Martinsville, Virginia


Natural History Museum to Give Garden Day Visitors Red-Carpet Treatment

Martinsville-Henry County Garden Day visitors will have a chance to see some natural history “treasures” rarely seen by the public. Special access typifies the red-carpet treatment planned by the Virginia Museum of Natural History. “It will be a unique experience,” Dr. Joe Keiper, the museum’s Executive Director, said. It begins, as good things often do, with a happy hour. Wine, beer, soft drinks and light hors d’oeuvres will be served from 6 to 7-plus p.m. on April 25, the evening before Garden Day itself. And there will be two botany-oriented curator tables. Curators will be on hand, of course, to show the items and to talk with visitors. One table will feature “a beautiful cycad fossil that we collected late 2015,”Keiper said. “It is a beautiful impression of an ancient plant. “It’s also huge, and had to be collected in sections. And it’s local; the fossil was found nearby in Cascade. The item is fragile, which is why it’s rarely shown.  The second curator table will offer an ethno-botany display about how Native Americans utilized plants. It will include some items visitors would be welcome to handle.

The next day, Garden Day itself, the museum will be open to Garden Day ticket-holders for free from 9-5.Six curator tables will set up. “Each one will represent a different discipline from the museum,” Keiper said, “and each curator would put out materials from their specialty. “In addition to botany, the disciplines mammals, birds, insects, geology and fossils Visitors will have the special opportunity to see some holotypes. “For every species science has described, there is one holotype,” Keiper said. “A holotype is the specimen a species’ description is based upon. “The description essentially defines the species.  “The reason that it’s so precious is that anytime anyone studying that species and related species often ends up referring to back to the holotype,” he said. Consequently, he said, “You protect holotypes above all else because there is only one.” If a holotype were damaged, destroyed or lost, a replacement could be made, but not a substitute. “Very few people get to see holotypes,” Keiper said. The museum has approximately 400 holotypes in its collections.

Garden Day visitors will be able to take small-group tours “that will show the back-of-house operation and how the museum works internally,” Keiper said. “We’ll have staff available for rolling, behind the scenes tours. “And Garden Day visitors will have full access to the exhibit galleries, of course.  “We’ve changed a lot of what is on display,” he said. There is a small display about pollinators in the museum’s Biodiversity Hall. There are colonies of walking sticks and leaf-cutter ants. And outside, the museum has created a pollinator garden. Some of its plants might be showing off for Garden Day visitors.

The museum has also planted hops from rhizomes it got from Mountain Valley Hops in Axton. (Two Witches Brewery in Danville has brewed beer from Mountain Valley hops.) If the museum hosts more happy hours in the future, maybe one day it will be able to serve beer made from its own hops.


What: Martinsville-Henry County Garden Day 

When: Wednesday, April 26, 2017 Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Headquarters: Piedmont Arts Association, 215 Starling Ave., Martinsville, VA

Tickets: $15 pp. for advance tickets; $20 pp. for tickets sold on tour day. $10 pp. for children ages 6 to 12. Available on tour day at the tour headquarters and tour homes. Proceeds benefit restoration projects of the Garden Club of Virginia.

Advance Tickets:  Available online at At Martinsville-Henry County Visitor Center, Piedmont Arts Association, and Patrick County Chamber of Commerce.

Facebook: Historic Garden Week in Martinsville and Henry County

Instagram: Historic Garden Week in MHC

Sponsors: The Martinsville Garden Club, The Garden Study Club and the Garden Club of Virginia.