Lately it seems like every garden event that Mark and I have participated in has happened on a cool day with rain threatening. The weather for the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society bus trip to Lake Geneva and Burlington, Wisconsin, last Sunday was no exception.
If the weather wasn't perfect, our first stop of the day — Al's Auto Body and Arboretum in Walworth — was. If that name makes you shake your head in wonder, read on.
Al Ritchey runs the only Arboretum/Botanical Garden outside of a municipality in Walworth County. Any public institution would be happy to have the magical landscape that Al and his father have created over the years.
While Al was giving us the scoop on the Arboretum, Phil Broderick, the favorite bus driver for WHPS events, chatted with family, friends, and staff on hand for Al's annual Hosta Fest.
The scale of Al's Arboretum — actually more like Hosta heaven — is mind boggling. None of us really had any idea what to expect when we pulled up to the site. But once we started our tour, we were all agog.
Al grows more than 400 varieties of Hostas in a setting that is more garden than nursery. At the annual Fest, he typicall sells about 175 varieties.
If you asked me before this trip, what I thought about Hostas, I would probably have admitted I'm ambivalent about them. Yes, I grow quite a few but I think of them as workhorses doing a job in the garden with a few favorites as specimens.
At Al's Arboretum, the Hostas were growing in undulating waves, in long lines and wide curves. Every size, color, marking, and leaf shape were represented and all of the plants were healthy and happy. I wanted to go home and start planting swaths of Hostas.
Many pictures were taken.
Many questions were asked and answered.
Many of us had our eyes opened. With so many Hostas growing at full size, it was easy to see in person what the catalogs can't show no matter how good the photos.
Al mentioned that he does not purposely hybrize Hostas, but the amount and variety of plants he grows means that an interesting sport can appear on its own. He's got one or two that he hopes to market in the future.
Given that the property houses both a body shop and an Arboretum there were lots of interesting non-plant things to see . . .
both functional . . .
unusual . . .