A sun-to-shade retreat in the garden of Rita Thomas

July 25, 2022

“The garden has been my retreat, my laboratory and my playground,” Rita Thomas told us at the Madison Fling, a 3-day tour for gardeners on social media, held last month in and around Madison, Wisconsin. For 35 years, Rita has been playing in her Fitchburg garden, learning about plants and design along the way. Today he describes himself as “a plant collector, looking for the unusual, the best species or the latest introduction”. My main interests are native woodland plants, daylilies and irises.”

As with other Madison gardens, I was impressed by the number of gorgeous clematis. Rita encourages vines to twine between her trees, adding a surprising spark of color between the gray branches.

Backlit purple clematis swirl through the jagged branches of conifers

Behind a picket fence in her back garden, Rita grows vegetables next to a charming, sloped-roofed shed.

The fence makes an irresistible scaffold for other clematis.

On one side of the garden, a fully screened gazebo is inviting with white wicker, a hammock and a hanging chair.

Shadow lovers in the shade of green

In the sunny center of the garden, a metal pergola shelters hot-pink, wrought-iron chairs. The bright sun made it difficult to capture the details of the surrounding plantings.

Another angle shows how far his backyard extends, the far fence shaded by many large trees, giving him an enviable mix of shade and sun in the garden.

An old tree stump makes a perfect perch for a gravel birdhouse, with purple clematis swinging overhead.

Another stump supports a sculpture of a raven.

Look closely and you’ll see another raven atop the metal pergola.

Fellow flingers Theo and Kevin of The Fuchsitum

I surprised this clematis with streaky purple-and-lavender petals.

Above the side garden path, where raised beds sparkle with colorful globes on black posts.

And where the Martagon lily bows beside a blue resplendent globe.

Next: Epic System Campus’ wildly imaginative and epic-scale gardens. To see Flinger’s Fun at the Rotary Botanical Garden, click here.

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All material © 2022 by Pam Penick for Excavation. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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