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Horticulturalist Grace Chapman is busy getting her gardens ready for spring. But unlike most backyard gardeners, she has 40-plus acres to cultivate and plenty of prep work ongoing. She's the new horticulture director at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, and she brings not only some interesting sensibilities to this gardening-crazy town, but also some new ideas — plus a few bees. R•Home: You were most recently the horticulture supervisor at Ambler Arboretum at Temple University in Pennsylvania. What brought you to Richmond and Lewis Ginter? Grace Chapman: Years ago, I had fallen in love with tender plants, tropical plants from warmer climates. I loved learning about horticulture up in Pennsylvania, but I was always trying to use more tropicals and subtropicals. I just knew I needed to move south, so when I started my job hunt, I was looking along the mid-Atlantic. R•Home: You studied horticulture in England and Scotland. Do you have a preference for British gardening styles? Chapman: My style is all over the map. I do like a lot of structure in gardens, although I appreciate naturalistic gardening, too. At Lewis Ginter, I love the formality of our main central garden areas. Conservatories are my favorite, as well. I love the style of our Victorian glasshouse, which is similar to ones I saw in England. I'm thinking that outside the glasshouse, I'd like to do a water lily display, the big six-foot water lilies, to complement it. R•Home: What's something else you'd like to add at Lewis Ginter? Chapman: I'd like to add a bit more focus on bringing in specimen plants and get away from plants that people can find for themselves at Home Depot. We should be a distributor for some more unusual and interesting plants. Something that botanical gardens have a responsibility to do is provide that kind of access to less well-known plants. Also, we definitely need to improve our native plant collection. We use a lot of native plants, but we need to do a better job of displaying those areas and grouping them together, showing people how they can use native plants in their own backyards. R•Home: So, beekeeping? Tell us a little about your adventures in apiaries. Chapman: As a gardener, I guess it's a pretty natural progression into beekeeping. I brought my hive with me from Pennsylvania to Virginia. I'm excited about having them here because we have a longer foraging season. Lewis Ginter's head of security already kept bees here, so my bees are their neighbors. We keep them around the irrigation pond, away from the public areas of the garden. R•Home: And the honey? Chapman: At Temple, I sold the honey to students, staff and faculty, and the money went into a fund for equipment for the Arboretum. I'm not sure how much of a harvest we'll get this year, but if we do, we might be able to sell some here as well.
Coming up in the spring at
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden:
• Orchids Galore, March 10 to April 22. "We're going to tell the story of plant ‘explorers,' and how hard it was to [originally] collect these plants."
• Butterflies Live, May 25 to Oct. 14. "We'll bring in tons of tropical plants, some as host plants, and some as nectar plants for butterflies."