August 15, 2022
For Part 2 of my visit to Olbrich Botanical Gardens during June’s Madison Fling, I’ll show you the Rose Garden. I confess the words “rose garden” never perk up my ears. Sure, I like roses OK, but so many rose gardens are really rose ghettos, planted in a jelly-bean assortment of colors, with few companion plants and leggy, thorny stems fully visible. No thanks. Happily, Olbrich’s 2-acre rose garden embraces companion plants as well as interesting tropical and subtropical plants. There’s also an observation tower and another cool feature: island beds in the plaza paving, which soften all that hardscape and add pocket-garden interest.
The 2-story tower with its tall, triangular roof overlooks the plaza garden…
…and a long fountain, which directs your eye across a circular event lawn to a blue lake in the distance.
Zooming in on those pocket gardens in the plaza paving, I spy flowering yuccas. Let’s take a closer look!
I love this. The pocket gardens bring this large space down to a residential scale, don’t they? The flowering yucca is ‘Ivory Tower’ Yucca filamentosa. That seems rather appropriate in a garden with an actual tower. I didn’t get an ID for the other spiky plant at left. Notice, though, those pretty planters on either side of the bench.
The conifer-esque, bonsai-looking plants are actually succulents. Spiller succulents fill out below, along with what looks like blue fescue grass. Pretty!
I took a panorama shot here to try to capture the plaza’s expanse.
More ‘Ivory Tower’ yuccas in flower
The long view across the fountain to the tower, with more pocket beds at each end of the fountain
Aha, a rose! See it at left? But wow, the glowing yellows and big tropical leaves are really grabbing my attention. There’s a nice change of paving for the seating area too.
This combo grabbed me too: sparkler-shaped alliums gone to seed, their copper hue harmonizing beautifully with short, eggplant-purple tuteurs. Actually, now that I look closely, the tuteurs aren’t painted wood but metal. Either way, a nice color scheme.
This garden puts tuteurs to beautiful use. (So did the Rotary Botanical Gardens.)
Tall tuteurs painted pale blue-green give structure and rhythm to a mass of pink roses, bananas (!), and shell ginger, among other plants.
The whole space is rather eye-catching.
Now let’s walk through the tower, where a series of large, grassy dish planters welcomes you.
Stepping through the portal under the tower, you enter a smaller hedged garden. Planters continue the tropical vibe against a green wall of foliage.
Cordyline and sticks-on-fire sizzle.
The sticks-on-fire planter — there are two actually — is a stunner.
They bookend a Prairie-style wall fountain with slabs of stone.
I admired this vertical bromeliad/tillandsia display, created by attaching the air plants to a fine-mesh screen that’s hung on a lattice.
This same bromeliad screen recently inspired Loree of Danger Garden to create something similar in her own garden.
This collection of mangaves in coordinating pots atop stone blocks speaks to me. What a simple yet effective way to display them.
Mangaves are the “it” plant at botanical gardens right now. They pop up in unique displays wherever I go, from Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens to Chanticleer to Houston Botanic Garden.
Another lovely succulent container alongside a bench
Looking up you see the ramped access to the tower. Let’s go up.
Conical green planters hang from the rail and bring color and plants up to the second level.
The ramp offers a nice overhead view of the hedged courtyards. This is the one with the sticks-on-fire planters and wall fountain.
And this one has the mangave collection on stone plinths…
…as well as a striking pink tree.
A stone lion reclines atop a stone wall with a ginkgo espaliered along it. A dove had made itself at home atop his mane.
Departing the rose garden, I enjoyed a handful of tall bronze cordylines spaced along a curving walk.
Their height and shaggy, round “heads” make it easy to imagine them as fellow travelers along the garden path.
Up next: A meadow-style gravel garden that could be replicated for a no-mow home garden. For a look back at Olbrich Botanical Gardens’ meadow, event, and herb gardens, click here.
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