Olbrich Botanical Garden


Olbrich Botanical Gardens are lushly planted with comfortable walkways and places to sit.

I’ve visited Olbrich Botanical Gardens several times in summer and even into November, and each time I’ve found something new to appreciate. These photos are from my visit in August 2017. I loved how the garden looked, but a friend from Madison told me the garden was stunning in spring as well and that the best time to see butterflies in the garden was late September. Time to plan another trip!

The annual beds are especially striking in late summer.

Olbrich Botanical Garden is located just a few minutes off of I-90/I-94, which skirts the western edge of Madison, Wis. The capital of Wisconsin and home to the largest campus of the University of Wisconsin, Madison is an ideal college town — full of interesting things to do, fascinating people, and beautiful natural settings. Olbrich gardens occupy 16-acres just across the road from Lake Monona, one of two large lakes on which Madison is built.

A waterway connects parts of the garden and Lake Monona.

The garden includes many separate spaces, which seem to flow from one to the other. It has a lovely, old-style rose garden, a perennial garden, an herb garden, and many native plantings.

Viburnum fruit in August.
Japanese maples catch the morning sun.

Grasses and berries are used especially well and make the garden a lovely place to visit in fall.  It includes some of my favorite late summer plants, such as amsonia, anemones, verbena as well as berry-laden viburnums.

You approach the Thai Pavilion over a bridge, but get a glimpse of it through the trees.

The garden also is home to the only Thai Pavilion and Garden in the continental United States. The pavilion is beautifully situated over a walking bridge and surrounded by plantings.

This snake sculpture guards the bridge to the pavilion.
Up close, the gold-plated pavilion shimmers in the light. Water and walking paths make this a contemplative place.

The garden also has a conservatory for tropical plants, and it is frequently host to special events, including flower shows, plant sales, holiday displays and concerts, and the famous leaf mulch sale, held each spring. In this innovative program, the garden collects leaves from Madison residents, chops and cures them over the winter, then sells them back to residents in the spring as leaf mulch.

Aren’t these annuals gorgeous? And, the bed was covered with bees, moths and butterflies, too.

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