for students to enjoy. Pro tip: Although admission to the garden is free, you’ll likely need to purchase a visitor’s parking pass from the school’s Parking Services if you visit on a weekday.

Every two months, a different artist’s work is featured at the garden’s pavilion area. In March and April, art by Karin Tauber Textile (an international fiber artist) will be on display. All of the artists come from the New River Valley or surrounding area.

“There’s always something going on at the Hahn,” according to the college’s website. “Fabulous speakers, seminars, symposia, hands-on workshops, free garden walks, plant sales, and other events happen throughout the year—check back frequently for the latest.”

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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