Sunday, August 25, 2013

Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, WI

UPDATE:  When I visited I did not realize this botanical garden had received the All-American Selections Category 3 (100,000+ visitors) Landscape Design Award.

I have had The Rotary Botanical Gardens (RBG) on my list of public gardens to visit for quite some while now.  Given that it is a two and a half hour trip for me (each way), it is not an easy to-do task, but when I lamented the incompletion of my list to Handsome Son and his visiting girlfriend from Elkhorn last Family Supper and Game Night weekend, it jumped to the top of the list.  We visited yesterday.


My photos do not do justice to the scope and scale of so much orange; orange, and burgundy, gold, peach, deep greens, and punches of lime.  This is what greets you at the entrance to the gardens.  If you can think of an orange annual and it didn't represent're GOOD!

Just add some pumpkins and this garden is good to go for late September and October!

My son has been posing with plants for a long time now.  It's a good thing he's chosen a girl that enjoys gardening!
In some ways The Rotary gardens give horticultural nods to other better acclaimed public gardens in the area; the Japanese influences from the Chicago Botanical Gardens (CBG), the classic rose gardens the Boerner, CBG, and Olbrich do so well.  I'm sure the origins and layout of the gardens by Rotarians' admiration of these gardens had a lot to do with that.

Since then, the garden has taken on a role of public education, specifically with its display of edible ornamentals and All-American Selections winners (AAS).  This is a role in which they excel.  In one area of the garden they planted out in blocks the winners in three or more year blocks dating back to the beginnings of this program.

Seeing the historical perspective and changing tastes and goals of plant breeders over time was interesting.  It is certainly an area of gardening I intend to spend some time reviewing during the long Wisconsin winter.  Suffice to say the in ground presentation allowed certain conclusions.  The first assumption is pollinators preferred the selections in the first couple blocks over the selections in the last few.  The other obvious difference when seeing these selections planted out this way was the first few years the selections were big, blowsy sorts of flowers; tall with thuggish ways.  As the selection came closer to the presents the flowers seemed to grow shorter, with neater appearances.  Their habit was geared more to retail presentation and possibly planting in commercial settings.  There also seemed to be selections marketed to color preferences and long, unrelenting bloom cycles.

I liked the "Color Rooms" displays.
Green was my favorite.
There were several well-done vignettes.

Unusual color combo!

Backside of the Alpine Garden

Green on green, not typical, especially when there are two different plants of the same exact shade.

Several of these mosaic and/or painted sunbursts along with classic tuteur held down the garden art category.  I liked a couple of these.

Popcorn plant took the Plant of the Day Award!

Carving in the stone bench in the Scottish garden
And finally some pictures of the Japanese gardens...

There is no mirror here...very clever staging of perspective by the RBG.

And, a favorite technique of mine using a common shrubby tree, limbing it up a few feet to show off its branching and architectural qualities.  This works well on burning bush, magnolia, and some willows.


  1. I haven't been there this year, but it is an awesome spot! Very popular for weddings and engagement pix. It is such a jewel! Thanks for sharing it.

  2. You know, I have driven past Janesville 100 times, but have never seen this garden.Given the prevalence of orange, sounds like my kind of place!. I don't drive past Janesville much these days, just get as far as Rockford.

    1. It's not a particularly young garden, but appears well-supported, by a strong volunteer network and donations. I think it was exit 171 B. I have never seen a botanical garden entrance so over the top. You should try and make time to see it before the frost. They are not big on native, but you will enjoy the pollinator garden overlooking one of the large lagoons.