The Garden has started a blog to share the community’s thoughts and impressions about the Garden, so we can include your voices!  Fittingly, our first blog entry is by a Charlottesville High School student who investigated the Garden for an article in the CHS newspaper, The Knight-Time Review. If you have an anecdote about a Garden visit, plants/wildlife you’ve discovered there, or a volunteer experience you would like to share, we would love for you to write a blog entry about it. Send questions and ideas to

Hello! I am Mariette Hollins, a junior at Charlottesville High School. I am involved with the student-led newspaper because I love to write meaningful stories that might be relatable to students at my school. I wish more students would get involved with the school and what’s going on around it, which is why I decided to inform the student body about the “garden behind CHS”. A lover of nature, I also want other students to love nature as well, and informing the student population about Botanical Garden of the Piedmont motivated me to write an article about it. My favorite things to do outside would definitely have to be cycling, hiking in the rain, camping, and exploring. I also love to dance, sing, and ski as well!


There’s A Garden Behind CHS? By Mariette Hollins

Apparently, there is a garden behind CHS. But what is it? At the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont, volunteers and staff of the nonprofit organization work hard to invite all community members and visitors to engage in nature, to educate and inspire through the beauty and importance of plants, to advance sustainability, and to promote human and environmental well-being. The garden’s goals include creating and maintaining the Garden, providing access to a range of activities, presenting itself as affordable to the public, and committing to the inclusion of all people.

The history of the McIntire Park is turbulent, despite its happy and light nature seen today. In 1927, Paul Goodloe McIntire donated 150 acres to the city in honor of a park, (not the Botanical Garden, yet). In 1930, a wading pool and bathhouse were constructed. In 1936, a 9-hole sand green golf course was built on McIntire Park’s land. In 2007, McIntire Park has officially named a regional park according to the City Comprehensive Plan. Now the plan for a Botanical Garden in Charlottesville has been a dream ever since Jefferson, but even though he wished to have one in the City of Charlottesville, his plans were never realized. In 2008, however, a Charlottesville citizen, Helen Flamini, had the vision to re-design McIntire Park and create the McIntire Botanical Garden as a nonprofit. In 2008, also, plans began to start creating the parkway that goes through the park. In 2009, there was a Formal Master Planning Process to determine what would happen to McIntire Park after the parkway was built and in September of 2012, there was a Public Master Planning session initiated by the Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Department which included 8.5 acres of land for the Botanical Garden of Piedmont.

Now, as we can see from the side of the road, the Garden is merely a path through the woods with some labeled plants and trees. If you go back behind the Garden you will find the McIntire Skate Park and some more beautiful fields with paths surrounding it. But, we as CHS students don’t know much about the Botanical Garden.. So, what is the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont? We contacted some of the staff members at the organization, Ms. Ellie Forney (the Educational Outreach Director) and Ms. Jill Trischman-Marks (the Executive Director).


Interview with Ms. Jill Trischman-Marks, the Executive Director of the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont:


What is the botanical garden all about? Tell us in your own words!

You’re brave to ask, I am so passionate about this project! Botanical Garden of the Piedmont is a place for everyone to learn, play, explore, relax and gather.  The site is very rustic now, as we raise the funds to build the future Garden, and is a free community asset that is open to the public every day from sunrise to sunset. We are very active in our efforts to reach out to the entire community so everyone feels welcome in the Garden now, and especially when the future Garden is built.

We started stewarding the site in 2019 and now have mulch trails and gathering areas. We invite everyone to the Garden to participate in the free programs we offer in literacy, the arts, and stems, as well as our educational walks providing bird, tree, butterfly, and native plant identification. We also partner with community partners to host their activities in the Garden, for instance, the Gordon Avenue Library provides free story hours with books about nature every month in the Garden.

Once built, our future Garden will include a couple of large garden event spaces – the main event green and amphitheater – which will provide public events like seasonal celebrations, classes, and performances. These spaces will also be available for rental for private and corporate events, like weddings, conferences, and retreats. Because admission to the Garden is free, the income from these areas is vital to sustaining the Garden financially.

The Garden will also include smaller areas to serve as outdoor classrooms for exploration and learning like a children’s discovery area, the soon-to-be-restored perennial stream, an aquatics garden, and a tree canopy walk. In addition, there will be less programmed, contemplative spaces like healing gardens, flowering groves, a pinetum, woodland trails, meadows, mushrooms, fern, and moss gardens, and a meadow of native wildflowers and grasses. 


What is your role in the nonprofit, and what does it entail?

I am the Executive Director and Chief Cheerleader for the Garden. My job is to do everything from community outreach, including giving tours and presentations, to paying the bills. I am very fortunate to have a great staff and Board of Directors supporting me, as well as a dedicated and hard-volunteer force of more than 450 people of all ages and backgrounds. 


What is something you wish people in Charlottesville knew about the garden and how could we, as mere high school students, help the garden?

We have just completed the first of three design phases for the Garden. In the first phase, students from four CHS 11th grade English classes worked with Cornell University students to give the Garden feedback about the programming and features we should include in the future Garden. Since the design for the Garden is not finished yet, we are still inviting input on what to include in the Garden through our survey available on the home page of our website: Botanical Garden of the Piedmont | Celebrating Virginia’s Flora ( This Garden is being built for the future, so high school student input now is vital to the Garden’s future success.

Plus, there is so much more to do to help Grow the Garden! We have many volunteer opportunities. You and your friends and family are invited to join us to learn more about the Garden and how you can help! The Garden is located right next door to CHS at 950 Melbourne Road.


With Ms. Ellie Forney,

What is the botanical garden all about? Tell us in your own words!

The Botanical Garden of the Piedmont is a local nonprofit that wants to serve the Charlottesville area’s needs by being a safe, inclusive, and environmentally conscious outdoor space for people to learn about and experience nature. 


What is your role in the nonprofit, and what does it entail?

As the past Children’s Outdoor Educational Coordinator, I worked with other local nonprofits and the greater community to organize free events for kids of all ages. We have three grants that help us work with different literacy, artistic, and STEM skills.

– The first is Explore to Read which promotes early childhood literacy by enlarging storybook pages and placing them along the trails for kids and parents to walk and read.

– Secondly, is Create with Nature. This program partners with local artists who based on a children’s book or poem think of an art project to teach to a group of kids. One that I personally planned was getting a local yoga instructor to read mindfulness books and then lead a kid-friendly yoga session. These workshops have always been a big hit!

– Lastly, we have partnered with the Rivanna Conservation Alliance to do stream water testing on the part of the Rivanna River that flows through the garden property as we restore it. This is done by middle and high schoolers.

My personal role was to coordinate with these groups such as the Boy’s and Girl’s Club, YMCA Preschool, Scouts, and Homeschool groups so that their kids could benefit from these programs. I would also think of crafts and activities to accompany the Explore to Read books, along with contacting publishers to get the rights to enlarge the storybooks.


What is something you wish people in Charlottesville knew about the garden and how could we, as mere high school students, help the garden?

            I wish that more people knew we are here and about the public Explore to Reads that we plan. This has improved thanks to Garden’s marketing plan but we still want the word out!


At CHS you are not “mere high school students”! You all bring a lot to the table. Anyone is welcome to sign up to be a volunteer, on our website at , for any of the children’s programs or with other different volunteer opportunities that we need. There’s something for everyone! Also from personal experience, little kids love to see high schoolers! You are very cool to them and have lots of energy like them 🙂

Lastly, to conclude our visit to the garden, we all at KTR wish everyone would go to the garden and just experience and explore the wilderness right behind CHS’s doorstep. It can help with stress from schoolwork, and anxiety from relationships, and help everyone keep a calm and collective self throughout the school year.