This is the first of a series about Boerner Botanical Gardens. I visit the Gardens each time I am in Wisconsin, but some years I keep my notes to myself. These three posts are a compilation of what I found in 2015 and 2016.
I feel I am welcomed home by an old friend whenever I visit Boerner Botanical Gardens in Hales Corners, Wisconsin. On this trip, I came upon two young parents readying their toddlers in front of colorful tulips to take a photo. Oh how the scene tripped the memory of what my own parents in the 1950s did; taking a picture of me in the Gardens.
It is easy for my StayGardening muse to get replenished here.
Public gardens, in particular botanical gardens, exist to educate people. Where a plethora of plant knowledge can be studied or recorded and ideas brought home to use in their nearby communities.
Though for tourists from far away, the gardens might never be replicated. The gardens are valued as much for their enjoyment and savored memories are brought home; like postcards in a suitcase.
The bones of the Gardens’ giant evergreens, slopping landscapes, and massive limestone rocks are timeless. The quintessential planting beds of roses, perennials in long deep borders, and the pergola walkway where vines rest against stone columns can be counted on year after year. Tall tightly pruned hedgerows line a spacious gravel pathway that is marked by divergent increasingly narrower turns.
A walkway into the Herb Garden brought me face to face with a Fairy Garden. A pleasant surprise I had not seen last year. The Rock Garden and Bog always offer little surprises, too, though the structures of the landscapes seem unchanged.
Boerner Botanical Gardens appears as if it fell into Whitnall Park fully formed, though the larger park was conceived first in the 1930s, as part of the Milwaukee County Park System. The Garden House, a WPA project that still stands, was Boerner’s first “front door.” A welcoming cottage-like setting, the Garden House was a place to study and a place to peruse its cozy gift shop. Now, a larger steel and glass building faces the parking lot and welcomes visitors to a public garden that was fully realized and named Boerner Botanical Gardens in the 1950s.
I was disappointed to find the current gift shop now half its original size; the gift shop was cordon off with empty wooden shelves. It did not do the Gardens justice.
Also facing the parking lot on the eastern side, the Trial Garden is surrounded by a towering wire fence. The Trial Garden is absent of highly manicured plant beds as that is not its purpose. Instead, visitors will find valuable information into what future plants might be grown. Gardeners will see a study in compare and contrast between plants of similar varieties. Some will thrive in the local weather and soil and some will not. People who especially live in the southeastern region of Wisconsin may use this information to plant more wisely their own gardens.
Check out the All-America Selections Flower Display Garden, the All-America Selections Vegetable Display Garden, and the All-America Rose Selections winners while in the Test Garden enclosure.
And, just a reminder, you should bring note-taking materials on your visit. Otherwise, how will you keep all those garden ideas in your head? To stay gardening, the task will prove daunting without a pencil and notebook or camera as you walk through Boerner Botanical Gardens.
Tulips were blooming everywhere in May at Boerner Botanical Gardens. Here is ‘Orange Cassini,’ a triumph type that was mixed with a pink ‘Barcelona’ in beds. (Photo credit Chris Eirschele)