Mark and I did not attend the most recent garden blogger meet-up in Seattle. We'd taken a trip to Seattle and points north and south of that city a number of years ago to see Asian gardens. Though we hadn't visited private gardens on that trip, we decided that the timing just wasn't right for us to head west this year. But, as it happens, Seattle came to us last week — in the person of Daniel Mount (below, with Joan Severa in her Madison garden).
Daniel Mount — garden designer, writer and blogger — stayed with us on a flying visit to Madison Monday and Tuesday. He was here to scout out local gardens for a 2012 tour of this area by Pacific Northwest gardeners. As the "Seattle Fling" blogger gathering suggests, usually gardeners are flocking to see those temperate northwest gardens rather than the other way round. (Those of you who were at the Seattle meet-up may remember seeing Daniel at the Epping and Lane gardens and Bellevue Botanic).
Daniel is a Wisconsin native with family still residing here and he knows what we have to offer: Chicago public gardens like the CBG and the Lurie and Olbrich Botanical Gardens and the UW-Madison Arboretum here. Our Arboretum is home to the world's oldest restored prairie as well as an outstanding collections of trees and shrubs. Many of them were introduced by Emeritus Horticulture prof Ed Hasselkus, and are now consumer favorites like Whitespire birches, Columbus strain redbuds, and Northern Glow maple. Among the many highlights at Olbrich is the Thai Pavilion, or sala, a common structure in Thailand typically used as a shelter from rain and heat. Olbrich's structure is gorgeously ornate with teak, ceramic tile and gold leaf and is one of only four in the world located outside Thailand.
Late summer in the Midwest offers scenes and plants that differ widely from those in the Pacific Northwest and Daniel wanted to refresh his memory of what our region looks like at this season. So Mark and I chauffeured him to eight private gardens — the first two on Monday evening. It was a long day considering he'd spent the morning with Jeff Epping, Director of Horticulture at Olbrich, and the afternoon with Ed Hasselkus at the Arb.
We were off to an early start Tuesday with six gardens on the agenda. I had to be the tough task master since we only had an hour per garden — and that included travel time. The gardens ranged from Middleton to Oregon with the majority in Madison. With the assistance of Jane LaFlash of the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society, I lined up gardens of all sizes and types for Daniel to visit. We saw landscapes with sun and shade, ponds and prairies, chickens and bees, native plants and the latest exotic introductions.
Despite our recent high temperatures and lack of rainfall, all the gardens were looking lush and lovely. Daniel got a chance to meet the gardeners who briefed him on their highlights. Staying on schedule was not easy as all these gardens had so much to offer in both design and plants. A number of them have been open to visitors as part of Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society tours of member gardens or Olbrich's annual Home Garden Tour.
Jane LaFlash (above right with Daniel and me) has a garden tucked behind her house on a busy thoroughfare that is so secluded it's hard to realize it's smack dab in the city. We spent lots of time looking at her Japanese maples. Jane has had great success with them compared to most of us with sad stories about our attempts to grow them.
At the garden of Tom and Rosemary Kleinheinz, we saw a plant that Tony Avent was touting at his recent appearance at the Wisconsin Master Gardeners state conference held in Madison. Tony put "Syneilesis aconitifolia (with feathery leaves above) on his list of "100 Favorite Perennials for Wisconsin Gardeners" — and I had just planted one.
The picture above gives you a sense of what it's like to see a bunch of gardens in quick succession. Mark snapped the photo while I am on the far left taking notes, and Daniel is bemused, befuddled and trying to take notes and keep it all straight as Jane LaFlash and Tom and Rosemary Kleinheinz make sure he doesn't miss anything. A long, confusing, exhausting, memorable day!