At this time of year, many homeowners are planning gardens. In Charlottesville more than two dozen people are going big – raising money and dreaming of a botanical garden that will cover more than 8 acres near the downtown mall. Sandy Hausman has details.
Once this land was a farm, and later a 9-hole golf course, but if Anita Showers has her way, it will become an idyllic spot to stroll.
“Its focus is going to be on flora that’s native to the Piedmont region.”
And she foresees the botanical garden as an important resource for schools.
“This could be a classroom for their students studying environmental sciences, horticulture – even art.”
Showers is marketing director for an organization founded by Helen Flamini – a support group for the garden. Flamini figures it could cost anywhere from $1 to $5 million to transform this city-owned property.
“What we envision is that thing will happen gradually. You don’t just plant a botanical garden on 8.5 acres and say welcome.”
Right now, she and 12 other members of the governing board are thinking about what they’d like to see on this property that lies between the 250 bypass, the John Warner Parkway, Melbourne Road and the Norfolk Southern Railway. There will likely be a visitors’ center and gardens that incorporate many kinds of flowers.
Suddenly she sees movement in the brush and concludes this garden will also need a very tall fence.
“You see the deer? There are two of them. There he goes! One, two, three, four – a small herd," she laughs, "One of the challenges that we will have is to keep the wildlife on the outside of the botanical garden."
Already, the group has conducted a so-called bio-blitz to catalog what’s on the property – more than two dozen kinds of native trees and a stream.
So there will be bridges to span the stream and the railroad tracks, a boardwalk to make the garden accessible for people in wheelchairs and maybe an amphitheater for weddings and live musical performances.
The property will be owned by the city, but Flamini says her group will play a major role in raising the money, creating and maintaining the garden.
Already they have more than two dozen volunteers, and in May they’ll launch their first membership drive. With luck, Flamini says, they’ll be open to the public in the fall of 2018.