CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A trip to Madison Botanic Gardens

Cassey Anderson- CSU Extension Adams County

I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to spend a week in Madison while attending the National Master Gardener Coordinators conference. They left us time to wander freely in the evenings and one evening a group of us took the chance to visit the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. While being "serenaded" with music from a rambunctious kid’s concert we poked about many of the sections of the garden. We did avoid the rose garden as we were told that between weather and the Japanese Beetles it was not in good shape.
Grape arbor that was growing really well despite skeletonized leaves from the impact of Japanese beetle.

Japanese Beetle on the side of a trail in Madison.

The Thai Pavilion was the show-stopper section of the garden, with a gold-plated Thai pavilion nestled within rock and water features. The entire area was only accessible via a 155 foot arched bridge over a small river that had many kayaks and birds enjoying the nice evening in tandem. The pavilion itself is particularly special being one of only four to exist outside of Thailand.
The gold leaf on the pavilion was delicate enough to rub off with fingers so signs abounded warning visitors to look, not touch!  (Photo courtesy of Alex Fisher)

The plants surrounding the pavilion had been carefully chosen to provide a tropical look while still thriving in Wisconsin. Hardy banana, caladium, and castor bean interspersed with lush annuals such as shiso, salvias, and coleus contributed to make the area look lush and tropical. The outer area relies on tall grasses and hardy bamboos to create a peaceful surround.
The pollinators were abundant in the herb garden, three different types on this Angelica flower!

In the herb garden we were able to smell and indulge our senses with a variety of scented geraniums, tangerine and mint geranium were some of my personal favorites. The variety of mints were incredible too, one smelled like pineapple, another like chocolate. It was really quite a delightful area.

They also had some very healthy and happy Mimosa pudica or sensitive plant. Most public gardens I have found the sensitive plant in, the plant is so stressed that response time is poor and the reaction can be slow if you get one at all. This one was so active that I got distracted and forgot to take photos of it!
A very casual knot garden made with ornamental garlic and sedum, this was an idea I might want to steal for Colorado.

Being able to wander around this garden for an evening was truly a delight for the senses, both visually and aromatically. I would happily visit again. If you’re in the Madison area in the future I would highly recommend it for a stop.
With extremely hydrophobic leaves of this water lily is fascinating and gorgeous. 


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