Planted plaza, fountains, and rose garden at Olbrich Botanical Gardens

August 15, 2022

For Part 2 of my visit to the Olbrich Botanical Garden during June’s Madison Fling, I’ll show you the Rose Garden. I admit that the words “rose garden” never caught my ear. Sure, I love roses all right, but many rose gardens really are a ghetto of roses, planted in jelly-bean-colored assortments, with few companion plants and leggy, prickly stems in full view. No thanks. Happily, Olbrich’s 2-acre rose garden embraces companion plants as well as attractive tropical and subtropical plants. There’s an observation tower and another great feature: island beds in plaza paving, which soften all the hardscape and add pocket-garden interest.

The 2-story tower with its tall, triangular roof overlooks the plaza garden…

…and a long fountain, which leads your eye across a circular event lawn to a blue lake in the distance.

Zooming into those pocket gardens of the plaza widening, I spy flowering yuccas. Let’s take a closer look!

I love it. Pocket gardens bring this huge space to a residential scale, don’t they? Flowering Yucca is ‘Ivory Tower’ Yucca filamentosa. It seems rather appropriate in a garden with an actual tower. I didn’t get an ID for the other spiky tree on the left. Notice, though, those beautiful planters on either side of the bench.

The conifer-esque, bonsai-looking plants are actually succulents. Fill the bottom with spiller succulents that look like blue fescue grass. Beautiful!

I took a panorama shot here to try to capture the expanse of the plaza.

More ‘Ivory Tower’ flowering yuccas

Long view across the fountain to the tower, with more pocket beds at each end of the fountain

Ah, a rose! See it on the left? But wow, the bright yellow and big tropical leaves are really catching my attention. There is also a nice change of paving for the seating area.

more yellow

This combo hooked me, too: sparkler-shaped alliums gone to seed, their copper color matching the tiny, eggplant-purple tufts beautifully. Actually, now that I look closely, the tutors are not wooden, but metal. Either way, a nice color scheme.

This garden makes beautiful use of tutors. (So ​​did the Rotary Botanical Garden.)

Tall tufts painted pale blue-green give structure and rhythm to pink roses, bananas (!), and shell ginger, among other plants.

The whole place is rather eye-catching.

Now let’s walk through the tower, where a large, grassy planter greets you.

Stepping through the portal under the tower you enter a small hedged garden. Planters continue the tropical setting against the leafy green wall.

Cordyline and stick-on-fire sizzle.

The stick-on-fire planter — there are actually two — is a stunner.

They bookend a prairie-style wall fountain with stone slabs.

I admired this vertical bromeliad/tillandsia display, which was created by attaching air plants to a fine-mesh screen that hung over a trellis.

This same bromeliad screen recently inspired Lori of Danger Gardens to create something similar in her own garden.

This collection of mangoes in coordinating pots on stone blocks speaks to me. What a simple but effective way to show them.

Mangos are now the “it” plant in botanical gardens. They pop up in unique displays everywhere I go, from the coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Chanticleer to the Houston Botanic Gardens.

Another lovely succulent pot next to a bench

Looking up you can see the ramped access to the tower. Let’s go upstairs.

Conical green planters hang from rails and bring color and plants up to the second level.

The ramp offers a nice overhead view of the hedged yards. That’s it with the stick-on-fire planter and wall fountain.

And it has collection of mangave on a stone plinths…

… as well as an attractive pink tree.

A stone lion reclines on a stone wall with a ginkgo. A dove made itself at home on top of his luggage.

Exiting the rose garden, I enjoyed a handful of tall bronze cordilines spaced along a curved walk.

Their height and shaggy, round “heads” make it easy to imagine them as fellow travelers along the garden path.

Next: A meadow-style gravel garden that can be replicated for a no-mow home garden. For a look back at Olbrich Botanical Garden’s meadows, events and herb gardens, click here.

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dig deep

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

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