We are fortunate in Wisconsin to have an abundance of outstanding public gardens. An excellent way to choose plants that will prosper in your own garden is to select those that you have seen flourishing in local public gardens with similar growing conditions. Looking for garden design ideas? Plant combination inspiration? Wondering which plants will thrive on your site? Think, “They can grow it; I can grow it!”
Plan a visit to one, or several, of our great Wisconsin Public Gardens this year.
Allen Centennial Garden is a beautifully designed living laboratory and botanical garden located on the Ag campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Garden is open, free of charge, to the public and also serves as an outdoor classroom for UW-Madison students. While the major emphasis is on herbaceous perennials, the site features many other types of plants including annuals, woody plants, and an alpine rock garden. Thematic annual plantings and container plantings change regularly.
Hales Corners, WI
Located just 15 minutes outside of Milwaukee, Boerner features 12 formal gardens including a rose garden, peony garden, herb garden and dwarf conifer garden. Furthermore, it is home to an All American Selection trial garden. Here visitors can view over 500 new varieties of plants being tested for their suitability for the Great Lakes region.
A vibrant, playful botanic garden inspired by children’s literature, the natural world, and the imagination. Their mission statement is: “To enrich the mind, body, and spirit of the young and young at heart through exploration in a garden environment based on children’s literature.”
Green Bay, WI
47 acres of display gardens and natural areas capture the beauty of Northeast Wisconsin’s four distinct seasons. Outstanding architecture sets this garden apart and acts as a dramatic backdrop for plants specially chosen for their ability to thrive in the upper Midwest. Photo by John Oates Photography
West Bend, WI
Built and maintained entirely by volunteers, the Labyrinth Garden Earth Sculpture is 90 feet in diameter and designed in the tradition of a seven-circuit Cretan labyrinth. The grassy pathways are lined with perennials, annuals, herbs, bulbs, and ornamental grasses. The garden is located within expansive historic Regner Park.
This Milwaukee icon consists of three beehive-shaped glass domes, each are 140 feet in diameter and 85 feet high; 75,000 cubic feet of growing space under glass.
The Tropical Dome: Features nearly 1,000 species of plants, including one of the tallest trees under glass. This dome is decorated seasonally with blooming plants, including orchids.
Arid Dome: Features plants native to dry, desert areas with an emphasis on desert plants of Africa and the Americas
Show Dome: This dome changes out seasonally. Particularly noteworthy is its winter display which includes an extensive garden railway exhibit.
Once an outstanding horticultural showpiece, The Domes have fallen upon hard times in recent years. As a result, the display domes are in need of extensive rehabilitation. Fortunately, there are ongoing efforts to save this historic Milwaukee attraction. Visit Future of the Domes and learn how you can help.
Located on the east side of Madison, an easy drive from the Milwaukee area, Olbrich is a true gem. The 16 acres of skillfully designed outdoor gardens feature Midwest-hardy plants as well as truly spectacular container plantings. Plan an autumn visit to be inspired by the extensive ornamental grass collection. The tropical Bolz Conservatory is filled with exotic plants, fragrant flowers, orchids, free-flying birds, and a waterfall. Officially opened in 1952, Olbrich has grown over the years and is currently (2019) undergoing construction of a new state-of-the-art education center.
The Paine estate features twenty gardens set against the backdrop of the mansion. The gardens showcase perennials that are especially hardy in Wisconsin’s climate as well as trees, shrubs, and wildflowers native to the state. Displays of annuals and bulbs change each year. Photo by Eric Reischl
An award-winning 20-acre, non-profit botanic showcase with over 24 different garden styles and 4,000 varieties of plants. Rotary Gardens occupies the site of an abandoned sand and gravel quarry and has been transformed into a world-class botanical garden through the efforts of the local Rotary clubs as well as countless community volunteers. Noted for their themed gardens and extensive, creative annual plantings.
The Arboretum is made of several distinct garden areas as well as over 17 miles of trails through woodland & prairie ecosystems.
Longenecker Horticultural Garden is an internationally recognized educational garden that features over 2,500 kinds of plants, including one of the largest displays of lilacs in North America.
Wisconsin Native Plant Garden is located on 4 acres surrounding the Visitor Center. This garden displays hundreds of native Wisconsin species as well as demonstrates restoration, pollinator conservation, and ecological relationships.
Viburnum Garden is a 3-acre garden featuring more than 80 species and varieties of Viburnum and 110 species and varieties of arborvitae.
Formerly the private gardens of the late John and Ruth West, the gardens began in 1934 and continued to grow through the years under Ruth’s guiding hand. The six and one-half acres consist of ten individual and distinct gardens. The gardens are open to the public, Memorial Day through Labor Day, as the West’s living legacy to the community.
The display gardens showcase a collection of annual and perennial ornamentals, as well as the newest varieties of vegetables and fruits. Trial beds allow the visitor to make first-hand comparisons between varieties of many types of garden perennials & annuals. Here’s a complete list of the UW Agricultural Research Stations in the state.