The Best Gardens of Virginia

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MAKE PLANS TO VISIT THESE HORTICULTURE-FOCUSED DESTINATIONS IN 2022

It’s no secret that Virginia is a beautiful place to live, and every season brings out a new aspect of its beauty. Right now, while the air is cold and the trees are bare, we can appreciate that unhindered view of the Blue Ridge, maybe capped with a dusting of white. We can also plan for what we will do once the weather warms up again.

With that in mind, and to coordinate with our annual “Best Of Issue,” we have worked with some of Lynchburg Living’s most beloved contributors to curate a list of Virginia’s “best,” must-see gardens. Without further ado, here are our recommendations:

Charlottesville

Thomas Jefferson’s Gardens at Monticello
www.monticello.org/house-gardens/farms-gardens
Thomas Jefferson was an avid observer of nature, and a dedicated and methodical gardener. The gardens at Monticello served not only as a functional producer of food, but also as a lab for Jefferson’s experimentation with imported and exotic vegetables and botanicals. In fact, he documented his gardening experiments in his “Garden Kalendar,” which he wrote with a scientific exactitude, reflecting his passion for horticulture. Today, visitors can tour the lovingly restored flower gardens, the stunning 1,000-foot-long vegetable garden terrace, and the sprawling orchards maintained by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. You will also have the opportunity to learn about 19th-century cultivation and the rich history of Virginia as a critical state in our nation’s development.
Recommended by Kaye Moomaw

Pavilion Gardens at University of Virginia
While you’re in town exploring Monticello, you’ll want to take a quick drive over to the University of Virginia, founded by—you guessed it—Thomas Jefferson. At UVA, TJ really flexed his truly inspired talent for landscaping. There are 10 unique pocket gardens spaced symmetrically along both sides of the famous “Lawn.” Many of the flowers and shrubs on display at UVA in Jefferson’s time were cultivated at Monticello and transplanted into the university gardens, which were traced and outlined by Jefferson’s own invention—serpentine brick walls. You’ll want to find a shady spot to sit with a cup of tea and a good book, because the small size and elegance of some of these spaces truly project a “secret garden” feel.
Recommended by Kaye Moomaw


Lexington

Boxerwood Gardens
boxerwood.org
The Boxerwood Education Association maintains over 15 acres of protected property, where they have identified and cultivated five unique ecosystems, all available for the inspiration and education of anyone with an interest in environmental preservation. The Pioneer Forest— complete with a “fairy forest” the kids are sure to love—is a great place to experience forest succession. The Wetlands is a habitat teeming with life, and is home to wonderful critters. As you transition into The Field, you can observe the different fauna that are attracted to this grassy, open space. The Hedgerow provides a transition between forest and field, and serves as a sort of highway for smaller critters and sun-loving trees and shrubs. Finally, the Established Woods is the picture of an old-growth, healthy and active forest full of large trees, and three distinct levels of growth: the upper, middle, and lower stories.
Recommended by Shannon Brennan


Nelson County

The Quarry Gardens at Schuyler
quarrygardensatschuyler.com
This one is a bit out of the way from our other suggestions, but well worth the trip because of its truly unique offerings. Once a very profitable soapstone quarry, the Quarry Gardens are spread out over two distinct geological formations, which foster a wide array of diverse ecosystems. In fact, maintained within these 40 acres is the largest concentration of Virginia native plants in the entire commonwealth. A large and winding trail system boasts 34 “galleries,” where you’ll find everything from pollinator gardens and vernal pools to wetlands, barrens and a fern gully.
Recommended by Shannon Brennan


Greater Lynchburg Region

Lynchburg Grows
www.lynchburggrows.org
Lynchburg Grows is a seven-acre, nonprofit urban garden that employs individuals with disabilities and provides fresh, organic produce for the community. Veggies are grown in greenhouses with all sorts of gardening techniques, including hydroponics. They also run a CSA, a farm store, and FreshRX, a super-inventive vegetable prescription program aimed at helping people with diet-related illnesses make healthy lifestyle changes.
Recommended by Susan Timmons

Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum
www.annespencermuseum.com
The Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum was home to late Harlem Renaissance poet Anne Spencer, who was an essential voice, both locally and nationally, for civil rights and equality. Her garden was a place of solitude and peace amid the very turbulent and racially segregated period of history in which she lived. The time she spent in reflection while tending to her garden inspired her writing; the house and gardens also played host to intellectuals, creatives, and African American travelers. The gardens have been restored with the help of Spencer’s direct descendants, as well as old photographs. Tours are available, which we highly recommend. Not only is this a beautiful, creative space, but it is also an invaluable piece of history.
Recommended by Susan Timmons and Ashleigh Meyer

Old City Cemetery
www.gravegarden.org
No local garden list would be complete without mentioning Old City Cemetery, with its peaceful rolling hills, sculptures, ponds, and, of course, Virginia’s largest public collection of heirloom roses. Yes, it’s also a cemetery, but it’s such a beautiful place. I personally think the cemetery adds an intriguing historical element to the whole experience, which you can learn about by visiting the gift shop/museum on the grounds—but if you’re just there for the flowers, you may not even notice the cemetery at all. Admission is free, so take advantage of a sunny winter afternoon and stop by.
Recommended by Susan Timmons and Ashleigh Meyer

Cloverlea at Claytor Nature Center
www.lynchburg.edu/academics/academic-and-community-centers/claytor-nature-center
Owned by Lynchburg College, Claytor Nature Center is a hidden gem located off Route 43 in Bedford County. The gardens enshroud a stunning 1780s farmhouse (Cloverlea) with breathtaking views of the Peaks of Otter. The grounds are free and open to the public, and feature meticulously trimmed boxwoods, a variety of flowers and shrubs, and one of Virginia’s largest white ash trees. I find it to be a truly calming and inspiring landscape. Also at Claytor Nature Center are multiple trails through forests and wetlands along Big Otter River. The Education and Research Center on site houses the Ramsey-Freer Herbarium, a collection of more than 63,000 dried and preserved plant specimens from all around the region.
Recommended by Ashleigh Meyer


Richmond

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens
www.lewisginter.org
This destination has more than a dozen themed gardens across 50 acres, complete with a really gorgeous glass-domed conservatory. A designated rose garden, an “Asian Valley” incorporating the stunning design features of Japanese gardens, and a fun and educational children’s garden are just a few of the reasons you need to visit the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. In fact, you can even make a stop in the winter! Lewis Ginter is open year-round for guests and also offers membership options.
Recommended by Susan Timmons and Kaye Moomaw

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