I know it’s hard to envision brightly colored blooms and lush green grass when we’ve just had several inches of snow on the ground. But now that it’s officially spring, it’s kind of hard not to daydream about what will happen once all of that snow melts. And I, for one can’t wait to get out and start exploring some of the best gardens in Richmond.
While Richmond has long been known as a destination for history, art, food, and government, we’re also starting to gain a new reputation as a garden destination. This is in no small part to the creation of the Richmond Garden Trail. In case you didn’t know, the Richmond Garden Trail is a series of nine garden sites all within a ten-mile radius. But what makes this “trail” even better is the fact that none of these gardens are new. In fact, many of them have been there for decades, growing, expanding, and blooming with more beauty every year.
Blame the cabin fever, but we couldn’t help thinking about some of our favorite gardens. As a result, we came up with a list of the Best Gardens in Richmond so that you can start planning how to get your spring off to a great start.
To choose the best gardens in Richmond, we looked for the following factors:
- A variety of blooms and/or other plants to see
- A creative architecture
- Options for things to do at the site
Whether you’re like some of us and love gardens, but don’t necessarily have a green thumb yourself, or you’re an avid gardener who loves to get new ideas, these five gardens will inspire you with their beauty. Take a look at our list and if you know of a garden in the Richmond area that we might have overlooked, let us know! Drop us a line at email@example.com and tell us all about it.
In the meantime, here are our favorite gardens in Richmond…enjoy!
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) is home to some of the finest works of art, not just in Virginia, but in the world. And while you can spend hours wandering the magnificent halls and gallery spaces indoors, the museum’s beauty extends beyond its wall. The E. Claiborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden has become a destination for Richmonders with its beautiful green spaces and captivating artwork. Since it opened in 2010, the garden has served as a city oasis for patrons of the museum, as well as members of the community. Featuring 3.5 acres of manicured lawns, water features, and a breathtaking sculpture exhibit, the garden is a truly unique escape right in the heart of The Fan.
Why we love this garden: With both temporary and permanent displays, the VMFA Sculpture Garden offers an incredible showcase of art from sculptors such as Henry Moore, Aristide Maillol, and Dale Chihuly, whose “Red Reeds” are located in the Anne Cobb Gottwald Reflecting Pool. But that’s just the manmade beauty. The charm of this garden is that it also offers natural beauty in abundance. In addition to its expansive lawn, where you’ll find people doing yoga, walking their dogs, eating lunch on the patio, or just taking in a pretty day, the gardens are also filled with manicured flower beds, cherry trees that fill with blossoms in the spring, and many other trees, plants, and shrubs. With all that it offers, the Sculpture Garden provides community space that is welcoming to all.
200 N. Boulevard, Richmond, VA 23220
The name alone makes this garden one we couldn’t pass up. But fortunately, it’s not just the name that makes the Enchanted Garden so enchanting. Located behind the historic Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum, the garden stands as a tribute to the author himself. Filled with fragrant flowers, sculptured shrubs, elegant statues, and winding ivy, the garden is enclosed by brick walls, resulting in a haven that is both peaceful and romantic. While Poe might have been known for his somewhat macabre works and tragic life, his Enchanted Garden represents a gentler, more beautiful side of the author. In fact, thanks to the idyllic scenery, the garden is often used for weddings, as well as other events including a monthly “Unhappy Hour” complete with live music, refreshments, and family-friendly fun.
Why we love this garden: Not only is The Enchanted Garden a beautiful and timeless space for garden lovers, but it offers a unique portrait of the man who inspired it. With a history that dates to the early 1920s when the museum itself was first founded, the Enchanted Garden was designed to be a living embodiment of Poe’s works, specifically his vision of paradise as he described it in his poem “To One in Paradise.” Likewise, the garden is filled with flowers mentioned in his various other poems and short stories, includes ivy taken from the grave of his mother, Eliza Poe, and incorporates other plants from the Richmond home of his foster father, John Allan. When strolling through the garden, you can almost feel his stories come alive – a feeling that is aided by the two black cats, Pluto and Edgar, who call the garden home, as well as the “Poe Shrine” which features a bust of the author.
Admission: Adults – $8, Seniors – $6, Youth (7-16) – $6, AAA Members – $6, Children 6 and under – Free
1914-16 East Main Street, Richmond, VA 23223
If you’ve ever wanted to time travel, Agecroft Hall will be a dream come true. Let’s start with the “hall” itself. Built in the 15th century in Lancashire, England, this Tudor mansion was one of three manor houses owned by the Prestwich and Langley families, two of the area’s most powerful families. By the mid-20th century, it was abandoned and had fallen into disrepair before businessman T.C. Williams Jr. purchased it at auction, dismantled it, and shipped it overseas to his home in Richmond. There, he had it carefully reassembled in the Windsor Farms neighborhood. After years as a private home, it is now a museum representing more than 500 years of history. To fully represent its Elizabethan legacy, Agecroft features elegant gardens, not unlike the ones that would have been found when it was in its heyday. In addition to lush lawns, visitors can stroll amongst the Sunken Gardens, the Garden Knot, and the Crepe Myrtle Walk. A delight for history lovers and garden lovers alike, Agecroft Hall offers truly timeless beauty. See what’s blooming now at Agecroft.
Why we love this garden: Even if Agecroft Hall didn’t have such a fascinating backstory, we would love it anyway. The gardens, while not as large or diverse as some on our list, are stunning in their elegance and style. Carefully crafted and designed, the gardens at this historic estate offer a sense of history that is captivating. Find seasonal blooms in every color and scent as you stroll the grounds. Or just sit on one of the benches located throughout the estate and take in the splendor that surrounds you. Plus, if you really want to feel like you’ve gone back in time, you and your family can take part in the many events that happen at Agecroft throughout the year. From historic presentations to tours to Virginia’s only Shakespeare Festival, Agecroft is a destination for all ages.
General Admission: (includes guided tour, self-guided garden tours, Woodland Walk, and Sunroom Exhibit) Adults – $8, Seniors (65+) – $7, Full-time students – $5, Children 6 and under and Military (with ID) – Free. Annual Passes are available for $20.
Garden-Only Admission: (includes self-guided garden tours, Woodland Walk, and Sunroom Exhibit) Adults – $4, Seniors (65+) – $3.50, Full-time students – $2.50, Children 6 and under and Military (with ID) – Free.
4305 Sulgrave Road, Richmond, VA 23221
As one of Richmond’s most popular parks, Maymont offers 100 acres with many attractions, including a Children’s Barn, wildlife exhibits, a Nature Center, and the historic Dooley Mansion. But for many, it’s the gardens that are the greatest appeal. When Major and Mrs. James H. Dooley first acquired what is now Maymont in 1886, it was a dairy farm set on the banks of the James River. Under their careful guidance, it became a token of the “Gilded Age,” eventually featuring an elegant Victorian mansion and accompanying gardens. Mrs. Dooley herself oversaw much of the original planting and architecture, including six hundred rose bushes, thousands of other flowers, and evergreens from all over the world. Then, as now, the gardens included high bluffs, rock outcroppings, streams, ravines, gazeboes, statuary, walkways and more. Today, the gardens have only grown in elegance, beauty, and diversity, not only preserving Mrs. Dooley’s vision but offering garden lovers a chance to explore and revel in the beauty of nature – all within the city limits.
Why we love this garden: The main reason we love Maymont is that there isn’t just one garden, but many. In addition to the luxurious grounds surrounding the Dooley Mansion, visitors can explore the Italian Garden, which features romantic columned walkways, brilliant blooms, and stunning views; the Japanese Garden with its waterfall, bamboo-lined walkways, and zen-like atmosphere; or the Arboretum, which includes more than 200 exotic species of trees and plants imported by the Dooleys in the early 20th century, many of which can be found planted around the park itself. Then, of course, there are the smaller specialty gardens found throughout the park, including Marie’s Butterfly Trail, The Carriage House Garden, The Grotto, and much more. In short, everywhere you turn at Maymont you will find something beautiful, which is just one of the reasons that Maymont is such a city treasure. Find out what’s in bloom now at Maymont.
1700 Hampton Street, Richmond, VA, 23220
If you’re familiar with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, then it will be no surprise that it has been voted the fourth “Most Beautiful Botanical Garden in the U.S.” (Condé Nast Traveler, 2017); one of the top botanical gardens in the U.S. worth traveling for (TripAdvisor’s FlipKey site, 2016); number two among America’s 10 Best Public Gardens (USA Today, 2014); among the Best Botanical Gardens in the U.S. (Travel Channel, 2013); one of the Top 10 North American Gardens Worth Travelling For (Canadian Garden Tourism Council/BBCTravel, 2013); and more. Featuring lush gardens with flower and plant species from all over the world, Lewis Ginter is a garden lover’s paradise. With year-round blooms covering more than 50 acres, this garden offers something for everyone, including a 63-foot domed Conservatory (the only one of its kind in the mid-Atlantic) and more than a dozen themed gardens including a Children’s Garden, Rose Garden, Healing Garden, Fountain Garden, Asian Valley and more.
Why we love this garden: As if it’s not enough to have one of the best botanical gardens in the nation right in our own backyard (so to speak), Lewis Ginter provides a destination for the entire family – whether your family is horticulturally-minded or not. Throughout the year, the garden hosts events, concerts, seasonal activities, and exhibits to delight people of all ages and interests. Join them for Butterflies LIVE!, Nature Connects®: Art with LEGO® Bricks and Origami in the Garden. Or head out over the summer for their concerts on the lawn. Even when the weather is cold, the gardens offer spectacular displays like the Dominion GardenFest of Lights. No matter the time, weather, or season, Lewis Ginter is a garden that you won’t want to miss and easily tops our list of favorites.
Admission: Adults – $13, Seniors (55+) – $11, Military (with ID) – $10, Children (3-12), $8, Children under 3 – Free, Garden Members – Free
1800 Lakeside Avenue, Richmond, Virginia 23228
To see more great sites in and around Richmond, visit our Best of Richmond series!