“Our ways are not your ways,
and there shall be to you many strange things.”
~Dracula, Bram Stoker
|My Norton Critical Edition copy includes annotations, wine marks and wax?!?|
Of course, here in Virginia we’ve had a chilly start to spring. Yet, within the last few days, the temperature has dramatically increased, the rains have cleared, and today it hit 93 °F to 34°C. Before heading to the gardens, my first stop was some sunscreen. Of course, I carried my hat and sunglasses.
Here’s a side step to a bit of history. TheLewis Ginter Botanical Garden includes 50 acres in the northern part of Richmond, Virginia, land that was once owned by Patrick Henry. Yes, the “Give me liberty or give me death!” Patrick Henry.
A wealthy businessman, who is known around these parts but most of you probably have never heard of him, named Lewis Ginter purchased the land. Ginter was born in New York of Dutch immigrant parents. He came to Richmond in 1842 at the age of eighteen and made a fortune in the import business before losing it to the Civil War. He served in the Confederate Army, and then returned to New York, where he made a second fortune in the banking industry and lost it to a recession. At age fifty, Ginter returned to Richmond and entered the tobacco business. He made millions marketing the pre-rolled cigarette and became a civic leader and philanthropist. He then sold his interest in the tobacco company and entered his fourth career, land development. Upon his death, he left a large portion of his estate to his niece, Grace Arents. Arents devoted her life to philanthropy and gave generously to many causes and institutions. Upon her death, she donated her inheritance to the people of Richmond and thus the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens continues today.
Both Ginter and his niece Grace Arents are buried at Hollywood Cemetery. If you're ever there, go to the Ginter mausoleum and peep inside to see some Tiffany stained glass windows. Then looking away from the mausoleum between two overgrown shrubs you'll see a humble grave stone for Arents.
My first stop was the conservatory where I planned to find the Tacca chantrieri or black bat flower before doing anything else. In the East Wing in the shade of the red banana tree, the Bloodleaf Banana to be exact, the flower lurked. Named for its black bat-like flowery appearance, each flower can grow up to 12 inches with the long “whiskers” growing over 2 ft. long.
In person, this plant is stunning. I wish that I had been able to get my pictures a bit more crisp but at a distance, I really didn’t want to fall into the bed or orchids and become known as the girl who squished the black bat flower.
After looking around at the spider orchids and entering the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit where there were several black butterflies, I went in search of the Dracunculus vulgaris, also known as Dracula’s flower. This plant has multiple green stems that appear to be splattered with blood. Its flower is a deep dark red and has a ruffled edge. And like the Voodoo lily the fading flowers emit a smell that resembles that of rotting flesh, designed to attract flies and carrion beetles that pollinate it. Because of that, you will understand why I was not so disappointed that it was not in bloom.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens has an excellent picture on its blog that you can see here; today, it did not appear to be in bloom since we were not sure if we even found it. I was assisted by one of the gardeners who was able to take me to the place. So this picture may be the Voodoo lily on its way out or it may be the Dracula flower along with the Voodoo lily. It's hard to say since they are planted next to one another. I’m completely okay not finding the Dracula flower because in the novel, Dracula was able to elude his pursuers just like the Dracula flower was able to avoid me. Plus, no rotting corpses here;)
When I reached out to the botanical gardens this week, I was told that the director of horticulture has an affinity for black plants. No lie! The gardens are filled with beautiful dark foliage making this one of the most perfect places in town to get one’s gothic gardening fix.
I hope you all had a wonderful World Dracula Day!
I'm off to read the children's picture book Dear Dracula by Joshua Williamson and Vincente "Vinny" Navarrete staying inside where it is cool.