Friday, January 23, 2015

A Wisconsin Garden Gem

Do you have a bucket list of gardens you want to visit someday?  I know I do--Monet's Garden at Giverny tops my list, followed by Sissinghurst and other famous gardens in the UK, Chanticleer in Pennsylvania, followed by many more.  I did cross one off near the top of my list a few years ago when I toured the Biltmore gardens during the Spring Fling in Asheville in 2012, though I must admit I was as excited to tour the mansion as I was strolling through the gardens.  I don't know when or if I will be able to visit the others on my list, but I have discovered you often don't have to travel far to find a beautiful garden worthy of being on anyone's list.  Such was the case this past fall when I made the three-hour drive to see the Rotary Botanical Garden in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Beth of Plant Postings and I had talked for over a year about meeting up and touring a garden within easy driving distance for each of us.  So when she contacted me this summer and suggested meeting at the Rotary Garden, I was eager to go.  I invited my friend Beckie along, who is always up for a gardening road trip!

I was not familiar with this garden beforehand and wasn't sure what to expect, but the minute we stepped out of the car, I knew this was a special place.  We picked the coldest day in mid-September to meet, but even so, the plantings surrounding the parking lot were still full of lush blooms.

What do strangers who have only "met" through blogging find to talk about for the better part of a day?  Well, as any gardener knows, if those two bloggers are also gardeners, there is no shortage of topics of conversation.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Beth thought I was quite a chatterbox, as enthused as I was about meeting her and seeing this beautiful garden!  By the way, note our footwear: as I said, it was an unusually cold day for September with occasional sprinkles of rain.  Beth came prepared, whereas I wore my favorite walking sandals--not the best choice for this day; no wonder I was cold!

Once inside the garden, I was so impressed I forgot the chill in the air.  I don't remember the name of this area, but I loved the boxwood hedges laid out in a formal pattern, but containing much more informal plantings with a tutuer at the center of each.

The Garden is divided into different sections, including an inviting Children's Garden.

Children are encouraged to touch, feel, and smell, as they learn about the benefits of plants and their wildlife visitors.

Native plants and others that attract pollinators are the emphasis in this area. 
 I wish I could remember the name of this plant.

Despite the occasional drizzle, the bees were still out and about,
 demonstrating the main principle of this garden.

A seating area in one corner makes the perfect spot for parents
 to relax a bit while their children explore.

Other areas include a Japanese garden

Complete with the traditional Dry Garden, or Zen garden, as we Westerners often call it.

There is also a Sunken Garden

An English Cottage Garden (complete with raindrops on my camera lens!)

And a Jungle Garden inspired by Where the Wild Things Are, filled with tropicals and other giant plants as well as intriguing doors and windows.

Other sections of the garden include a woodland garden, a formal rose garden, an alpine garden, and several others.  One of the more interesting areas I thought was the Thomas Jefferson Garden which includes "over 100 selections of vegetables, herbs, and flowers that Jefferson popularized."

Jefferson's belief in the importance of gardening is just one of his many legacies.

The Rotary Garden is a plant collector's dream.  Plants are clearly identified, and in the few cases where they aren't, we were usually able to locate a very helpful worker to identify any mystery plants for us.

I was especially taken with this Korean Feather Grass
 and will be on the lookout for it in a nursery this spring.

A few more photos to entice you:

I need a bench like this!

A balcony on the Visitor Center provided a great vantage point 
for taking a few photos before leaving.

The Rotary Botanical Garden is less than an hour's drive south of Madison, Wisconsin and less than two hours from the Chicago area.  It covers twenty acres, a large enough garden to make the trip worthwhile, but at the same time small enough to see completely in a single afternoon.  On the day that Beth, Beckie, and I visited, we had the garden virtually to ourselves, but I suspect that was due to the weather. It certainly is a gem of a garden tucked away in Janesville, one that I would heartily recommend anyone visiting if you are in the area.

A big thank-you to Beth for recommending this garden and finding a place for a lovely late lunch, where we talked even more. The three of us (Beckie was camera-shy) had such a great time that we hope to visit another garden(s) in the area this summer and hope that other bloggers in the vicinity might join us--look for details this summer!


  1. Oh, Rose you had really nice time in Rotary Botanical Garden. I especially love these trellises in the center of beds and a bench surrounded by plants.

  2. What a gorgeous garden! I especially like the ornamentation and hardscaping. It is all so well maintained and fits together so nicely. 20 acres is a pretty big garden! So nice for two bloggers to get together and tour a garden!~

  3. That was such a fun day, Rose, and I remember it fondly. You make a good point--that we have many quality gardens and displays in the Midwest, too. Great, photos! There was so much to see, that I'm thinking I want to get back there again this summer--maybe earlier in the season to see the Roses in bloom. I'm looking forward to more garden adventures this year. Cheers!

  4. Your photos remind me that I haven't actually been there in the summer for a few years :-)

  5. BEAUTIFUL! Thanks for sharing your visit to this wonderful garden. Think I'll add it to my bucket list.

  6. I go right through Janesville when I go visit Frank. I will have to make this a stop when I go up there again. It looks like a really nice place. I found a neat nursery in Janesville right off the main highway. I would have to look up it's name but it was worth the stop for me. :) Love all these hoped for pictures of summer on this gloomy winter day.

  7. How fun! I love tuteurs, and that boxwood garden was so beautiful. The Jungle Garden is awesome! What a great idea and inspiration! I don't really have a list of gardens to visit, other than Chanticleer and Kew, but I really want to go to the Chelsea Flower Show sometime!

  8. My, oh my, that was such a great use of color and form. Thank you for taking us along Rose. Just beautiful. I wish I lived closer. Would love to have met up with you both.~~Dee

  9. Rose.

    What a fabulous post and the garden, well, absolutely stunning. They seem to cover everything.....from woodland, to formal, to Japanese etc.
    I love the box hedging with the wild plantings.....that has been popular here for a long long time.

    Sissinghurst is around 15 minutes from our home and I have to say I have never visited.
    Great Dixter is around 30 minutes but I havn't been there either.
    Top of my list is Lisa's garden and I will get there one day of that I am sure :)
    I tend to visit private gardens, I love to see how an individual puts a garden together and makes it there very own.

  10. Hi Rose. I am with you with your list of gardens to see. The only one on the list I have seen is Chanticleer. It was nice of Beth and your photos of the garden are beautiful. I would write more here, but am boarding a plane and the iPad has to be shut down. See ya!

  11. Judy and I are so disappointed we were unable to join you in Janesville. And I may have already mentioned that I have driven past Janesville about a million times, but have never seen this garden. What would you think about meeting at the Klehm arboretum in Rockford some time this year?

  12. Nadezda, I really did enjoy the day--both the company and the garden.

    Tina, I was surprised how big this garden was. I think part of the 20 acres included a woodland path on the other side of the Japanese Garden's pond which we didn't get to.

    Beth, I would love to see this garden earlier in the year, too, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much was still in bloom in September. A lovely place--looking forward to another trip this year!

    Cassi, This is not that far from you, so it would certainly be a great place to visit again.

    Dorothy, I am finding that there are so many smaller gardens like this that are worth visiting without having to drive hours and hours.

  13. Lisa, You will definitely have to make time for a stop here on one of your trips to WI! Do you go through Rockford on your way? There are great places to visit there as well. And just north of Janesville is Prairie Nursery, which I would love to visit, too.

    Indie, I just loved this boxwood garden, too, especially with the cosmos in the center. Seeing Monet's garden is a life-long dream of mine.

    Dee, It would have been so much fun to meet up with you!

  14. Cheryl, I had never seen a planting like these boxwoods before--I thought it was an original idea:) I'm normally not a big fan of formal areas, but I loved the more natural look of the cosmos and other plantings in the center of these hedges. I do love to visit small private gardens as well--yours would be at the top of my list! If I ever make it to the UK, we will have to visit Sissinghurst together.

    Jason, We would have loved to have you and Judy join us! Klehm's sounds like a great idea, and there is also the Anderson Japanese Garden and the Nicholas Conservatory in Rockford, both beautiful places as well. We'll have to plan earlier this year to so that we can find a good time for everyone. I'm not going to Toronto, but if you and Judy are, Beth is going--you'll have to meet her!

  15. Looks like tons of fun! What a diverse group of plantings. :o) It is wonderful to finally meet people we've gotten to know through our blogs.

  16. Rose this looks like a wonderful too look like you really enjoyed yourselves....and quite a beautiful garden full of glad you shared this.

  17. What fun to meet up with a blogging friend and in such a beautiful garden. There is so much to see there. I thought the children's garden was great fun. It is all lovely.

  18. What a beautiful garden - and lovely photo of you, Rose.

    I love the way you talk about not having to travel far - just three hours! That seems quite a long way to me, unused to the huge distances in America.

  19. How lovely you and Beth met up, isn’t it great to be able to meet the people you ‘talk’ to online? Beth and her husband visited me and my garden here in London in September 2013 and the hours flew by very quickly. What a great place you chose to meet, the style of planting looks very familiar to me living here in Britain and yet, of all your photos it wasn’t any with plants or flowers that grabbed me the most…..but the one with the rose sculptures inside the frame! I would have absolutely loved to have that one in my garden, I have ‘borrowed’ the photo from you, my neighbour makes metal art for a living, I wonder what he will charge for making me one like that…

  20. I think one of my favourite features of this garden were the brightly painted plant supports and chairs. Surprisingly enough I like the lime green- not my usually a favourite color.
    Your header is just stunning. I love combination of the golden foliage and the purple berries.
    What a nice quilt you made Rose! Lucky grandson!

  21. GardenWalk, I have been wanting to go out east for a long time, so I hope it won't be long before I get to visit Chanticleer. Have a safe trip!

    Casa, You will have a chance to meet Beth yourself in Toronto! No shortage of things to talk about with garden bloggers:)

    Donna, I had never heard of this garden before, so I'm glad Beth suggested it. I liked the fact that it is smaller than some of the famous big Botanical Gardens, so we could see everything in a few hours.

    Chloris, I was really impressed by the children's garden, too; it would be a great place for school field trips.

    Liz, A three-hour drive isn't really a short drive, but when I wrote this I had just come back from visiting our daughter. That was a 13-hour drive--each way! That was much too long, but there was a little grandson at the end of that journey, so it kept us going:)

  22. Helene, I remember Beth's posts about visiting you--I think that is how I first found your blog. I liked this rose sculpture, too. If you do find someone to make something similar, I hope you'll share photos of it--I'd love to see it! I think it would be perfect in your garden.

    Jennifer, I really liked these bright accents, too. It makes me think I need to add some color--besides flowers--to my garden. Thanks for the compliment on the header photo; I want to put up a more appropriate winter scene, but I can't just do away with this one because it's my favorite.

  23. Hi Rose,
    It looks like you had a great day at the garden. We have some public gardens around us that I haven't been to. I keep thinking I will check them out one of these days.

    I am going to email you about the Illinois bundleflowers.

  24. Beautiful spot for garden bloggers to take a stroll while visiting and learning along the way! You may have been chilly on this day but your photos have really warmed me up on this winters day! Love me some garden strolls....

  25. A beautiful garden! Thank you for the tour. I love the boxwood hedges with the tuteurs and the billowing flowers in the center. So nice that you got to meet Beth too!

  26. What a lovely garden! It looks like it was worth the cold toes. Nice to get a glimpse of you too. It's hard to remember a world that isn't all white and frozen.

  27. I like the touch of formality in this garden, the variety of plants and multiple color combinations. And I see my favorite Verbena bonariensis!
    It's so nice to see you and Beth!

  28. Sue, Sometimes we forget about the gardens closest to home. Excited about the bundleflower!

    Skeeter, I love going through photo files full of blooms like this on a day when all I see is snow outside:)

    Sweetbay, I loved these tutuers, too, especially with the cosmos swirling above the boxwood. Makes me think it refuses to be hemmed in:)

    Sarah, Yes, I thought I was cold that day:) Nice to be reminded of a color other than white.

    Tatyana, Yes, this garden had a little bit of everything. So enjoyed meeting Beth--she's a dear!

  29. Thank you for introducing me to the Rotary Botanical Garden. We are not far from there and will definitely visit it this spring.


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