NNNPS Field Trip to Norfolk Botanical Gardens


A stalwart group, Bryna Brennen, Jeff Wainscott, Alice Stieve, Judy Lang, Linda & Mike Orr, joined me for a trip to Norfolk Botanical Gardens (NBG) on Thursday February 21st despite a sequence of rainy dark days with the forecast for more of the same. Our shared interest in Virginia’s native plants and curiosity for Winter Interest in the Garden brought us together.

We were welcomed by the staff as a break from the winter doldrums, and Alexandra Cantwell, Adult Education Manager, gave us a private tour and even arranged use of a ‘cricket’ - extended golf cart- to motor us around so we could see more with some protection from the weather.

Our first stop was through the Japanese Gardens with lovely structure and water features to the Tropical Greenhouse. Colors of the tropical orchids and other tropical plants’ different foliage colors and shapes provided diversion, ohhs and ahhs. A prominent Virginia native plant was Spanish moss, Tillandsia usneoides! Alexandra explained that the botanical/horticultural staff is using native plants in new and more extensive ways throughout NBG.

Examining Yaupon berries.

Examining Yaupon berries.

We briefly stopped at the Perennial Garden where the outstanding hardscape structure was the main story of winter; however, the best Virginia native to catch our interest was Yaupon, Ilex vomitoria.The berries were almost translucent.Then on to the Holly Garden with ‘our’ i.e. Northern Neck Virginia native, American Holly, Ilex opaca, framing the entry and where the delightful Virginia wildlife sculptures are sprinkled about.


Other gardens visited held non-native blooming shrubs and forbs that many of us use in residential landscaping for early color and we enthused over moss pathways and lichen ornamented bark. On to the winter view of the meadows where professional maintenance was observed but there were still standing some grasses and native plant stems for overwintering larvae.

The concluding visit was to the Virginia Native Plant Garden which is a wetland wooded edge habitat. Many of the plants are also ‘our’ natives and it is like seeing a familiar face in a crowd. Winter interest plants included Red Bay, Persea palustris, ‘our’ Cranefly Orchid, Tipularia discolor, Christmas Fern, Polystichum acrostichoides, and bronzy foliage and heads of Wool Grass, Scirpus cyperinus.

During lunch, we all agreed that another field trip to NBG is a necessity when it is in full bloom, drier and warm!

Text by Paula Bound

Photos by Mike Orr

articlePaula Boundy