Friday, January 31, 2020

Brunch at the Goodman Community Center

Following our morning exploring the Dane County Farmers’ Market on Saturday, June 25, we’ll head to a catered brunch at the Goodman Community Center. Located on the near East side of Madison, the Goodman Center is a private nonprofit that serves the entire community through programs such as early childhood education, its TEENworks high school program, older adult activities, and many others.

Our group will be served through the center’s Working Class Catering participants—a “classroom” of teens who work and learn alongside food service professionals. The students are integrated into all parts of the business, learning all aspects of running a full-service catering company.

Meals are made from scratch, with high-quality, organic ingredients—locally sourced, when available. The program is a win-win: providing delicious meals and empowering local teens in education and employment.

After brunch, we’ll walk past the Atwood Community Gardens to Olbrich Botanical Gardens, just a short distance from the community center. Saturday will be a day to fully explore and appreciate all types of gardening—from edibles to ornamentals.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Register for the Madison Fling!

Registration is now open!

To register, fill out this APPLICATION, and we'll send you the link to the registration portal.

The 2020 Madison Garden Bloggers Fling aims to showcase diverse gardens and gardening styles found in the Madison area, and leave you with great memories and new inspirations. We’ve included tours of exceptional private gardens and some of the best public gardens in our area. Our preliminary itinerary, also shared on the 2020 Madison tab above, includes many, but not all, of the gardens that we will visit:

Madison Garden Bloggers Fling

June 18 - 21, 2020

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

Any questions? Feel free to contact us:

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!

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):

The horticultural gardens at the UW-Madison Arboretum

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 gardens 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 10 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. Stay tuned for updates.)

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.

When Does Registration Open?

When Should I Arrive?

We recommend arriving on Wednesday, June 17, or, at the latest, by mid-afternoon on Thursday, June 18, so you can attend the Fling welcome event, pick up your name tag and swag bag, and settle in. The Fling ends on Sunday, June 21, with a special surprise that you won't want to miss! We'll have you back to the hotel by early evening. We recommend departing on Monday, June 22. (To be safe, hold off on making any noncancellable reservations until after you're registered.)

Of course we hope many of you will come early or stay later to see more of Madison's attractions. Stay tuned: We’ll highlight many of them in the weeks ahead!


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, you'll have access to the special rates.

Getting to the Hotel

Driving: If you'll be driving to Madison, hotel parking is available for a special rate for our group of $10 USD daily; valet parking $20 USD daily. Max height 6'. Our official Fling hotel is the Madison Concourse Hotel.

Flying: If you'll be flying to Madison, The Concourse provides complimentary airport shuttle service between the airport and the hotel; simply call the hotel when you’re ready for pick-up. We do not recommend renting a car during the Fling tour days (June 19-21) because we'll be busing you everywhere. A rental car will be useful, however, if you'll be staying in the Madison area longer and exploring beyond the downtown area.

Other options for getting from the airport to the hotel:
    >Rideshare options include Carmel, Uber, and Lyft.
    >Taxis can be hailed outside baggage claim, on the lower level. Estimated fare is $25 USD one way.

    >More options can be found on the airport’s ground transportation page.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Saturday Morning at the Dane County Farmers' Market

We're changing things up a bit for the Madison Fling's Saturday morning schedule, June 25.

Instead of loading our buses first thing in the morning, we'll have some "free" time to explore the Dane County Farmers' Market, conveniently located a block from our hotel—along the tree-lined grounds surrounding the Wisconsin State Capitol building. This area is referred to "the Square" in Madison. The Market encircles the Square.

The grounds surrounding the State Capitol are an ideal site to host the market. The magnificent landscape and stunning architecture serve as an impressive backdrop.

The Dane County Farmers' Market is the largest producers-only farmers' market in the U.S. It's been going strong since 1972, when the mayor recognized a need to unite two strong cultures in the county—rural and urban—to allow city dwellers to reap some of the county's agricultural benefits. All products are Wisconsin-grown. As a producers-only farmers' market, vendors are limited by their production and harvest yields, so they sometimes sell out of items.

Get there early (the market opens at 6:15 a.m.) and you'll get the best selection. Also, it gets very busy, so you'll want to allow enough time to explore before our day's other events begin. (We expect to load buses mid-morning: exact times to be published later.)

What can you expect to find at the market? The season's best bounty of vegetables, fruits, flowers, meats, cheeses, baked goods, and specialty products from approximately 200 vendors. Market producers regularly receive national and international recognition for the quality of their products.

When you visit the market, you can get to know the people who grow, raise, and produce the food and other products offered. The vendors behind the tables are the most knowledgeable resources for their specific areas, and they welcome questions. Bring your own bag, or you can buy a souvenir bag at the market.

When you arrive at the market, you'll see that the flow of foot traffic heads in one direction around the square. It's recommended that you follow the crowd, and walk with the vendors on your right-hand side. Another tip: Be prepared for fun, and allow yourself a little time to just sit (there are plenty of spots around the perimeter and on the capitol grounds) and watch the people go by.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Olbrich Botanical Gardens: A Midwestern Horticultural Treasure

Olbrich's rose garden; photo by Jeff Epping

On Saturday, June 25, Madison Fling attendees will have the pleasure of visiting a nationally recognized botanical garden. Among its many accolades, Olbrich Botanical Gardens was voted one of the top 10 most inspiring gardens in North America by Horticulture magazine, and it has received the American Public Gardens Association’s Garden of Excellence Award.

Sixteen acres of outdoor display gardens and an indoor, tropical conservatory offer plentiful opportunities for horticultural discovery. Outdoor gardens include a sunken garden, perennial garden, herb garden, meadow garden, rock garden, wildflower garden, rain garden, serenity garden, shade garden, hosta garden, event garden, and birch garden.

A sampling of roses

Another highlight, Olbrich’s rose garden, encompasses two acres and showcases a variety of roses blended with colorful perennials, ornamental grasses, shrubs, trees, annuals, and spring-blooming bulbs. This part of the garden is drawn together in a prairie-style design, inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, with a 30-foot tower and fountains built into native stone.

The rose garden celebrates the beauty and adaptability of hardy and environmentally friendly shrub roses. This garden embraces the climate and gardening challenges of the Upper Midwest and creates a sustainable rose garden in all seasons. Some of these roses likely will be blooming during our visit.

The Thai Pavilion

Olbrich’s Thai pavilion was a gift to the University of Wisconsin-Madison from the Thai government and the Thai chapter of the Wisconsin Alumni Association. UW-Madison has one of the largest Thai student populations of any U.S. college or university. Amazingly, the pavilion is able to withstand Wisconsin’s winter weather with no protection because it’s constructed of plantation-grown teak and weather-resistant ceramic roof tiles. The gold leaf, however, is delicate and unable to withstand the oils of human hands.

The Thai garden surrounding the pavilion emulates a lush, tropical garden with Wisconsin-hardy plants. Ornamental grasses, some reaching up to 12 feet tall, and several hardy bamboos create a tropical look. Large-leaved shrubs and trees are pruned to emulate the appearance of plants in a typical Thai garden.

Butterflies in the gardens

Throughout the gardens, we’re likely to see pollinators of all types, including monarchs and other butterflies. Native plants, including host plant milkweeds, and nectar-rich annuals invite impressive numbers of monarchs to the gardens during the spring, summer, and fall.

Olbrich is a great place for butterfly sightings and counts, generally, and more specifically for viewing migrating monarchs in the late spring and early autumn.

Gravel garden

Another unique feature at Olbrich is its gravel gardens—inspired by designs by Roy Diblik, perennial plant expert and author, and Jeff Epping, Olbrich’s director of horticulture. Once established, gravel gardens require very few resources: next to no weeding, watering, or fertilizing. They incorporate native, drought-tolerant plants with deep roots that eventually reach down below the thick surface layer of gravel.

Olbrich has several gravel gardens throughout its property, including one at the entrance and another featuring pathways and all-weather Adirondack chairs. These are great locations to observe bees and other pollinators enjoying the plentiful, nectar-rich perennials.

As described in its vision statement, Olbrich Botanical Gardens is “a locally treasured and globally renowned source of beauty and education celebrating the importance of plants in a sustainable world.” Our visit during the Fling is sure to be a highlight of our event.