An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

October 3, 2013

Busman's Holiday - Maymont Park

     After a delicious lunch at Lewis Ginter, we got back on the bus and headed across town to Maymont Park. This was far from my first visit. I was taken there frequently as a small child, and on one occasion a mule in their zoo tried to eat my coat, while I was still in it. Once when I was older I walked there while my mom or dad played softball nearby, and oblivious to the time of day, I ended up getting locked in and had to carefully scale the fence to get out. As a young adult I rented an apartment down the street and found the park a great place to clear my head. A lifetime later, after I discovered horticulture, I was flattered by an invitation to be a landscape judge for their annual flower and garden show (when such shows actually featured flowers and gardens). So I was excited when Maymont appeared on our trip's agenda. It was my first visit in nearly 30 years.

The Dooley Mansion
\Dooley Mansion

     Maymont was once the country estate of the James and Sallie Dooley who bequeathed the entire property, gilded age mansion and its contents included, to the people of Richmond for use as a park. The city ran the park from 1925 until 1975 when the Maymont Foundation took over day-to-day operations and began raising money for long overdue renovations.

Happy lantana smothers the path to a gazebo.
Lantana and Gazebo

     There is much to see at Maymont, but true to our natures, we were most interested in the gardens. The two largest are the Italian and the Japanese, which are connected by waterfall and a run of interesting stairs. There is a large pergola flanking the Italian garden with a domed room at one end. I remember this pergola as a wonderful tangle of wisteria, but that is gone now. Peggy Singlemann, the director of horticulture, told us they had to dig out 2' feet of soil in each bed of the garden in order to remove all of the wisteria's roots and seedlings. She also told us that she found the garden's original urns buried under a brush pile. The most amazing thing she told us was that she and two other people are the only horticulturists on staff for the whole park. Like us, they could do very little without the help of volunteers.

Italian Garden (3)

Italian Garden (5)

Italian Garden (6)

Italian Garden (8)

Italian Garden (7)

Italian Garden (4)

Italian Garden (1)

Fountain Steps

Waterfall Japanese Garden (3)

Crooked Way

Acer Palmatum (2)

Acer Palmatum

     What I took away from my visit to Maymont were certain similarities it has in common with the place I work. Both are municipally owned properties, with aging infrastructures, that are managed by a non-profit foundation (or in our case a society) of dedicated, hard working volunteers and employees. 

16 comments:

  1. Beautiful photos. Thanks for taking us along.

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    1. You are quite welcome Layanee.

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  2. You are a great photographer! I really enjoy your blog.

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    1. Thank you Cathie. Taking photos of things I enjoy make it easier.

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  3. I enjoyed the visit, especially the crazy tilting sidewalk coming down the hill.

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    1. That sidewalk was once not as crooked, but I think I like as is.

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  4. I visited Maymont in 1969 with my girl scout troop (from Emporia). All of my grandparents were farmers so I knew about agriculture, but I believe this visit was my first introduction to ornamental horticulture on a grand scale, and it made a huge impression. I've only seen the garden once since then, perhaps 10 years ago, and it was everything I remembered and more.

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    1. I am not sure what influence, if any, Maymont had on me. But I have so many memories of the place.

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  5. The stone stairs and waterfall leading to the japanese garden are very impressive. I'm glad you concentrated on the garden part of the estate.

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    1. It is hard to tell from the photo, but there are two matching halves to the stairway with water flowing down between them.

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  6. Another amazing resource for the people of Richmond, and must be a great place to work as a volunteer, but goodness they must need a lot of volunteers. I love that higgeldy-piggeldy path through the rocks. Do they plan to re-plant the pergola with climbers? How interesting to go back after so many years, but I'm glad nothing tried to eat you this time!!

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    1. I am glad nothing attempted to eat me also. To my knowledge they are not going to replant the pergola. They are really trying to stick with original plants in the gardens at Maymont, but if wisteria was on the list, I sure they will stay clear of it.

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  7. It's been about 8 years since I've visited Maymont Park. Your photos certainly captured the serenity and beauty of the gardens. Thanks for taking me back. And...I can't believe you scaled the fence!

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    1. It was interesting going back after so long, and it was easy to see where the money has been spent. The mansion, the barns, the children's garden, the nature center were all in great shape, as were some of the gardens, but other areas could use a little more attention.

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  8. Love the pergola, and the plantings surrounding it! Too bad they had to get rid of the wisteria. That is an enourmous area for two paid staff to be responsible for, even with volunteers (and it takes a lot of energy to run a volunteer program also)!

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  9. (Hi Les, I am writing to invite you to participate in a series on the blog titled Tools of the Trade. I am interested in the tools you regularly/frequently use in your work.
    I hope you can participate! Best, Georgia.)

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