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In its gardens and exhibit plantings, the Virginia Living Museum displays the most extensive collection of native plants in Virginia.

Children’s GardenVLM-children-garden

The Children’s Garden is a place for kids, particularly preschoolers, to touch, smell, grow and discover. In the Nature Playground kids can pretend to get trapped in a spider web, hop on mushroom shapes and whisper through talking tubes, and explore a play Hobbit House. The Learning Garden features plants that attract pollinators, plants that appeal to the senses and that promote healthy food choices. Kids can use a watering can to give flowers a drink or just sit on a bench and watch for hummingbirds, bees or bugs. The area opened in April 2013 as part of the Native Plant Garden project.



Butterfly GardenVLM-BflyGarden

The Butterfly Garden features a variety of native plant species that provide food for native butterflies in both their adult and juvenile (caterpillar) forms. It includes plants that flower in spring, summer and fall that produce nectar sipped by adult butterflies. It also includes the particular host plants that our most common butterflies seek out when they are ready to lay their eggs. The leaves of these host plants provide a ready source of food for the caterpillars when they hatch. This outdoor garden attracts numerous wild butterflies.

Learn more about our Butterfly Garden.


Virginia GardenVLM-VAGarden-2

The Virginia Garden highlights 400 years of Virginia’s botanical history. See the native plant species that were present when the first settlers arrived at Jamestown, the flora that was introduced to Virginia colonists by Native Americans and the plants that helped the settlers survive those first critical years. The garden also displays species introduced by the colonists and some native species that were exported to England to be used in gardens there. Learn about an early colonial botanist who was key to identifying and naming Virginia’s flora. Finally, the garden emphasizes some plants that have been introduced to Virginia that have become invasive and threaten native plant populations.

Learn more about our Virginia Garden.

Holt Native Plant Teaching GardenVLM-NativePlant

The Holt Native Plant Teaching Garden, which opened in April 2013, is designed to represent all of the horticulturally significant plants in Virginia. Starting with 200 to 300 species, the garden will ultimately have about 750 species, along with growing and bloom information. Unlike the Museum’s other gardens that have creative designs, this garden will be a place where visitors can identify plants and learn about their cultivation. The goal is to have a complete horticulture collection of Virginia’s plants from the mountains to the sea. It will grow as the horticulture staff locates and procures interesting plants.


Holt Native Plant ConservatoryVLM-HoltConservancy

The Holt Native Plant Conservatory, named for Museum founders Mary Sherwood Holt and her late husband Quincy, has enabled the Museum to expand its horticultural offerings including propagation of native plants and garden education programs. The Conservatory has more than 830 square feet of plant propagation, greenhouse and horticulture storage space. It is used to grow large plant material for use in animal exhibits, propagate hard-to-find ornamental native trees and shrubs, and to experiment with propagation methods for rare and endangered native plant species. It is open by appointment only.

The Holt Native Plant Conservatory, Native Plant Teaching Garden and Children’s Garden were funded by a grant from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation and donations by the Abbitt and Holt families, and Green Spring, Huntington and James River Garden Clubs.



Conservation Garden

The 3,000-square-foot “Conservation Garden” features earth-friendly gardening techniques: the use of native plants, mulching and composting to reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. It shows how proper landscaping methods can reduce storm water runoff that pollutes local waterways, while proving food, water and shelter for wildlife.

Learn more about our Conservation Garden.



Ozone Garden

Plants can detect Ozone Pollution, and the newest garden exhibit located just outside the Wason Education Center demonstrates this problem.

What is Ozone?

Ozone is a colorless gas found naturally in the earth’s atmosphere. In the upper levels it helps shield us form UVB radiation which can weaken our immune systems , prematurely age skin, and cause skin cancer and cataracts.

Why should we care?

Too much ozone near the Earth’s surface is a pollutant that can harm plants and animals. Ground level ozone is a major element of urban smog, caused primarily by pollutants given off when fossil fuels are burned.

Ozone air pollution can damage our immune systems, irritate lungs and cause breathing difficulties, especially for people who are active outdoors or have respiratory problems like asthma and emphysema.

Look for symptoms of ozone damage in our new exhibit:

  • Dark dots or damaged areas only on the upper surface of the leaf.
  • Leaf veins are not damaged.
  • Older leaves have more dots than younger leaves.
  • The amount of damage increases with continued exposure to ozone during the growing season.

Ozone Bioindicators

  • Leaf Damage – Ozone bioindicators are plants that are obviously harmed by excess ozone which destroys cells in the upper layer of the leaf. The greatest injury to plants occurs on hot, sunny days when the air is stagnant and ozone levels increase.
  • World Impact – Ozone pollution can negatively affect the world’s food supply by damaging important crops which may become more susceptible to pests, disease and drought.
  • Did you know? Research has shown that ground-level ozone causes more damage to plants than all other air pollutants combined.

Funding is  provided by NASA Langley Research Center.