Thursday, February 27, 2020

Who's Attending the Madison Fling?

Event rescheduled for June 23-26, 2022

Will you be part of the fun at the Madison Garden Bloggers Fling? If your name is on this list, you will! If it's not, we'd love to have you join us!

Here are the people who’ve signed up so far for our event, which includes three full days of garden touring and an opening reception in the “Mad City.”

We’re happy to announce that many new Flingers will be joining us this year, and they are noted with asterisks (*). If you’re new, you’re part of a great group. If you’re a veteran Flinger, please welcome our new friends.

We’ll continue to update the list until the Fling.

Idelle Fisher – Good Environmental News Blog

Shari Wilson – Nuts for Natives

Karin Hicks – Southern Meadows

Jan Bujan – In the Garden With Grandma
Judy Hertz – Garden in a City
Jason Kay – Garden in a City

Kathy Jentz – Washington Gardener and Cats in Gardens
Teri Speight – Cottage in the Court

Natalie Carmolli – Through the Greenhouse Glass
Stefanie Gilmour – See Jane Dig
Nancy Patterson – Garden337

Angie Baer* – Fieldnotes
Mary Lahr Schier – My Northern Garden

Elizabeth Licata – Garden Rant
Kathy Purdy – Cold Climate Gardening

Lisa Wagner – Natural Gardening and Places of the Spirit (part-time in Quebec)

Kylee Baumle – Our Little Acre

Dee Nash – Red Dirt Ramblings

Jane Finch-Howell – MulchMaid
Kevin Gepford – Fuchsias in the City
Theo Margelony – Fuschias in the City

Amy Fedele* – Pretty Purple Door
Karl Gercens* – Longwood Gardens Blog

Layanee DeMerchant – Ledge & Gardens

Janet Ledebuhr – The Queen of Seaford
Julie Thompson-Adolf – Garden Delights

Gail Eichelberger – Clay and Limestone
Frances Garrison – Fairegarden
Kim Halyak – Cooper-Young Garden Club

Vicki Blachman – Playin’ Outside
Lori Daul – The Gardener of Good and Evil
Caroline Homer – The Shovel-Ready Garden
Cat Jones – The Whimsical Gardener
Diana Kirby – Sharing Nature’s Garden
Jean McWeeney – Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog
Pam Penick – Digging
Cindy Tournier  My Corner of Katy
Laura Wills – Wills Family Acres

Megan Cain – The Creative Vegetable Gardener (Planning Committee)
Mark Dwyer* – Landscape Prescriptions by MD (Planning Committee)
Sheri Kaz* – My Garden Zone
Carla TePaske*  The River
Lucy Saunders* – Beercook (Planning Committee)
Erin Schanen* – The Impatient Gardener
Beth Stetenfeld – PlantPostings  (Planning Committee)
Chan M. Stroman* – Bookish Gardener
Anneliese Valdes – Cobrahead Blog (Planning Committee)
Danniel Ward-Packard* – Botanica

Helen Battersby – Toronto Gardens (Ontario)
Margaret Mishra – The Gardening Me (Ontario)

Michelle Chapman – Veg Plotting

* denotes new attendee

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Sunday's Private Gardens: Colorful, Charming, and Creative

[Note: Dates have been changed for the 2022 Fling. Gardens may vary slightly.]

We’ve previewed the Madison gardens we’ll visit on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, June 26, we’ll head east and southeast to visit a garden on Madison’s isthmus, a garden in the suburb of Monona, and two gardens in the small city of Stoughton.

Jane and Duane Miller have an urban garden within Madison’s isthmus that showcases very creative use of a small lot. During the growing season, they repurpose their driveway as a pathway and patio into the garden. Plants in rolling pots—along with garden furniture, portable fences, planters, and umbrellas—come out to form a wonderful dining and entertaining space. “Since many things are on wheels,” says Jane, “we can rearrange spaces or create a parking spot if needed. A wood pergola on one side and a secret garden nestled between two garages in back form the other garden rooms in our space.” The couple’s colorful bowling ball collection lines the front garden. Arbors and fencing divide the property into gardening “rooms” filled with colorful annuals, dramatic foliage plants, and decorative surprises around every corner.

Ann Munson has planted more than 220 trees and shrubs, and untold numbers of perennials and annuals, since 1980, in her ¾-acre suburban property. Free of traditional grass lawns, the gardens of sun and shade are connected with rock, stone, and wood chip paths. Two ponds and a connecting stream provide water for wildlife and stimulation of the senses. “I recycle as much from the land as possible, and recycle interesting items as I find them,” says Ann. “My gardens allow me to participate in the ongoing cycle of life—seeking beauty, health, and creativity. I want there to be mystery, excitement, interaction, and health in the garden. I want color, design, natural critters, and the flow of the seasons made real. I want to look out my window at a natural world, and step out my door and do a forest bath.”

Jim Ottney and Jay Hatheway have gardened at their Stoughton home since the mid-1990s. When they bought the house, the “yard” was an untended field of weeds, an oil change sand pit, piles of old tires, clotheslines, volunteer trees at random locations, and various invasive plants. They turned over the entire lot by hand, and beginning with several small beds along the fringes and foundation yews, they transformed the lot. The entire garden is laced with pathways and seating areas, incorporating a newer central pergola over the original patio, a metal gazebo in the back, a deck overlooking the entire garden, garden art distributed throughout, and a flagstone open space in one section. “Gardens can be whatever you imagine,” notes Jim. “We wanted a private escape and a space where we could entertain small groups of friends. We worked within the limits we were given and discovered ways to use foliage variety to create interest.”

Janet Aaberg’s property had just one tree in the back and one in the front when she moved to her home in 1992. “I added a few shrubs and flowers, but it wasn’t until 2000 after a life-changing event that I really started digging,” she says. “Each year, I either enlarged an existing bed or dug up a new one, and I now tend to 18 large perennial beds.” Janet has a diverse selection of perennials including 32 varieties of Clematis, most of which should be blooming when we visit. “You’ll also see garden art mixed into each garden,” she adds. “I have a very sunny, hot location, and with years of planning, I have something blooming from April through November. My slice of paradise is not only good food for the soul, but also for the critters, pollinators, and insects.”

Our private gardeners are looking forward to your visit! Stay tuned for more planned highlights of the 2022 Fling. (Note: This schedule may change; we will keep you updated here and on the Fling Facebook page.)

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Madison and Beyond: Destinations Before and After the Fling

Lower Yahara River Trail

There are many places to explore in and near Madison if you have extra time before or after the Fling. Madison is centrally located in the south of the state, so many of these destinations are short drives away or easy day trips.

We’ve mentioned the numerous bike paths that loop in and around the city and the county. There are more than 100 miles of shared-use trails throughout Dane County. Some are great for other purposes, too. For example, the Capital City State Trail is a 20-mile, paved trail accessible for bicycles, skaters, strollers, walkers, joggers, and wheelchairs.

The Capital City Trail meets the Lower Yahara River Trail southeast of the city, on the western side of Lake Waubesa, and traverses across the northern edge of the lake. The core of this trail is a mile-long boardwalk/bridge that’s the longest boardwalk in Wisconsin and one of the longest elevated bike/pedestrian structures in the U.S.

Old World Wisconsin Clausing Octagonal Barn

A little further to the east, about an hour’s drive from downtown Madison, you’ll find Old World Wisconsin, an open-air, living history museum, depicting the lives of 19th Century Wisconsin settlers. The 600-acre property features more than 50 immersive spaces that bring the stories of Wisconsin immigrant families to life.

Local residents play the parts of historical figures in period costumes, describing and demonstrating daily life for typical settlers of the time. They demonstrate cooking, cleaning, crafts, chores, and gardening in and around the historical homes, businesses, and farms. A 45-minute tram tour provides an overview of the entire property, or you can hop on and off as often as you like at the tram stops.

Lake Geneva Gardens

Another easy destination to the east of Madison is Lake Geneva, named USA Today’s 2019 #1 Best Small Town for Adventure. From water sports to ziplining to mountain biking and hot-air balloon rides, Lake Geneva is a bustling place.

The town of about 8,000 residents has been a popular resort destination since the American Civil War, when it became known as the “Newport of the West,” a popular year-round resort for wealthy Chicago residents who built homes and estates on the lake and in the hills around the town. Tourism now dominates, and Lake Geneva is known for its scenic beauty, luxurious resorts, and historic mansions. A 23-mile path—open to the public—circles Geneva Lake, passing through the backyards of extravagant mansions once owned by the Wrigleys, Rockefellers, and other famous families. The colorful, well-maintained gardens along this path are impressive.
Mitchell Park Desert Dome

About 45 miles from Lake Geneva, or 75 miles from Madison, lies downtown Milwaukee. Where do we start to cover all the things you can do in this bustling big city along the shores of Lake Michigan? Some of the more famous Milwaukee attractions include Miller Park, home to the Milwaukee Brewers; the Milwaukee Art Museum, one of the largest in the U.S.; the Harley-Davidson Museum; the Pabst Mansion, home of the famed beer family; and many more.

The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory is a great destination for plant-lovers. The three domes, designed by a Milwaukee architect in the 1950s, include the Show Dome, which transforms with each season; the Desert Dome, featuring plants from the deserts of the American Southwest, Africa, Madagascar, South America, and Mexico; and the Tropical Dome, which includes more than 1,200 species of tropical plants.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin
Photo by Edward Stojakovic

A completely different day trip includes a one-hour jaunt to Spring Green, Wisconsin, to experience Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s estate and museum. The 600-acre property was developed on land that originally belonged to Wright’s mother’s family. The design of the original building was consistent with the design principles of the Prairie School, emulating the flatness of the plains and the natural limestone outcroppings of Wisconsin’s Driftless Region.

Spend a day or more in Spring Green and you’ll have enough time to visit The House on the Rock, a complex of architecturally distinct rooms, streets, gardens, and shops designed by eccentric architect Alex Jordan Jr. It’s hard to describe this place; suffice it to say the attraction’s description, “An experience you will never forget,” is appropriate. Allow several hours to tour it.

Devil's Lake State Park
A drive to Devil’s Lake State Park, also about an hour from Madison, takes you northwest, through the stunning scenery of the Baraboo Hills. Devil’s Lake, itself, draws 3 million visitors each year to see its 500-foot quartzite cliffs, clear blue lake, and rare plants. The park is home to around 1,500 plant species, including 71 species on the Wisconsin rare vascular plant working list, 7 endangered species, 17 threatened species, and 47 species of special concern.

The bluffs at the state park show evidence of the collision of continents that crumpled the land 1.6 billion years ago into the bluffs we see today. Volcanoes, tropical oceans, and glaciers all left visible mementos of their stays. Devil’s Lake, itself, is spring-fed, and ranges from 40 to 50 feet deep.

Wisconsin Dells Ducks
self [CC BY-SA (]

Just a half-hour drive north from Devil’s Lake, you’ll find Wisconsin Dells, which claims the title of the “Waterpark Capital of the World.” There are at least six waterparks in the area, including those at area resorts, but there’s much more to do in Wisconsin Dells. Wineries, golf courses, museums, live entertainment, ziplining, lumberjack shows, and many more activities can be found in this Midwestern tourist mecca.

A must-do activity while in the Dells is to take a scenic “duck” tour. Originally developed to ferry troops and supplies from ship to shore during World War II, the duck is an amphibious truck. It’s the perfect way to explore the Dells—easily maneuvering with ease through steep trails, deep ravines, and rugged rock formations, and then splashing into the water for a smooth boat ride.

Yellow Lady's Slipper Orchids
The Ridges Sanctuary

If you have more time, a trip to Door County is worth your while. The trip is about three hours from Madison. Often described as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” Door County is the “thumb” of the hand that forms Wisconsin. It’s a peninsula surrounded by Green Bay on its western edge and Lake Michigan along the eastern edge.

Door County offers 300 miles of shoreline, thousands of acres of fruit orchards, plentiful art galleries, endless shopping opportunities, wineries and breweries, five state parks, and 11 historic lighthouses. For plant-lovers, The Ridges Sanctuary is a botanical wonderland. Wisconsin’s most biologically diverse ecosystem, its ridge-swale complex is home to rare plants like trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens), dwarf lake iris (Iris lacustris), and the yellow lady’s-slipper orchid (Cypripedium parviflorum).

There’s much more to see, of course, but this gives you a start to exploring highlights of the Badger State. Visit for more suggestions. Stay tuned for more information on attractions in and around Madison, itself.