Thursday, October 10, 2019

Our Hotel for the Madison Garden Bloggers Fling


When you arrive in Madison—a vibrant cultural hub of art, music, food, and more—you’ll be staying at the Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club, located at 1 West Dayton Street, Madison, WI, 53703. This is where we'll board our buses every morning and drop off at the end of the day.

Downtown Madison is known for easy walk-ability, bike paths for miles, delightful festivals, an awe-inspiring farmers’ market, dozens of live music venues, world-class restaurants, and art museums—all nestled on an isthmus between two sapphire lakes and steps from the Concourse Hotel.

The hotel is also located just a short walking distance from the pedestrian-only State Street, the State Capitol, and the waterfront summer hangout Memorial Union Terrace.

The entire isthmus is a busy, vibrant area full of opportunities to explore and enjoy!


Each room at the Concourse has complimentary wifi access, making it easy to check in on social media and connect with friends and family. An indoor pool and fitness center are also available if you’re so inclined.












You’ll find contemporary American dining at the CIRC restaurant, which crafts seasonal dishes featuring ingredients from local farmers and producers.

The Bar, located on the first floor near the lobby, offers an extensive wine list, an impressive craft beer selection, and artisan cocktails. In addition, a full-service Starbucks is adjacent to the lobby.

The Concourse offers gathering spaces throughout the lobby—perfect for relaxing and catching up with other Flingers.



State Street is just around the corner from the hotel, and you’ll want to explore this seven-block, bustling pedestrian thoroughfare for shopping, dining, or simply people-watching. We're also planning some time on Saturday morning to explore the Dane County Farmers' Marketconveniently located on the tree-lined grounds surrounding the Wisconsin State Capitol building, near the hotel.

We'll be blogging ab
out all of this in much more detail as we get closer to the Fling. If you're planning on an extended stay, we'll also provide information about additional plant shopping, garden visiting, sightseeing, and entertainment opportunities in Madison and the surrounding area. Consider adding a day or two on the front or the end of the Fling dates.



Our reserved (limited number of rooms) room rate is $189/night for single and double; $199 for triple; and $209 for quad. At registration time (very soon!), you'll have access to the special rates.

Registration will open soon, so keep reading the blog regularly for more info and details. We expect to fill up fast, and we want to make sure you can join us!






Photos courtesy The Concourse Hotel and Governor's Club

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Madison Food: Surprisingly Diverse

When you visit Madison, be prepared to be surprised by the quality of the food in this mid-size Midwestern city. The variety and types of foods range widely, too. From high-end to typical supper club food, you can find just about any cuisine you desire.

In addition to boasting numerous James Beard award-winners, Madison (more broadly Wisconsin) is home to some unique culinary traditions, including:

Cheeses: Yes, you can get some of the best cheeses in the world here. At the 2018 World Cheese Awards, for example, Wisconsin captured 30 awards, more than any other state or country in the world. If you have a chance to try them, fried cheese curds are pretty special, too.

Sausages: You may have heard about Wisconsin bratwurst and, while it is tasty, other Wisconsin sausages are top-quality, too. European settlers—German, Italian, Polish, and others—brought their old-world recipes and link-making methods with them to Wisconsin.

Cranberries: Wisconsin is the #1 producer in the world of this tart fruit, best known as a side or condiment for the traditional holiday meal. Wisconsinites find creative ways to use cranberries, though—as craisins, in salsa, in orange-cranberry bread, and many other recipes.

Cornish Pasties: Wisconsin is one of the few states where you can commonly find these meat-filled, folded pocket pastries. They became a traditional Wisconsin offering back in the 1800s, when Cornish miners and their families settled in Mineral Point, about 50 miles southwest of Madison. 

Ice cream and frozen custard: Of course the dairy state offers the best ice cream and frozen custard in the world. Madison has its share of delicious frozen dessert shops. Save some room after your meal for your favorite flavor.



These are just a few examples of fun food experiences in Madison. While some of these items will be available during our group meals, you can find others as you explore the city during free times. You’ll be on your own for breakfast each day. Lunch will be included with your registration. We’ll also provide daily snacks to fuel your energy for garden tours. We’ll have a banquet on one of the evenings, but you’ll also have a chance to dine out on other nights.

Look for options at registration if you have special dietary restrictions, such as vegetarian or gluten-free. Make sure to bring your appetite with you to Madison!

Photos courtesy goodfreephotos.com.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

10 Fun Things You'll Find in Madison

Late afternoon view of downtown Madison
Photo via Good Free Photos


What’s unique about Madison, Wisconsin? Those who’ve been here know what a fun little Midwestern city it is, but newbies will soon discover its unconventional charm. With a city population of about 258,000, and a metropolitan area population of about 660,000, Madison is the second-largest city in Wisconsin, following Milwaukee.

You’ll have to visit Madison to experience it firsthand, but here are 10 distinguishing things to get you started:
  • “77 square miles surrounded by reality”: While the phrase reflects residents’ liberal leanings, this nickname is embraced by people of all political persuasions. It’s also come to signify the lovable quirkiness of the city, itself.
  • College town charm: Students dominate the population near campus—total enrollment at UW-Madison in Fall 2018 was 44,411. While there are fewer students living in Madison during the summer, they're a vital presence year-round. Because Madison is a college town, downtown restaurants, shops, and community events cater to students, faculty, and staff (and tourists).


    A quiet afternoon on State Street (usually it's much busier)
    Photo via Good Free Photos



  • State Street: To truly experience the personality of Madison, take a walk down State Street. Only pedestrians, buses, emergency vehicles, delivery vehicles, and bikes are allowed here. State Street connects the Capitol Square with the UW-Madison campus, and it’s lined with unique shops, restaurants, and other businesses.
    • The isthmus: Downtown Madison is literally flanked on two sides by two large lakes—Mendota and Monona. At its narrowest, the land width is just over half a mile. The central business district, the Capitol, and almost all the downtown area are located within the isthmus.
    • Five lakes: In addition to Lakes Mendota and Monona, which border the isthmus, two other lakes—Waubesa and Kegonsa—combine in a chain to surround the city and suburbs with fresh water. The Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) people called this place “land of the four lakes.” A fifth lake, Wingra, connects with the others through a creek.


    A public park in Madison


    • More parks per capita: Madison has 6,431 acres of park space—13.5% of the total city area. The city has more parks per capita than any other city, at 12.7 parks per 10,000 residents. In 2017, the city’s parks were ranked ninth out of the 100 largest cities, by the Trust for Public Land.
    • Bike paths everywhere: Truly, they are everywhere, and expanding. You can rent bikes at B-cycle stations. There are bike paths that connect downtown Madison to the surrounding communities, and bike paths that connect with city and state parks. To find out more, visit madisonbikes.org.


      Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Monona Terrace
      Corey Coyle [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]



      • Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence:  The famous architect was born near Madison, spent much of his childhood here, and attended the university as part of his schooling. Wright designed 32 buildings for the Madison area, and 12 were constructed. Nine still stand today, including the iconic Monona Terrace, which links the shore of Lake Monona to the State Capitol.
      • The food scene: You can find just about any cuisine in Madison—from amazing food carts to James Beard Award winners, and from diverse ethnic fare to Wisconsin supper clubs. Because Wisconsin is “America’s Dairyland,” expect to find excellent cheeses and cheese-based dishes in many restaurants.


        A botanical-themed sculpture at Epic Systems


      • A growing tech center: As of late 2018, the two largest employers in the Madison Metropolitan area were UW-Madison and Epic Systems Corp. The latter is one of the healthcare industry’s leading information technology companies, serving many of the world’s largest hospitals and healthcare systems. Madison, itself, was ranked the top city in the U.S. for tech growth in 2017 and is the only Midwestern city listed in the top 20 for venture capital per capita.

      This is just a snapshot of what makes Madison special. Attend the 2020 Fling and you’ll discover it for yourself!

      Sunday, August 25, 2019

      We Want YOU!


      Every year for the past 12 years, something amazing has happened. One or two people with no particular event-planning experience have raised their hands and volunteered to host the Garden Bloggers Fling. And every year for the past 12 years, garden bloggers from all over North America and beyond have been able to attend an amazingly fun and exciting garden tour in a new city.
      Next year the Fling will be hosted in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin. But after that, we don’t know if there will be a Fling. Why? Because we don’t have a volunteer(s) to host in 2021.
      We’ve been working behind the scenes to find a host city for 2021. But unless someone steps forward to say, “I’ll do it!” the Fling won’t happen. It’s that simple.
      Maybe YOU can be the one to keep the Fling going! If you’ve ever attended the Garden Bloggers Fling and you have an active (or even semi-active) garden blog, then you can host. You don’t need prior experience in hosting a tour. You just need to be an organized person, a team player, budget minded, and someone with staying power who doesn’t quit until a job is done.
      Having contacts in your local garden community is a plus for finding gardens for the tour, but if you’re willing to reach out to people (plant societies, garden clubs, designers, master gardeners, garden writers/communicators), you’ll find great gardens. We can advise you on the rest. In fact we have a handy-dandy Hosting Handbook with all the details so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
      It’s a big job, so it’s best to have a partner – ideally another garden blogger who lives in your city. But this is flexible because not every city has multiple garden bloggers able to help. As long as the lead planner is a blogger who’s attended at least one Fling, the co-planner may be a non-blogger. And it’s possible for people to collaborate across the miles, although for logistical reasons you need at least two members of the planning team to be located in the same city.

      It’s easy to take an annual event like the Fling for granted, assuming it’ll always be there. But the Fling happens each year only because someone steps up to host. Will YOU be that person in 2021? 
      If you’re interested or have any questions about hosting, please contact Pam Penick. We hope to hear from you!
      Fling Advisory Committee

      Monday, August 5, 2019

      Mark Your Calendars: June 18-21, 2020
      Garden Bloggers Fling in Madison, Wisconsin

      Wisconsin State Capitol
      Justjeffaz (Jeff Brunton) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

      Get ready to Fling in Madison, Wisconsin! The Madison area is a meeting place: It’s roughly where the Eastern hardwood forests meet the prairies; where the edge of the glaciers morphed the land and melted, leaving a series of five lakes; and where garden bloggers will meet in 2020 for the Garden Bloggers Fling!

      While the soil in the area varies somewhat, Dane County soil is among the most productive in North America. Many gardeners here are blessed with excellent silt loam soil as a base for their plantings. While Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland, the state also ranks first in the nation for snap peas for processing, cranberries, ginseng, mink pelts, dry whey for humans, milk goats, and corn for silage, among other crops.

      So, it’s an excellent place to grow things! And an excellent place to gather and visit gardens together!

      The horticultural gardens at the UW-Madison Arboretum
      Plan to join us for three full days of garden touring, plus an opening event Thursday, June 18, afternoon/evening. Please check here for eligibility guidelines. More details on the hotel, registration, gardens, special events, sponsors, and more, will be posted here in the weeks ahead. All announcements will be posted on this blog and on the official Fling Facebook page.

      Just to tease you with a preliminary itinerary (times and places may change):


      Sculptures and gravel garden at Epic Systems
      Friday, June 19, we’ll start out visiting private gardens and then we’ll enjoy lunch, a short presentation, and tours at the UW-Madison Arboretum, home to distinct garden collections, including horticultural gardens, prairie and woodland restorations, a native plant garden, and more. In the afternoon, we’ll visit more private gardens, and then head to Epic Systems for a tour of the company’s very unique outdoor gardens, led by Jeff Epping, one of the Epic lead landscape designers.


      The Thai Pavilion at Olbrich Botanical Gardens
      Saturday, June 20, enjoy a leisurely walk around the Wisconsin State Capitol building at the Dane County Farmers Market, America’s largest producers-only farmers’ market. Then we’ll load the buses for a delicious brunch before visiting the award-winning Olbrich Botanical Gardens, voted one of the top ten most inspiring gardens in North America by Horticulture Magazine. We’ll round out the day with more private garden tours. (Our event banquet and auction likely will occur on Saturday or Sunday. Stay tuned for updates.)


      European-style garden at Rotary Botanical Garden
      Sunday, June 21, begins with private garden tours and a trip to The Flower Factory, Wisconsin’s premiere hardy plant nursery, featuring a large selection of perennials, hostas, and ornamental grasses. Next, we’ll take a quick drive to Janesville, Wisconsin, to visit Rotary Botanical Gardens, a 20-acre botanical showcase. Private gardens and our final destination—Allen Centennial Garden, in the heart of Madison—will conclude the 2020 Fling. You’ll want to stick around until the very end, because we have a special surprise planned at Allen Centennial.


      Allen Centennial Garden
      James Steakley [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]








      Madison Fling Co-Coordinators
      Anneliese Valdes – The CobraHead Blog
      Beth Stetenfeld – PlantPostings.com

      Any questions? Feel free to contact us: madisongbfling@gmail.com. Hope to see you in Madison next June!