Last summer I visited my hometown of Richmond, Virginia especially to see its iconic Monument Avenue without the infamous Confederate statues, and posted what I found here on the Rant.

(Quick update on the status of the Robert E. Lee statue: Virginia’s Supreme Court cleared the way for it to be dismantled and carted away, which has been done. It’s yet to be determined what to DO with it.)

But I saved for now, mid-way through this dreary winter, to share the garden-related thrill I experienced in Richmond – my visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where I instantly fell in love with its gardens. I had to pull myself away to go inside the much-praised museum. (Scroll down for proof that I did, finally.)

I gathered my museum photos and did the basic googling to find out who had created this magical place and discovered that it’s registered with the Cultural Landscape Foundation, on whose website I learned a bit about the museum and its gardens:

Funded by the Federal Works Administration, the 14-acre Virginia Museum of Fine Arts campus was established in 1936 amidst formal Beaux Arts parterre gardens and a heritage oak grove. Additional classical structures were added in 1954 and again in 1970 to accommodate the growing collection.

In 1976 Lawrence Halprin, working with Angela Danadjieva, designed a sunken sculpture garden that included a geometric water feature inspired by Virginia’s waterfalls. Halprin selected all but one of the sculptures, which he personally sited amidst woodlands and lawns along a serpentine walk meandering across gently undulating topography. In 2010 Halprin’s sculpture garden was replaced by a museum wing designed by architect Rick Mather and a lawn, waterfall, and canted rooftop sculpture garden designed by Laurie Olin of OLIN. 

“Well, no wonder!” I proclaimed when I saw the names of two of the most exalted landscape designers in the world, including for their works here in Washington, D.C. (For at least 20 years I attended meetings of D.C.’s design review body, where these two landscape “starchitects” and many others presented their works.) 

Here in D.C., Halprin is the only landscape architect to ever design a presidential memorial (the FDR, a favorite of us locals), while Olin is credited with the Washington Monument, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden and many others. (The Virginia Museum isn’t even listed on their website as a featured project!)

The Foundation listed the styles of the museum’s landscape as Beaux-Arts / Neoclassical and (now) Modernist. Clicking those links for examples of old and new styles sure cemented for me my preference for Modern – or what I’d describe more generally as nontraditional. 

These colorful glass tubes by Dale Chihuly DO seem to be everything these days, but they’re super-effective here.

More views from my visit in late June of 2021.

Also on the grounds…

My purpose in going to the museum in the first place was to see Kehinde Wiley’s Rumors of War. It’s located a block or so from Monument Avenue, where statues in this style honored Confederates for so long.

Plants Indoors by Faberge

I offer these Faberge works as proof that I did go inside the (mostly free) museum, though my focus was still on plants. Shown above are Faberge wild rose, Lily of the Valley, and English Hawthorn.

Apparently Faberge’s botanicals are hot items in the auction houses these days.

For some reason the Faberge dandelion was my favorite, though. Maybe because it’s nontraditional?