Only four weeks until the Fling!
There’s still room for a few more, and it’s going to be great!
Here are the highlights:
Thursday, June 23
4:30 to 5:30 p.m.: Stop by our table in the Concourse Hotel lobby to pick up your ID badge and get your swag bag. Wear your badge every day; it’s your ticket to board the bus. If you miss the pick-up time, contact Beth or Anneliese at the reception, and we’ll find a time after the reception to get your things.
6 to 8:30 p.m.: Welcome reception at the Madison Children’s Museum, just a couple of blocks from the hotel. You won’t want to miss the yummy goodies and happy conversations with your fellow plant people. We’ll meet rain or shine, but if the weather is fair, we’ll eat and visit outdoors on the rooftop garden area.
Friday, June 24
8 a.m.: Time to load buses, bright and early, at the Concourse Hotel. This will be a busy day, so we need to stick to the schedule as much as possible.
First, we’ll head to Middleton, west of Madison, to tour Betsy True and Danny Aerts’ mostly edible garden. They’ve been owners since 1999, and their house was remodeled to include a passive solar sun room, solar hot water, solar photovoltaic and geothermal heat/air conditioning. Betsy and Danny have put in significant work in the last decade, including garden fencing, raised beds, and cold frames. They also have sizeable woodland and prairie environments with lots of native plants, and they keep chickens and bees.
Next, we visit another Middleton garden at the home of Linda and Phil Grosz. They built the house 25 years ago, and at that time the only vegetation on the lot was weeds and a row of old box elders. An acre of native prairie was installed by Prairie Nursery in 1998 and a pond was built soon after. Since that time, Linda has created plantings around the pond, a huge berm with a tapestry of hostas and other shade-loving plants, a rock garden, a decorative vegetable garden, a miniature garden, and a new sculpture garden.
For lunch, we head to the UW-Madison Arboretum. We’ll take our group photo, eat lunch, and then break into groups to tour Curtis Prairie, the site of the world’s first ecological restoration; the Native Plant Garden, home to plentiful native grasses, wildflowers, and pollinators; and the Longenecker Horticultural Gardens, a 35-acre collection of trees, shrubs, and vines, and more than 2,500 kinds of plants, including more than 100 species of Wisconsin native woody plants.
Next, we head to Fitchburg, south of Madison, to visit the garden of Rita Thomas, who started gardening at her current location 35 years ago, when she “knew nothing about plants or garden design.” A plant collector, Rita seeks out the unusual, the best of the species, or the latest introductions. A couple of years ago, she added 20 new trees and 15 herbaceous peonies to her garden. She also tends orchids, native woodland plants, daylilies, and irises.
The former Flower Factory nursery, now the private garden of Nancy and David Nedveck, is our next destination. Near Oregon and Stoughton, the Nedveck’s property is expansive. Once home to more than 4,000 perennial varieties, the nursery was one of the premiere garden centers of the Upper Midwest. Begun by the Nedvecks in 1984, the nursery was enlarged in 1988, and was a common stop for bus tours. Nancy and David closed the business in 2020, and have been scaling back, although they still garden and sell plants at the Dane County Farmers’ Market.
Our final stop of the day will be the grounds of Epic Systems, near the suburb of Verona. Epic is one of the healthcare industry’s leading information technology companies, serving many of the world’s largest hospitals and healthcare systems. Our tour leader will be one of the gardens’ landscape designers, Jeff Epping, of Epping Design & Consulting. It’s hard to describe this place because it’s so unique. Among other things, we’ll see gravel gardens, storybook gardens, and expansive prairie/savanna views of the surrounding countryside.
(Note: We won’t be back to the hotel until after 7 p.m. We won’t be serving an evening meal, so be sure to stock up on snacks and plan to stop at a restaurant near the hotel when we get back.)
Saturday, June 25
6 to 9:30 a.m.: Sleep in, if you wish. This will be a slightly more relaxed day. You’re on your own to tour the Dane County Farmers’ Market, just a block from our hotel, from 6 a.m. until 9:30 a.m., when we’ll load the buses for our day’s events.
A hearty brunch at the Goodman Community Center, on the near East side of Madison, will be the fare mid-morning. The Goodman Center is a private, nonprofit that serves the entire community through programs such as early childhood education, its TEENworks high school program, older adult activities, and many others. We’ll be served through the center’s Working Class Catering participants—a “classroom” of young people who work and learn alongside food service professionals.
After brunch, you have a choice: You can walk a half-mile portion of the Capital City Trail to Olbrich Botanical Gardens, our next destination. Or, you can ride the bus to Olbrich. If you walk the trail, you’ll see community gardens planted and tended by area residents. Plan for about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on your pace. If you take the bus, you’ll have a little more time at Olbrich.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens is a nationally recognized botanical garden. It was voted one of the top 10 most inspiring gardens in North America by Horticulture magazine, and it has received the American Public Gardens Association’s Garden of Excellence Award. Among other highlights is Olbrich’s Thai pavilion, a gift to UW-Madison from the Thai government and the Thai chapter of the Wisconsin Alumni Association.
After our Olbrich visit, we’re off to tour three Madison private gardens, not necessarily in this order:
Linda Brazill and Mark Golbach moved to their half-acre lot 28 years ago, as it was a perfect canvas on which to create a garden: a sloping site with trees and shrubs mostly at its edges. Their goal was to walk out their back door and be in a tranquil retreat, marrying the contemplative qualities of Eastern gardens with the pines and perennials of Wisconsin. They’ve planted some 200 trees and shrubs, and used more than 200 tons of stone in walls, paths, and boulder groupings. The garden has real and symbolic water features, unusual trees and conifers, a birch glade, woodland peonies, and a Japanese teahouse.
Cindy Fillingame added her first raised bed in 2004, out of a desire to improve the garden’s drainage. She chose concrete retaining wall blocks, which allowed her to create fluid lines and to adjust the height and enrich the soil. As her gardening knowledge has grown, she’s created diverse garden beds that have something to offer in each season of the year. Visitors will see many newly planted trees and shrubs, as well as older established trees and shrubs. Lilies, including Martagon, Asiatic, and Orienpets, join garden sculptures to provide vertical accents among a wide variety of perennials.
Tom and Cheryl Kuster have been gardening at their current property for 22 years. The yard had been professionally landscaped in 1968 when the house was built, including a small pond and waterfall. In 2004, the Kusters asked Steve Lesch, of Landscape Designs Nursery, to help them create a new plan. Tom describes himself as a “collector of plants,” with more than 600 different varieties. The garden is divided into 20 sections—each with its own genera of species. Areas include miniature and dwarf conifers; a Tufa rock garden with various alpines, hens and chicks, and woodies; and a Japanese garden.
We’ll end the day at the Concourse Hotel for our banquet and auction. Be prepared for some fancy fixings, socializing, and fun with gardening giveaways.
Sunday, June 26
8 a.m.: Time to load buses, bright and early again, for another day full of amazing garden tours. We start on Madison’s east side for tours of two unique gardens.
Ann Munson, who’ll be joining us for her first Fling, has been gardening at her current Monona property for 43 years. She started with a small vegetable garden, and gradually expanded to include all of her ¾-acre suburban lot—it now has no lawn, and paths wander throughout a collection of sun and shade gardens. More than 250 trees and shrubs—all but six of the trees on the lot—were planted by Ann and her husband. Wood chip paths connect the gardens of sun and shade. Two ponds and a connecting stream provide water for wildlife and stimulation of the senses. Ann recycles as much from the land as possible, and incorporates interesting items as she finds them.
Jane and Duane Miller have an urban garden within Madison’s isthmus that showcases very creative use of a small lot. During the growing season, they repurpose their driveway as a pathway and patio into the garden. Plants in rolling pots—along with garden furniture, portable fences, planters, and umbrellas—come out to form a wonderful dining and entertaining space. Since many things are on wheels, they can rearrange spaces or create a parking spot, if needed. A wood pergola on one side and a secret garden nestled between two garages in back form the other garden rooms. A colorful bowling ball collection lines the front garden. Arbors and fencing divide the property into gardening “rooms” filled with colorful annuals, dramatic foliage plants, and decorative surprises around every corner.
Before lunch, we’ll make a quick stop at Kopke’s Greenhouse, in Oregon. The business, which started in the 1980s, now has 28 buildings; plentiful garden decorations, tools, and supplies; and more than 1,000 plant varieties of perennials, annuals, and edibles.
Next, we’ll drive to Janesville, south of Madison, to visit Rotary Botanical Gardens. We’ll eat lunch here, and then we’ll be free to roam the gardens at our own pace. Rotary has 20 acres of gardens, with 26 different styles and 4,000 varieties of plants. During our visit, the gardens will have about 38 whimsical turtles for a Garden Art project. Each will be labelled with artist, title, and a short description. Please give credit to the artists if you photograph their work. Volunteers also designed and installed a Story Walk, titled, “Except Antarctica” by Todd Sturgell. It’s about a turtle traveling to Antarctica.
On the way back to Madison, we’ll stop in Stoughton for our two final private garden visits—also very unique!
The garden of Jim Ottney and Jay Hatheway started as an untended field of weeds, an oil change sand pit, piles of old tires, clotheslines, volunteer trees at random locations, and various invasive plants. When they purchased the home and property in the mid-1990s, they turned over the entire lot by hand, and transformed it into a lush garden laced with pathways and seating areas, incorporating a newer central pergola over the original patio, a metal gazebo in the back, a deck overlooking the entire garden, garden art distributed throughout, and a flagstone open space in one section. Jim describes it as a “private escape and a space where we can entertain small groups of friends.”
Janet Aaberg has owned her home for 30 years. The first eight, she had a few basic plantings, but it was after the death of her spouse in 1999 that she started digging gardens, which she’s continued for 22 years. She created one garden at a time, planted one plant at a time, made many mistakes, and has had many successes. She’s taken master gardener training, worked at Kopke’s Greenhouse for a few years, and has belonged to several botanical societies. She now tends 18 large perennial beds, and has a diverse selection of perennials, including 32 varieties of Clematis, some of which should be blooming when we visit.
Our final destination of the Madison Fling is Allen Centennial Garden, on the UW-Madison campus. Located on a cozy 2.5 acres surrounding the historic Dean’s Residence, the gardens were designed to complement the home and its existing plantings. The garden is built around a stately Victorian gothic house, which was one of the first buildings on the agricultural campus and served as home for the first four deans. It’s divided into 14 distinct areas—from English cottage gardens, to an iris meadow, to a Japanese garden, and a Wisconsin woodland garden. The property serves as an outdoor classroom for UW-Madison students and surrounding communities, providing learning opportunities for visitors of all ages.
** And there’s a small secret surprise at the end…shhh…you won’t know what it is until the end. See you soon in Madison! **