Thursday, April 28, 2022

Proven Winners® ColorChoice®: Supporting Sponsor of the Madison Fling

We’d like to give special thanks to the sponsors that have stayed with us for more than two years! We start with Proven Winners® ColorChoice® flowering shrubs, a 2022 Fling Bloom Level Sponsor! A nine-year Fling sponsor, Proven Winners ColorChoice has also generously agreed to sponsor our opening night reception!

Proven Winners ColorChoice is known for hydrangeas that are easy to grow and packed with bigger, more vibrant blooms that are held up on strong, supportive stems. It’s no wonder Proven Winners ColorChoice varieties like ‘Limelight’, Little Lime®, Incrediball®, and Invincibelle® Spirit II have become household names.

One of their newest introductions, Fire Light Tidbit® is the smallest panicle hydrangea on the market, at just 2’-3’ tall and 3’ wide! Each large, rounded bloom emerges frothy lime green, matures to white, blushes to pink, and finishes vibrant dragon fruit pink. Its foliage is at work in the autumn providing the “fire” by blending into hues of orange, maroon, and red. When it comes to front-of-the-border beauty, this dwarf hydrangea provides the captivating display you’re looking for. Hardy in USDA zones 3-8.

Year after year, nurseries big and small look to Proven Winners ColorChoice for new shrub introductions that perform better. And Proven Winners ColorChoice looks to garden communicators of all types, like the Flingers, to spread the word about their experiences with these new plants. This expert advice helps consumers make informed choices about what they grow, and helps our network of growers and garden centers experience greater sales success.

“Not Just New, Better” means growers, garden centers, landscapers and home gardeners will all feel like winners when they choose Proven Winners plants—a brand synonymous with quality and consistency.

Find them online:

Facebook: @pwcolorchoice

*** The Garden Bloggers Fling is a non-profit organization; we’d be nowhere without our generous sponsors! Please let them know how much they mean to us—big "thank-yous" to each and every one! ***

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Madison Food: Surprisingly Diverse

We're re-posting this culinary information for the new Fling registrants and 
as a reminder for all: 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.

Please note at registration if you have special dietary restrictions, such as vegetarian or gluten-free (we're making note of these preferences and restrictions). And make sure to bring your appetite with you to Madison!

Photos courtesy

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Monrovia: Supporting Sponsor of the Madison Fling

Let’s hear it for another Bloom Level sponsor of the 2022 Fling: Monrovia!

Inspired by the beauty of plants, gardens, and landscapes everywhere, Harry E. Rosedale, Sr., founded Monrovia in 1926. Since then, the company has become a premier grower of shrubs, trees, edibles, perennials, and houseplants, growing more than 4,000 varieties. Monrovia collaborates with breeders around the world to introduce improved plant varieties to North America. Monrovia’s nursery locations in Oregon, California, Georgia, and Connecticut provide premium-quality plants helping gardeners Grow Beautifully™.

A selection of our top exclusive plants includes Seaside Serenade® Hydrangeas, Evolution™ Coneflower Series, Jurassic™ Fern Collection, Summerlasting™ Crape Myrtles, Grace N’ Grit™ Shrub Roses, Nitty Gritty™ Groundcover Roses, Bountiful™ Blueberry Collection and Craftsmen-grown Topiary, Peonies, Japanese Maples, and Camellias.

More information on Monrovia’s 2022 Distinctive Plants can be found here.

Find them online:

Facebook: @monroviaplants
Instagram: monroviaplants

*** The Garden Bloggers Fling is a non-profit organization; we’d be nowhere without our generous sponsors! Please let them know how much they mean to us—big "thank-yous" to each and every one! ***

Saturday, April 16, 2022

What's It Like to Garden in Southern Wisconsin?

We think it's a special place! Here are some brief thoughts from the Fling planning committee about gardening in our little part of the world:

Anneliese Valdes
is part of the Cobrahead LLC family team, serving in sales marketing and shipping, among other areas. The Cambridge, Wis., company was formed to develop and market the Cobrahead Weeder and Cultivator—a multi-purpose hand tool for use in gardening, horticulture, and agriculture. Anneliese is also a talented musician, and member of the indie/pop band, Gentle Brontosaurus.

“Wisconsin's winters are long and often harsh, but we still manage to have great gardens each year," she says. "The summer days are long and warm, and water is abundant. Growing up with my dad's vegetable garden right outside spoiled me for food variety, and I think folks would be surprised at just how many crops we can grow in such a short season. I just wish I could grow citrus here!”

Mark Dwyer
is the garden manager for the Edgerton, Wis., Hospital Healing Garden, which he designed in 2011. Mark was formerly director of horticulture at Rotary Botanical Gardens (Janesville, Wis.) for 21 years, where he did a very regular horticulture blog (3,000 posts) for more than 12 years. Mark also operates his own landscape design company, Landscape Prescriptions by MD, does many presentations and garden writing projects, and spends time with his family in Janesville, Wis., with a laser focus on his new grandson, Miles.

“Gardening in Wisconsin is an exciting adventure each year,” says Mark. “I try not to worry about what I can't control from Mother Nature (deer, inclement weather, Japanese beetle damage, etc.). I like to focus on the rewards of immersing myself in the garden, and the excitement of observing seasonal transitions, pollinator activity, vegetables ripening, cloying fragrances, and so much more. While the act of gardening has its own rewards, the goal of inspiring and encouraging children to garden continues every year with my children (two daughters) and grandson. Wisconsin is a fabulous state with beautiful public gardens, parks, and a long agricultural history.”

Lucy Saunders
is a food and beer writer, and author of five cookbooks, including “The Best of American Beer & Food” and “Dinner in the Beer Garden” (available on Kindle), which includes destination profiles of some of the most amazing beer gardens in the U.S. She has volunteered at the Madison Garden Show and the Great Taste of the Midwest (one of Madison's biggest and best beer festivals). And she serves on the board for the beer education program at the College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, Ill.

“In addition to writing, teaching, and cooking,” she says, “I also love gardening and growing herbs, fruits, and vegetables. And sharing these with friends through beer pairings and recipes, which is just what ‘Dinner in the Beer Garden’ is all about.”

Beth Stetenfeld is a writer, editor, and master naturalist volunteer and instructor. She began her botanical/nature/gardening blog,, in 2010. Beth writes and edits for numerous clients, including Northern Gardener, Olbrich Botanical Gardens, independent book writers, and many more. Through her Wisconsin Master Naturalist program involvement, she participates in continuing education, wildlife surveys, and promotional projects.

“Gardening in Southern Wisconsin is mostly pure joy," she describes. "The soil, the warm summers, the plants that thrive here—they all contribute to experiences that induce deep peace and contentment. Most days during May through October, I can’t imagine anything more enjoyable than gardening, hiking, and spending time outdoors in this part of the world. And from November through April, there’s a little break for enjoying other hobbies, caring for indoor and overwintered plants, and planning for the next growing season."

Visit this link to register for the Madison Fling!

Sunday, April 10, 2022

The Award-Winning Public Gardens of the Madison Fling

An arbor-covered walkway at Olbrich Botanical Gardens

We’ve recently reviewed the fabulous private gardens you’ll see at the Madison Fling in June, so let’s take another peek at the public gardens on our tour. (Click on the links below to learn more about each garden.)

We’ll start with The Urb Garden and the Rooftop Ramble at the Madison Children’s Museum, the venue for our opening gathering on Thursday evening, June 23. The Urb Garden is a three-season learning area on an outdoor deck. Visitors can learn about aquaponics in a tilapia tank, watch worms turn food waste into rich compost, and observe plant growth in the custom greenhouse-treehouse. And from the Rooftop, visitors get a bird’s eye view of downtown Madison.

Metal archway into UW-Madison Arboretum's
Longenecker Horticultural Gardens

On Friday, June 24, we’ll head to the UW-Madison Arboretum, home of the world’s oldest restored prairie, the Longenecker Horticultural Gardens, the native plant garden including approximately 500 native Wisconsin plants, and an extensive collection of other restored ecosystems. The Arboretum is an oasis of nature surrounded by urban and suburban areas.

Gravel gardens at Epic Systems gardens

Our final Friday destination is Epic Systems gardens, near the suburb of Verona. Epic is a leading healthcare industry information technology company, and the second-largest employer in the Madison metro area. Its campus gardens are whimsical and unique—like a playground of garden types and styles. Epic is on the edge of Wisconsin’s Driftless Area, too, so the views of the surrounding countryside are dramatic.

The Thai Pavilion at Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Saturday midday, June 25, takes us to Olbrich Botanical Gardens, voted one of the top 10 most inspiring gardens in North America by Horticulture magazine. Olbrich’s 16 acres include an indoor, tropical conservatory, and outdoor sunken, perennial, herb, meadow, rock, wildflower, rain, serenity, shade, hosta, birch, rose, and event gardens.

Olbrich’s Thai pavilion and gardens, tucked beyond a winding pathway, are must-see features, too. The Thai pavilion was a gift to the University of Wisconsin-Madison from the Thai government and the Thai chapter of the Wisconsin Alumni Association.
Mixed plantings at Rotary Botanical Gardens

On Sunday, June 26, we drive south, with a stop at Kopke’s Greenhouse, home to plentiful annuals and perennials.

Our midday destination is Rotary Botanical Gardens, in Janesville, Wis. Rotary is a 20-acre, nonprofit community garden, and a National Display Garden for the American Hosta Society, the American Hemerocallis Society, and the Hardy Fern Foundation. It features 26 distinct garden themes and more than 4,000 types of plants.

Train display at The Flower Factory

On the way back to Madison, we’ll stop in at TheFlower Factory, formerly a public garden and once the source of the Midwest’s largest selection of perennials, hostas, and ornamental grasses. The owners still garden, and we’re honored to visit their expansive property.

Victorian house at Allen Centennial Garden

Our final event of the Fling, on Sunday late afternoon, is a visit to Allen Centennial Garden, a cozy 2.5-acre garden in the heart of Madison. The garden is built around a stately Victorian gothic house, which was one of the first buildings on the UW-Madison agricultural campus and served as home for the first four deans. Though compact, this garden is divided into 14 distinct areas. It serves as an outdoor classroom for campus students and visitors, alike.

Our thanks goes out to the personnel at all of these amazing public gardens. They all are wonderful Madison-area treasures!

Visit this link to register for the Madison Fling!

Monday, April 4, 2022

Bailey Nurseries: Supporting Sponsor of the Madison Fling

Time to celebrate another wonderful Fling sponsor! Bailey Nurseries, a bloom-level sponsor, is a fifth-generation, family-owned company driven to help retailers, growers, and landscapers create a world landscape that is more beautiful, diverse, and sustainable. Innovation has always been a company hallmark, with the ultimate aims of fulfilling consumer desire for new varieties and to offer stronger horticultural benefits to customers. Now, more than ever, Bailey Nurseries is focused on what’s next—from proprietary plant breeding and trial programs, to digital-age marketing efforts and technology-driven fulfillment solutions.

First Editions® Shrubs & Trees is Bailey’s premium assortment of regional shrubs, trees, evergreens, vines, and perennials that includes national rock stars, as well as regionally targeted collections. Each variety in the First Editions® collection has been trialed and tested to ensure they are the hardy, unique, diverse, and beautiful plants that home gardeners can rely on. First Editions® Shrubs & Trees is a part of the Bailey family of brands, which also includes Endless Summer® Hydrangeas and Easy Elegance® Roses.

Find more from First Editions® online at the following links:

*** The Garden Bloggers Fling is a non-profit organization; we’d be nowhere without our generous sponsors! Please let them know how much they mean to us—big "thank-yous" to all of them! ***

Saturday, April 2, 2022

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.)